WSJ.com - Can Oracle Leave IBM in Dust? "Oracle and IBM are fierce rivals in the market for heavy-duty business database software, and both lean on application vendors, like Siebel, to help drive sales. (In the software industry, applications -- programs that work with data -- are generally separate from databases, which store data.) The application vendors are critical to database-system providers since most customers first select a particular application -- say, Siebel's customer-relationship-management software -- then go shopping for a database system to put beneath it. IBM quit the application business more than a decade ago and steadfastly has refused to get back in.
But owning application makers has advantages: In 2000, IBM forged an alliance with retail-software vendor Retek Inc., predicting the partnership would generate a billion dollars in joint sales within three years. But earlier this year, Oracle bought Retek. It quickly formed a "Retail Global Business Unit" to sell "solutions" based on Retek's applications and, of course, its own database, potentially undermining IBM's alliance."