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Oracle's packaged software lacking, report says

Acquisition-happy Oracle had better do some more buying if it wants to fill the "gaps" in its packaged applications portfolio, a new analyst report finds.

Oracle's packaged business applications portfolio comes up short in the areas of content management, architecture and development, and the software giant is not focusing enough resources on the management and security elements of the IT infrastructure either, according to a new analyst report.

The report, from Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc., says Oracle's reliance on partners to fill the "gaps" in its packaged applications may make the software giant a less appealing choice for the growing number of companies looking to consolidate systems.

The Forrester report goes on to predict that Oracle -- which has acquired 23 companies, including CRM giants PeopleSoft Corp. and Siebel Systems Inc., in a $19.5 billion, three-year buying spree -- will ultimately fill the gaps by using some of its $8.3 billion "cash hoard" to purchase software firms that focus on content management, business intelligence (BI) and the development lifecycle.

Forrester says that a failure to plug the holes could result in Oracle's losing ground to its chief competitors in the packaged applications market -- IBM, Microsoft and SAP AG. But the analyst firm says plugging the holes should be a simple task, especially compared to the mammoth challenge Oracle has taken on with Fusion, its plan to integrate the spoils of 23 acquisitions into a single architecture.

"Among the competitors, Oracle actually has a pretty good story and a pretty good track record and product set to be considered a consolidations choice," said Forrester analyst John R. Rymer, one of the report's authors. "But depending on the requirements, there are always going to be gaps."

More on Oracle's acquisition spree:

Oracle vs. SAP: The new battlegrounds

Oracle Fusion Update Center

Chief concerns

Rymer said Oracle first needs to focus on content management and analytics if it wants to increase its appeal to the consolidations crowd.

News that Oracle is buying software maker Stellent Inc. is a step in the right content management direction, he said. Oracle announced the $440 million Stellent deal last week.

"Oracle is weak in content management," Rymer said. "But in recent months, they're focusing on improving their product set in content management."

Oracle got some decent BI software when it purchased Siebel, Rymer said, but it still doesn't boast the breadth of analytics software offered by the likes of Business Objects SA, Cognos Inc. and SAS Inc.

Sheryl Kingstone, director of enterprise applications with Boston, Mass.-based Yankee Group Research Inc., said she agrees that Oracle would do well to broaden its BI capabilities. And with its recent purchase of Sigma Dynamics Inc., which makes a "strong" predictive analytics engine, Oracle appears to be moving in that direction, she said.

Kingstone said Oracle is not a "best of breed" BI player like Cognos, but added that the Sigma Dynamics deal shows that Oracle is placing more emphasis on analytics.

"Most of the investments that Oracle has right now in analytics have been focused on the customer and not on business intelligence," she said, "so [Rymer] is absolutely right there."

Other areas Oracle might want to focus on include collaboration and Microsoft integration. Rymer said the latter is an area where SAP, despite having many product "gaps" of its own, excels.

Developer doldrums

Forrester says Oracle lacks what developers need to create a complete application lifecycle management environment and is heavily reliant on partners like HP-Mercury to provide it.

Rymer said that Oracle also relies heavily on third parties for testing, source code management and performance management.

"In development and architecture, it's a matter of breadth," he said. "Oracle doesn't compete in all the categories."

Security

Oracle acquired new technology to deal with identity management and user identity provisioning when it purchased Oblix, but there are other aspects of security that Oracle doesn't cover, such as physical security management and biometrics, according to Rymer.

"They're really focused on bolstering their core access -- core meaning database and application server," he said. "They rely on partners for the other pieces of the puzzle."

The consolidation challenge

Companies that want to consolidate to fewer software vendors should first take a good hard look at their priorities and business objectives -- and remember that some "gaps" in a software vendor's portfolio may not be as important as others to reaching those goals, Yankee's Kingstone advises.

"I don't think companies are going to make decisions based only on whether Oracle has a content management system or not," she said. "People are making decisions based on line-of-business needs and not just IT needs, and so those have to be taken into consideration."

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