Oracle is bringing back Terry Olkin, a former Oracle database executive who founded the company's advanced technology division, to be the chief architect of the company's Collaboration Suite. That move could signal a major advancement for the software suite, analysts say, though the database giant will have to contend with more-established offerings from Microsoft and IBM.
Olkin recently served as chief technical officer with Sigaba, a best-of-breed vendor of e-mail and instant messaging applications. He also worked for Microsoft in the company's distributed application platform division, where he focused on persistent storage, XML and enterprise messaging.
Olkin said he believes his presence at the helm of the Collaboration Suite represents Oracle's long-term commitment to the product.
"I got a personal commitment from the highest levels that this product is here to stay and [that] we were going to continue to invest in it," Olkin said. "Our customers are using it, and they like the product, but I believe that it can do a whole lot more, and it can be a very big part of Oracle's business going forward."
Oracle is planning to release the next version of its Collaboration Suite later this year. The company is hoping to make the product a stronger rival to Microsoft's Exchange and IBM's Lotus software. Instant messaging capabilities with presence awareness -- the ability to see whether a co-worker is online and available -- will allow users to hold meetings and collaborate with co-workers in a more efficient way, Olkin said.
"We need to stop thinking of e-mail and instant messaging as applications, and start looking at what we're really trying to accomplish in getting office work completed," Olkin said. "I would like to put intelligence into the systems and make the applications work for us, and presence awareness is an extremely important part of our whole mission."
Oracle launched Collaboration Suite in September 2002 and updated it in June 2003 with Web conferencing. So far, the company says, about 2,000 customers are using it.
Michael Stoeckert, CIO of Birmingham, Ala.-based software maker EPL Inc., has chosen Oracle Collaboration Suite to improve voice mail and mobile capabilities at his company.
"We expect Oracle Collaboration Suite to continue to reduce our total cost of ownership," Stoeckert said. "It has improved our efficiency, and it gives us a complete package with our other Oracle products."
Yet Oracle has less than a percentage point of market share in the space, said Joshua Greenbaum, principal consultant at Daly City, Calif.-based Enterprise Applications Consulting.
"From a technology standpoint, Oracle's Collaboration Suite is a very legitimate product," Greenbaum said. "The real challenge for Oracle is not [whether] they can put together a [competitive product], but if they can market against the established leaders."