MSDN vs. OTN: What gives?

Microsoft and Oracle have been known to butt heads on many occasions, regularly throwing barbs at each other.

Recently, the two giants exchanged opinions over their respective developer networks: the Microsoft Developers Network (MSDN) and the Oracle Technology Network (OTN).

MSDN is the acknowledged market leader in the number of developers using the network, a fact Oracle readily admits. MSDN has been around is some format since 1991, while Oracle launched OTN in 1998. It is to be expected that MSDN would have a larger amount of developers.

But over the last couple of months, Oracle has been making headlines with its claims that OTN is quickly gaining ground on MSDN.

Rene Bonvanie, vice president of Oracle9i marketing and OTN, says Oracle's developer network has experienced tremendous growth of late. "Two years ago, we were 1-to-10 in the number of developers compared with MSDN," he says. "Now, we have close to 1.4 million developers. By December [2001], there's going to be a 3-to-2 comparison [three MSDN developers for every two OTN developers]."

Microsoft has been relatively quiet on the matter, but contacted ENT about Oracle's claim. Redmond pointed to a Giga Information report by Carl Zenti titled, “Oracle vs. Microsoft: Which Platform Has More Developers?” to back up its claim that Oracle's statements are inaccurate.

"The claims Oracle is making are very misleading," says Sam Henry, technical product manager for MSDN at Microsoft. "Oracle came out with statements saying it is going to surpass MSDN in terms of developers very soon. However, a September 2000 report showed that MSDN has 12 times the number of developers that Oracle had in the same month."

The report, issued by Media Metrix, measures the number of people who visit developer networks each month. For September, MSDN had 1.2 million visitors, compared with 105,000 for Oracle.

According to Zenti, his report was a response to Oracle's statement that OTN was growing at a rapid rate and had MSDN in its sights. The report examined the number of developers on each platform. Overall, Microsoft has 3.2 million MSDN developers, Oracle has 1.4 OTN developers.

But don’t get pulled in by the numbers. The public should not infer anything from these numbers, Zenti says. "It's not a meaningful comparison," he explains. "The idea that this reflects any comparison between the adoption of MSDN and OTN users is just a false inference."

Bonvanie claims, "MSDN has not come close to the growth that OTN has had over the past year.” Zenti counters that even if that were true, it would have no bearing. "A developer gained by Oracle is not a developer lost by Microsoft," he says. “One has nothing to do with the other.”

The main difference between the two developer networks is that most MSDN subscribers have to pay a fee to use Microsoft technologies and applications. OTN is free.

"MDSN is a paid subscription service that is an extension of technical support services," Zenti says. "OTN is a free service whose main goal is to promote development using Oracle technology. It's not an extension of the support line. If you give away copies for free, who wouldn't sign up.”

Henry echoed Zenti's comments. "Two-thirds of our members are paying members," he says. "Oracle is just enticing people to come to its site by offering free software."

Even if OTN passes MSDN in the future or MSDN begins to widen the gap, Zenti says it will have little meaning. "Both are targeted at developers, but they are very different and one has nothing to do with the other," he says.

In short, the battle between MSDN and OTN -- like many other jousts between Oracle and Microsoft -- is nothing more than a marketing and public relations tussle. -- Jim Martin

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.