April 29, 2013

DBMS acquisitions

Recently I expressed doubts about Actian’s DBMS-conglomerate growth strategy. For context, perhaps I should review other DBMS vendors’ acquisition strategies in the past. Some — quite a few — worked out well; others — including many too minor to list — did not.

In the pre-relational days, it was common practice to buy products that hadn’t succeeded yet, and grow with them. Often these were programs written at enterprises, rather than third-party packages. Most of Cullinet’s product line, including its flagship DBMS IDMS, was came into the company that way. ADR, if memory serves, acquired the tiny vendor who created DATACOM/DB.

Then things slowed down. A Canadian insurance company oddly bought Computer Corporation of America, to utter non-success. (At least I got an investment banking finder’s fee on the deal.) Computer Associates, which did brilliantly in acquiring computer operations software, had a much rockier time with DBMS. It acquired Cullinet, Applied Data Research, and ASK/Ingres — among others — and didn’t have much growth or other joy with any of them.

Indeed, Ingres has been acquired three times, and hasn’t accomplished much for any of the acquirers (ASK, Computer Associates, Actian).

I used to think that Oracle’s acquisition of RDB provided key pieces of what became Oracle’s own extensibility technology. Andy Mendelsohn, however, disputed this vehemently — at least by his standards of vehemence — and his sources are better than mine. Rather, I now believe as I wrote in 2011:

… while Oracle’s track record with standalone DBMS acquisitions is admirable (DEC RDB, MySQL, etc.), Oracle’s track record of integrating DBMS acquisitions into the Oracle product itself is not so good. (Express? Essbase? The text product line? None of that has gone particularly well.)

Experiences were similar for some other relational DBMS pioneers. 

IBM’s acquisition of Informix, however, didn’t accomplish much that I’ve been able to discern. Ditto various small deals such as Oracle/Sleepycat, Oracle/TimesTen, or IBM/solidDB. And no acquisition of an object-oriented DBMS vendor — of which there have been many — has succeeded in igniting that niche market.

Finally, let’s consider the recent merger wave in the analytic RDBMS sector.


2 Responses to “DBMS acquisitions”

  1. More on Actian/ParAccel/VectorWise/Versant/etc. | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on April 29th, 2013 6:51 am

    […] history blog on DBMS acquisitions yielded more favorable examples than I was expecting. (Of course, I omitted a lot of small and […]

  2. Abstract datatypes and extensible RDBMS | Software Memories on December 12th, 2015 6:55 am

    […] eventual success of same may or may not have been strongly influenced by Oracle’s acquisition of the RDB product line from DEC (Digital Equipment […]

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