Oracle Collaboration Suite 10g zeros in on SharePoint

Oracle is going after Microsoft SharePoint Server users with the latest release of Oracle Collaboration Suite.

Oracle officially released its Collaboration Suite 10g (OCS) today amidst continued assurances that a business-ready content management product "for the rest of us" is now available.

... the Oracle database, portal, workflow and applications server infrastructure can provide the foundation for a wide range of collaboration, content and file management, and related capabilities.
Mark Levitt,
vice president of collaborative computingIDC

Oracle executives, who briefed SearchOracle.com on the news, said the installed base for Microsoft SharePoint Server, Redmond's own collaboration offering, is an arena in which they expect to compete "aggressively."

"While [Microsoft SharePoint Server] is a nice front end for collaboration work, it has a very fragmented kind of content management on the back end where each team has its own server doing its own thing," said Oracle vice president of technology marketing Robert Shimp. "With our front end, the users are combined with the centralized database for managing content so that one can scale up more effectively."

Shimp said Oracle will begin by targeting SharePoint customers within Oracle's installed base by offering to help them evaluate and plan a migration to OCS.

Oracle launched OCS in September 2002 and updated it in June 2003 with Web conferencing. The latest version, which is available now, offers two more components -- Oracle Files and Oracle Workspaces -- that the company said help complete the systems transformation from a file management system to a "content management system."

In May, Rob Koplowitz, Oracle's senior director of the Oracle Collaboration Suite product line, described Oracle Files as "basically a file server … where information is in a relational database and applications are built on a service-oriented architecture."

"We're really not going after the high end of the content management market," Koplowitz said. "We're going after a market where we think that content management is going to permeate entire enterprises."

While a play into the content management market could bode well for Oracle, Mike Gotta, principal analyst with The Burton Group, saw the move as yet another example of how the market is maturing across the board; IBM's Workplace was cited as a third pillar in the space.

Mixed bag shows market is growing

In Oracle's direct attack on SharePoint Server, Gotta saw a mixed bag for Redmond in the future. SharePoint is now seen as an extension to the Windows operating system, he said, and provides a collaborative workspace so users can integrate with Office and other Microsoft applications. However, the downside is that SharePoint is still a work in progress in terms of the document management lifecycle, some basic check-in and check-out functions and records management archiving.

"Those products are kind of an experiment, and customers are going to see Oracle 10g sitting there and say 'yeah, there is an opportunity,' and then compare and contrast," Gotta said.

Gotta also said he saw Oracle's move to the middle and low-end market as a solid play, as the high-end offerings would likely become relocated to the pharmaceutical and clinical trial space.

"People don't want to pay the high-end pricing," he said. "There is sort of an opportunity in the low- to mid-part of the market; Microsoft, IBM and Oracle can make a play there."

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Database expert will steer Collaboration Suite

To Windows … and beyond

If Oracle is able to completely get its way with the success of 10g, the impact will be more than just Windows SharePoint Server customers, said Mark Levitt, vice president of collaborative computing with Framingham, Mass.-based IDC.

Levitt said Oracle has also legitimately positioned its collaboration suite as an integrated product that can directly replace Microsoft Exchange Server (e-mail, calendaring/scheduling, shared folders); Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services (team workspaces, Microsoft Office Live Communications Server (IM, presence); and Microsoft Office Live Meeting (Web conferencing service).

"What Oracle has achieved [with 10g] is demonstrating that the Oracle database, portal, workflow and applications server infrastructure can provide the foundation for a wide range of collaboration, content and file management, and related capabilities," Levitt said. "Oracle OCS customers tell us that it is the Oracle infrastructure that led them to OCS."

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