Oracle Touts RDB to Show Its Heart

To allay PeopleSoft users' fears, company tries to show it can do right by an acquisition.

Perhaps the strongest opposition to Oracle’s takeover bid for PeopleSoft hasn’t come from the embattled software vendor itself, but from its customers.

Not surprisingly, Oracle has been courting PeopleSoft users in earnest since late June, when it began running a series of advertisements in prominent publications such as The Financial Times. In July, the database giant kicked its efforts up another notch, hosting a virtual town hall meeting during which Oracle executive vice president Chuck Phillips fielded questions from PeopleSoft users (see (

Oracle staged its second such meeting last week. On this occasion, executive vice president Mike Rocha joined Phillips. But while the cast may have changed, Oracle’s message remained pretty much the same.

For example, the company discussed its proposal to extend support for PeopleSoft’s products beyond that company’s own support roadmap. Phillips has made this point himself in the past, and he made it again last week: "Our number one objective is no reduction in availability or support of PeopleSoft products. … We extend [support for] Version 7.0 for two years and Version 8.0 for at least 10 years, with no forced migration."

Oracle’s Rocha, for his part, pointed out that his company will permit PeopleSoft customers to swap software licenses on a module-for-module basis, enabling them to upgrade to Oracle’s applications free of charge if they wish.

During the course of the meeting, Phillips and Rocha traversed other well-trod ground as well. When Oracle announced its play for PeopleSoft in early June, reports indicated that Oracle planned to discontinue sales of PeopleSoft’s products to new customers. Phillips attempted to rebut these rumors during the first town hall meeting, claiming that his company didn’t plan to actively market PeopleSoft’s products to new customers: “As far as anyone who wants to buy the product, existing and new customers, they can certainly buy the product,” he said at the time.

Since then, information has come to light that appears to contradict this claim ( Late last month, California’s Contra Costa Times newspaper printed an excerpt from an internal Oracle e-mail in which vice president Safra Catz wrote, “We really won’t be continuing [PeopleSoft’s] product line.”

Although Oracle quite rightly claimed that Safra’s quote was taken out of context, Phillips and Rocha nevertheless found themselves on the defensive again last week, as users expressed skepticism about Oracle’s plans.

To allay these concerns, Phillips trumpeted Oracle’s 1994 acquisition of the former Digital Equipment Corp.’s RDB database, which he said proves that his company can do right by an acquired vendor’s customers. Of the 10,000 customers that ran RDB when Oracle first purchased the database, 8,000 have migrated to Oracle, while 2,000 customers remain on RDB.

One such customer is satellite television provider DirecTV Inc., which still uses RDB to support its billing and customer care systems. DirecTV CIO Bob Pacek joined Phillips and Rocha to confirm that Oracle has never pressured his company to ditch RDB for its own software, even though DirecTV has other investments in Oracle technology.

Pacek told the audience, “Oracle has gone out of their way to provide us with the kind of support and analysis … when we have problems from time to time, the engineering and architecture support to make the most of the RDB environment that’s so important to us, without implying that we’d be better off with Oracle classic or anything else.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.