Oracle sets its sights on Exchange users

Oracle has announced a migration service to lure users of Microsoft's Exchange e-mail server to the Oracle9i database. But it's difficult to find anyone other than Oracle who expects the initiative to make a dent in Exchange's armour.

Oracle has offered an e-mail server product for several years but is only now aggressively targeting its chief rival, Microsoft, for a foothold in the messaging market.

Company chairman and CEO Larry Ellison said he's not looking to unseat the Outlook client, but rather the Exchange e-mail database on the back end.

"[Users] need the security, reliability and much lower cost," said Scott Clawson, the director of Oracle9i product marketing. "[E-mail] is the one thing that was the highest in demand from our customers."

At Comdex in Las Vegas last month, Ellison spoke about the new service and acknowledged that Microsoft Exchange Server is priced far lower than Oracle's database. But he argued that large companies need 25 or even 50 servers with the Microsoft software to handle the same amount of traffic as Oracle9i.

"I'd say you need at least 10 Exchange servers to do this, or you're too small to bother," said Ellison.

Chris Baker, Microsoft's lead product manager for Exchange, said Microsoft's product can handle 10,000 users on a server in an application service provider model. He also pointed out that many of Outlook's collaborative functions, like calendaring, don't work without Exchange on the back end.

The two dominant players in the corporate messaging market are Microsoft and IBM subsidiary Lotus software group.

Ferris Research analyst David Druker said it's unlikely that many users will be willing to rip out their back-end e-mail systems in favour of Oracle. Lotus users especially look to the Notes/Domino messaging platform combination for collaborative database applications beyond e-mail, he said.

There isn't a compelling reason for most companies to switch, Druker said, unless they're already heavyOracle database users and have the requisite database administrators in place.

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