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Oracle's lawsuit accusing rival SAP of stealing proprietary information is a serious escalation in the battle between the software giants that may create fear and uncertainty among customers, some analysts say.

"Clearly it's a very fierce rivalry that just keeps getting ratcheted up," says James Kobielus, principal analyst for data management at Current Analysis. "It's not surprising they'll continue to duke it out with each other through all available channels. ... Oracle has made no bones about the fact that it covets SAP's primary standing in the business application market. SAP clearly feels the threat from Oracle on that front."

Oracle Thursday accused SAP and its TomorrowNow subsidiary of engaging in "systematic, illegal access" to Oracle's computerized customer support systems. TomorrowNow provides third-party maintenance and support in large part for Oracle applications drawn from its PeopleSoft, Siebel and JD Edwards product families.

Oracle's lawsuit defends against TomorrowNow "looking to undercut a major revenue stream by offering half-rate support," writes Martin Schneider, an analyst at 451 Group. But Oracle has done the same in the past, he writes in analysis issued in response to the lawsuit.

"It is interesting that Oracle has been guilty of the same kind of activity with its recent underselling of RedHat Linux support," Schneider writes. "But since the JDE and PeopleSoft products are under proprietary licenses, Oracle has much more legal recourse than RedHat. But we wonder how much (Oracle) IP SAP did gather that is really hard to come by, since most of the later PeopleSoft bug fixes and patches were built using the open source Eclipse toolkit."

Oracle's lawsuit claims that SAP illegally accessed and downloaded more than 10,000 pieces of Oracle IP off its customer portal, Schneider notes.


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