Marketing People in Glass Houses Shouldn’t Throw Stones

InformationWeek Executive Editor Doug Henschen takes Oracle to task for having the gall to criticize his article about Microsoft’s new in-memory solution while being less than candid about their own in-memory solution: Oracle Spotlights Its Database Memory Gap. The result of Oracle’s action is an article that explains in detail the gap between Oracle’s marketing rhetoric and the reality of their solution:

Oracle senior communications VP Bob Evans… singled out my coverage in the article “Microsoft In-Memory Move Challenges SAP, Oracle”, calling my headline “dubious” given that Hekaton won’t arrive, as analysts guess, until 2014 or 2015.

In doing so, however, Evans underscores the fact that Oracle, too, has yet to deliver an in-memory strategy tied to its flagship database.

Quoting Oracle database executive Andy Mendelsohn, the piece points out that Oracle’s in-memory database is TimesTen, which runs inside the Exalytics appliance (along with an in-memory version of the Essbase database). That box is a sort of analytics turbocharger, and it’s plugged into yet another box, Exadata, which runs on Oracle Database. But here was Evans, protesting that Microsoft was disingenuous in suggesting that Oracle is “forcing customers to buy, learn, and manage a separate solution.”

The thing is, all these particulars about Oracle’s in-memory plans only undermine the gauzy impression Larry Ellison tried to create at Oracle Open World around Exadata X3 as a memory powerhouse. Having finally admitted that the world is turning to memory and away from disks — something SAP has been saying for three years — Ellison had all the zeal of a reformed smoker, talking up the “26 terabytes of memory” available in X3. But don’t mistake memory for “in-memory.” In fact, the vast majority of that capacity (22 TB) is flash, not RAM, and there is a big difference.

“Flash is not memory, and I disagree with Larry Ellison on that totally,” Gartner analyst Don Feinberg told InformationWeek last week. “Exadata doesn’t give you an in-memory database, it gives you a disk block cache.”

I believe good marketing is (a) not about deliberately obscuring the reality of what you have to sell and (b) not about trashing your competitors, and it’s great to have veteran industry journalists like Doug call people out when they do these things. In the new world, any attempt at “deception” can (and probably will) backfire on you.

(Self-awareness note – yes, this post itself could be considered to be “trashing a competitor”, but I’m honestly trying to make a point about analytics marketing, and this is just too good an example to ignore).