ELLISON: SAP is our number one competitor in applications, but our number one partner/reseller in database. We work very closely with the SAP database team so they have access to the latest in our technology, and we have engineers at SAP to be sure they make the very best use of it. We have a 70 to 74 percent share of the SAP-installed base, so less than 26 percent of their implementations are on top of our competitors put together. SAP is a great engineering company, and they know we have the best database, so they won't want to disadvantage their customers by sending them to a product that isn't as good. But it's a difficult balance. Someone called it "coopetition."

American Way: What about your other competitors?
ELLISON:
We have database clusters, the ability to make several computers look like one computer. Our clustering technology, which is the ability to take multiple computers and attach them to a single database, is the only one to work with all applications. We can take four inexpensive Dell machines and group them together and run them faster than a Unix machine at a tiny fraction of the cost. And it's much more reliable, because if one of the Dell computers fails, three are left to keep the system running. The competition doesn't have fault-tolerance or skip performance for real applications. What we have is black magic in the database business. Not everyone believes this yet because clustering is so new, but we think clustering will help us dramatically increase our market share in database.

American Way: So Microsoft isn't on the radar screen?
ELLISON:
No, and their low-end database offering is not doing very well, but we pay close attention to what they're doing.

American Way: Can you also serve smaller companies?