Oracle-BEA deal means tough choices for middleware buyers

Existing middleware customers will get the most out of Oracle's acquisition of BEA, while new customers may face a slightly tougher challenge, according to one IT industry analyst.

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Oracle to buy BEA Systems

The Oracle-BEA deal: Expert analysis

"BEA has long been the technology innovator in the middleware market," Gaughan said, "and Oracle will likely infuse its existing Fusion Middleware platform and development organization with talent and insights from [BEA's] AquaLogic platform."

The acquisition, Gaughan continued, also clears up any confusion as to whether Oracle is truly committed to developing the Fusion Middleware family over the long term.

"Oracle has made it clear that [Fusion Middleware offerings] are the strategic middleware products for Oracle," he said, "and [they] will not be replaced by BEA or any other acquired products."

Existing BEA customers, meanwhile, can expect longer-term security. Gaughan said he doubts that BEA customers are surprised by the deal, given Oracle's rejected bid for BEA last October and the fact that Carl Icahn, a major technology investor who owns 15% of BEA, is advocating in favor of the sale.

"It was becoming increasingly difficult for BEA to compete financially with their primary competitors, and this deal gives BEA customers more peace of mind that their partner is a long-term, viable player," Gaughan said. "Oracle has proven true to its word relating to maintaining and enhancing their acquired products, so there should be little concern that the WebLogic/AquaLogic platform will go into maintenance mode."

The acquisition will also give BEA users more middleware options.

"Oracle plans to upgrade its Fusion Middleware products with the best of BEA functionality and offer a migration path from BEA to Fusion," Gaughan said. "BEA customers will have the option to move to these future Fusion releases when it makes sense for them and can stay on supported and enhanced BEA products until that time."

A perfect fit?

Oracle Wednesday announced plans to purchase BEA in a deal worth about $8.5 billion. The deal was reached only after the two companies for months disagreed in public over the sale price.

But for all their squabbling, Oracle is a "perfect fit" for BEA, said Bart Narter, a senior analyst with Celent, a Boston-based financial research and consulting firm.

"This acquisition brings best-of-breed functionality in the middle layer to the Oracle Fusion platform, the company's [service-oriented architecture (SOA)] software," Narter said. "Oracle has been lagging in this area, and when they can't build, they buy."

The buy also gives Oracle greater strength in the face of tough competition from the big middleware providers.

"Oracle can now go head to head with other companies such as IBM and SAP in offering SOA infrastructures to the largest enterprises," Narter said. "While BEA has proven viable as a standalone company, its acquisition will add new and competitive products to the Oracle sales catalog, which will surely mean increased business."

A good deal for Java?

Speaking during a press conference following yesterday's Oracle-BEA announcement, Oracle founder and CEO Larry Ellison said the merger should have major benefits for users of the Java programming language.

"Oracle and BEA share a vision of highly scalable, adaptable, standards-based products and technology built around [Java]," Ellison said. "While this is a great deal for both companies' customers, partners and stockholders, it's also a great day for the Java community and the vision of open standards-based computing not dominated by any one company's technologies."

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