IBM's recently concluded Information on Demand 2010 event in Las Vegas covered a tremendous amount of ground on numerous topics. One of the most intriguing was the dedicated push that IBM is making to have Oracle database customers migrate to its own DB2 solutions. Given that migration from one database to another has been described by many analysts as "heart surgery," how can IBM possibly expect customers to willingly embrace so difficult and potentially risky a procedure? In the immortal words of the late radio commenter Paul Harvey, that is "the rest of the story."
Interestingly enough, though DB2 offers organizations some clear technical merits, IBM has been wise to resist trying to sell DB2 vs. Oracle on a head-to-head technical basis. Why so? Because Oracle database administrators (DBAs) tend to be very loyal to Oracle and the chances of making a successful bottom-up DB2 sale with these technical decision makers is likely to be "slim and none, and Slim's left town."
Consequently, IBM has taken a different approach, focusing on top-down sales to executive or managerial decision-makers by making a business case, not a technical speeds and feeds case. This is a tried-and-true approach for many enterprise IT solutions but has rarely been tried against Oracle due to the company's reputation outside the mainframe market as the "corporate standard" database. To be successful, IBM must not only make a very strong case for particular DB2 business use cases, but also show that transition to IBM will be relatively painless and that IBM can coexist with Oracle without strain.
IBM does not lead off these discussions with a push for migration but rather a free pre-sales services engagement that uses an assessment methodology to help IT organizations understand the cost structure of their online transaction processing (OLTP) and data warehousing environments and solutions. This business assessment yields a financial analysis, including the ability to accurately compare total cost of ownership of Oracle and comparable IBM solutions. The company feels that it can often show a guaranteed 30 to 40 percent return by switching to selected IBM products, of which one -- surprise, surprise -- is DB2. Because in applications that demand very large databases, administration costs are a large component of overall TCO so this claim is entirely credible.
Moving on to the transition part of the IBM sales pitch, we note that the company can also provide a technical analysis to show how the migration to selected IBM products is not just technically feasible within the IT organization's application environment but is also entirely practicable. One of the major difficulties encountered in virtually any database migration is coping with the large mass of existing stored procedures that must be supported with minimal or no code change if the migration is to be painless. IBM DB2 9.7 has made major strides in this area, making its claim of relatively painless and swift migration much more credible.