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Oracle users in wait-and-see mode with Oracle's stack computing strategy

Barney Beal

LAS VEGAS -- Oracle executives spoke to thousands of customers at the annual Collaborate 2010 conference yesterday, giving the same message they've been promoting since Oracle first announced its intentions to buy Sun

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-- an open, integrated stack of technology bringing together applications, middleware, databases and hardware.

However, the company may still have some convincing to do. Several attendees expressed cautious optimism in the wake of addresses by Oracle president Charles Phillips and Thomas Kurian, executive vice president of development.

Still awaiting delivery of Fusion Applications, the ambitious project to bring together the best functionality of Oracle's Siebel, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards and other acquisitions, attendees voiced some skepticism.

"It's nothing new. It's the same thing we've been hearing," said Tracy C. Mueller, CPA with Towers Watson in Philadelphia, who still remains optimistic that Oracle can pull it all together. "When you mention the word Fusion at my company, there's laughter in the room. Hopefully, the time they're taking means they're being prudent."

Phillips, joking that his appearance via satellite was "virtual -- a sign of the times we're in," said that Oracle's strategy has been the same from the start.

"We want the most complete software stack we could build in from that database to applications," he said. "In some sense, what we've done with Sun is an extension of what we've done for many years. It includes virtualization, the operating system, storage and the server itself."

Historically, each component in the stack was built individually by different vendors, Phillips said.

"They have to work together, and that's where the trouble comes in -- if these layers are designed independently," he continued. "Our ideal and a mission we've been in for almost a decade now is to engineer all these components to work together. You're much less likely to have an issue when they're deployed."

Oracle is bringing them all together and bringing engineers from each unit into the same room, speeding development, he said – building systems akin to an iPod for the enterprise, software and hardware tuned together. For example, Oracle is betting that storage will shift to flash over time and is therefore making adjustments to each layer of its architecture to accommodate that change.

That message resonated with Abel Garcia, director of technology operations with Austin-based SiteStuff Inc., a maker of procurement software. The company is running a number of applications from various software vendors and is also a strong Java shop, running Sun's GlassFish and Portal.

"So we really came here to see what the stack is going to incorporate," Garcia said. "Will [Sun’s technology] be end-dated and folded into Oracle? Also, I'm an IT director. We're a strong HP shop. We're really interested in what Sun and Solaris [will] offer. We're putting all our eggs into one basket, but overall we're pretty excited."

Garcia got some assurance from Phillips on the Solaris front.

"That's going to be our flagship operating system," he said. "We're going to support Linux as well and give people a choice."

In fact, according to Phillips, among the Oracle user base, 37% of the hardware is Sun hardware, more than any other hardware vendor.

Oracle continues to support its application business as well, Kurian insisted in a follow-up address to Phillips’. The company shipped 3,000 software projects last year and 190 new software modules. That included enhancements to Oracle E-Business Suite, the largest PeopleSoft release in seven years, enhancements to Supply Chain, Siebel 8.2 and CRM On Demand release 17.

Oracle customers should consider upgrading their applications, Kurian said. It will ultimately lower the cost of ownership.

"The cost of integration you have to bear is directly proportional to the number of application instances you are running and not the number of product lines you have purchased," he said. With packaged data and process integration, customers can lower expenses. "Let me be crystal clear. If you're running a different vendor's ERP and CRM applications, it's at least as high a cost of integrating them as Siebel to PeopleSoft."

That's the sort of news that was encouraging to Sue Hicks, CPM with Newark, Del.-based W. L. Gore & Associates Inc., makers of Gore-Tex. The company, a former JD Edwards OneWorld customer, recently moved to JD Edwards 8.98. It moved off the AS400 to Sun hardware a year ago. Hicks was at Collaborate looking at portal technology and would love to have JD Edwards connected seamlessly to PeopleSoft's portal.

"That's hard to fathom," she said. "I was very impressed with the keynote and how that's going to play together. But it always looks good."

As a JD Edwards customer, W. L. Gore & Associates has already been through PeopleSoft's acquisition of JD Edwards and Oracle's acquisition of PeopleSoft.

"JD Edwards seems to be their red-headed stepchild," Hicks said, adding that Gore will probably wait for Oracle's roadmap to work its way out. "We certainly won't be leading edge."

 

Oracle updates AIA

Oracle also issued some product news from the show. It has announced Oracle Application Integration Architecture (AIA) Foundation Pack 11gR1. With Oracle AIA Foundation Pack 11gR1, partners and customers can leverage their existing application investments and jump-start new application integration projects on Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g for increased business value and agility.

Beyond support for Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g, vendor spokespeople said this Foundation Pack simplifies and speeds development of integration projects for business analysts, architects, developers and application owners, effectively bringing the AIA programming model and best practices out of the documentation and into the toolset.


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