Oracle's 12c database to receive SAP certification faster than usual

The move flies in the face of the vendors' competitive rhetoric but speaks to the reality of customer needs

There's some good news for the many SAP customers who use Oracle's database underneath SAP applications. Breaking from tradition, SAP will certify its software for the initial major release of Oracle's 12c database.

Version 12c went into general availability in June 2013. Typically, most customers don't upgrade to a new release until its maintenance update, which in 12c's case would be named 12.2, preferring to wait until all the major bugs get worked out of the software. With recent releases, Oracle has shipped the maintenance update, which often includes new features, about two years after the initial launch.

Oracle's full nomenclature for database versions uses several digits, including ones denoting the application server release number and the component-specific release number.

SAP won't support the initial release, 12.1.0.1, but will certify version 12.1.0.2, according to a road map document posted on SAP's website.

This is being done to "allow more generous overlap" with version 11g, according to the document.

SAP wanted to give customers more flexibility to plan upgrades from 11g Release 2, according to an SAP spokesman. The Premier Support window for Oracle Database 11g R2 is set to expire in January 2015, although Oracle has waived the first year of extended support fees.

SAP has many 12c features under evaluation now, and not all will be supported upon the initial certification of 12.1.0.2, according to the road map document.

Features that are planned to be supported include the multitenancy option for 12c as well as its hybrid columnar compression technology, the document states.

In one sense, the early certification for 12c flies in the face of the competitive rhetoric exchanged by SAP and Oracle executives over their respective database technologies.

SAP is hoping to move customers now running Oracle over to its own HANA in-memory database platform, while Oracle is preparing an in-memory option that could convince customers eyeing a switch to stay in the fold.

But SAP's support plans for 12c reflect a different reality, one in which SAP has long made money reselling Oracle's database and the vendors share thousands of customers who want them to cooperate with each other on important technical matters such as certification. Vendors may also simply be compelled to play fairly on this subject due to contractual language in reseller agreements.

The chaos that can ensue when such relationships break down was in strong evidence during Oracle's ugly feud with Hewlett-Packard over support for the Itanium processors that power high-end HP servers.

In any event, the competition between Oracle and SAP in the database market is set to heat up this year. SAP is expected to port more of its application software to HANA, as well as continue building it out as a PaaS (platform as a service), while Oracle's in-memory option is likely to surface in time for its OpenWorld conference in September.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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