Oracle fights Russian software policy with Postgres smear

Big Red takes on home-grown software push by querying open source support, or lack thereof

Oracle's Russian paw has found a way to fight the nation's regulations about software purchasing for government agencies, by sending local customers a letter containing stern criticisms of PostgreSQL.

As of January 1st 2016, Russia's government agencies are required to use locally-produced software whenever it is functionally equivalent, or superior, to software from foreign companies. Which is bad news for the likes of Oracle, as some agencies are not just buying local but also migrating away from western suppliers.

Russia's decision is partly a notional attempt to grow its local software industry, but also a tactic responding to the West's sanctions imposed after Vladimir Putin's military adventures in Crimea. The West's made it harder for Russia to sell oil exports, so Russia retaliates with new policies that hurt the largely US-based technology sector from accessing what should be a growth market.

Russia's got a very handy fig leaf for any action that hurts western firms: Edward Snowden's exploits have already seen it float the idea of making its own backdoor-free CPUs and mandating their use to bolster national security.

Into this hostile and/or complex environment strides Oracle with a document (PDF) that Russian outlet Ведомости (Vedemosti) says was sent to a number of large government and private concerns, some of which are considering or engaged in Oracle-to-PostgresSQL upgrades.

The document refers to Russia's home-grown buying guidance and appears to be titled “Why PostgreSQL is not synonymous with Oracle Database.” The document then tries to make a case for Oracle's databases as superior to PostgreSQL in ten ways, namely

  1. Speed
  2. Reliability
  3. Security and Data Protection
  4. Manageability
  5. Scalability, in terms of growth potential
  6. Scalability, in terms of the ability to handle data quantity and user numbers
  7. Local technical support availability
  8. Total Cost of Ownership
  9. Maturity
  10. Support for new technologies, like cloud

The document then offers a withering, feature-by-feature demolition job on PostgreSQL. Some of the attacks are a bit odd – that PostgreSQL can't sell you an Exadata machine doesn't speak to software quality – but pointing out the open source effort lacks in-memory capabilities looks a more potent point.

Oracle can compete however it wants, whenever it wants. And in Russia, where the playing field has been tilted against it, fighting hard is an obvious tactic.

On the other hand, the open source community can respond to criticism in very prickly fashion. Once others shove Oracle's document through the translat-o-tron, expect stern responses.

And then there's the Russian authorities, who may not take kindly to an intervention that disagrees with their assessment of matters so vehemently. Even if there's an official backlash, Oracle may not have much to lose: when The Register listens to results calls these days, they hardly ever fail to omit a remark about the state of the economies in the so-called BRIC states – Brazil, Russia, India and China. Of the four, only India is currently growing strongly. Oracle's PostgreSQL pugilism is therefore not only an attempt at winning back some ground in Russia, but a sign that 2016 is a year in which all vendors have to fight hard to make progress in emerging economies. ®

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