Sage Whacks the Stack

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Sage has delivered on a pledge outlined more than a year ago by Sage Software CEO Ron Verni as it struck a deal last month for the worldwide use of MySQL, a database engine. To go back to the reasons for this move, just examine what Verni said at Insights 2005, the company's reseller conference, when he promised that Sage would be "database agnostic."

"With Microsoft being a competitor, we are looking at what we can do for our customers," Verni said. "If someone wants to buy a Microsoft database, that is fine."

MySQL, for those not up on databases, is an open-source database engine, which means that the basic technology is not owned by any one company, particularly by Microsoft. Sage says MySQL will be utilized in the 2007 versions of Peachtree and Simply Accounting.

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While that isn't an earthshaking change, it is a message to Microsoft. With Microsoft competing with Sage in the financial software arena, Sage didn't want to be completely reliant on the Microsoft behemoth any more than a lot of resellers want to put all their eggs in any one vendor's basket.

In fact, the press release issued by Sage, in quoting the company's chief technology officer, Klaus-Michael Vogelberg, touted MySQL's ability to reduce cost of ownership and noted that it is "not dependent on one platform or stack." In software terms, those are fighting words and were direct challenges to Microsoft, even though the Redmond, Wash.-based company wasn't mentioned by name.

The alleged cost of ownership of Microsoft's SQL Server has been a longtime point of attack for Microsoft's rival, Pervasive Software, which claims that if Microsoft gave away SQL Server, it would still cost users money.

The other specifically anti-Microsoft point is about the lack of dependency on one platform and that telltale word "stack." The stack is the array of Microsoft products that can be used together, including the operating system, email, servers involving Internet service, database products, networking applications, office applications, and market-specific applications, like accounting, that are needed in the modern office. It's a pitch to buy everything from Microsoft.

Microsoft likes to talk about coopetition, the merged word that encompasses the idea of companies cooperating and competing with each other at the same time. But when your coopetitor has said it wants to turn its Dynamics operations into a $10 billion business, and there's probably not more than $5 billion in the market, that ultimately doesn't leave a lot of room for the coop part of the phrase.

Sage and other application vendors probably view their relationships with Microsoft a bit like having a relationship with a boa constrictor. It's great when your friend is well-fed.

But every once in a while, it's hungry again. You really need a plan when it's meal time.

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