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Oracle abuzz over Beehive collaboration platform, other updates at OpenWorld 2008

Oracle takes on Microsoft with a new collaboration platform, and relays new applications and database news as it kicks off its 2008 OpenWorld conference.

SAN FRANCISCO -- At OpenWorld this morning, Oracle president Charles Phillips shared the stage with 14-time gold medal winning swimmer Michael Phelps and two guys dressed like bees.

Phillips opened Oracle's annual user conference here with a comprehensive overview of what the company will be announcing this week, headlined by Beehive, a new collaboration platform.

Following a brief and awkward conversation with Phelps attempting to connect his commitment to excellence with Oracle's, Phillips and two members of the Beehive team dressed in black and yellow demonstrated the new platform, with help from Chuck Rozwat, executive vice president of product development.

"Beehive is a brand new product, built from scratch over the last three years -- a new architecture, a new set of products," Rozwat said. "Beehive is a collaboration server."

Beehive brings together collaboration channels, like email, instant messages and voice mail and coordination activities, like calendaring and joint tasks, into one centrally administered platform. But since email and calendar applications have been around for years, why spend the time and effort, Phillips asked Rozwat.

"You have those things but you also have what looks like a disease -- we call it collaboration fragmentation," Rozwat said. "They come with their own database, their own way of managing and identifying users and their own management. From an IT standpoint and from a user standpoint, it becomes a nightmare coordinating what you did in IM with email and calendar. What we've done is integrate it together."

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Users can run Beehive virtually, narrowing down hundreds of servers required for something like Microsoft Exchange to a handful. And, companies can integrate it with other Oracle products such as the middleware stack for records management or Oracle applications.

The announcement met with some skepticism.

"This is an area Oracle has invested in before," said Jim Shepherd, analyst with Boston-based AMR Research. "Competing with Microsoft in this space is awfully difficult. This hasn't been an area in the market receptive to this in the past and I'm not sure there will be. I don't get the sense that our clients are looking for this."

Beehive can be run from the user's client of choice, such as Microsoft Outlook, a browser or different calendar clients. It also supports third-party identity management applications. For example, users can create workgroups that people are invited to via Outlook and then share content, like recorded messages, PowerPoint presentations or IM sessions, all stored in the same folder system.

"You can start to organize the way you work," Phillips said. "Now we'll want to take that same concept of a single workspace and expand it to a team workspace."

Beehive also has administration features like universal delete, which allows users to purge content after the team is finished with it. For example, a Microsoft Word document shared among a group can be deleted from the group folder. But it is also encrypted, so anyone who saved the document onto his or her desktop would not be allowed access. Every action is kept in a log file for audit control.

Beehive is generally available now at a cost of $120 per user per license.

More Oracle announcements

  • The company has created two new business units focused on the insurance market, based on the AdminServer and Skywire Software acquisitions, and the health sciences market.
  • Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) gets a new release -- EBS 12.1 with rewritten financial applications to address global requirements and new supply chain and manufacturing features.
  • The new version of Siebel, Siebel 8.1, will include new self-service capabilities.
  • Oracle also released a new portal for its support organization. Once MetaLink, the new MyOracle support adds a software configuration manager that allows users to provide the details of their Oracle environment for more personalized support. It went live last night.
  • Oracle is releasing the first enhancement to its 11g database product. Release adds optimized warehouse configurations, and a new in-memory cache capability from Oracle's TimesTen acquisition.
  • Oracle is releasing new middleware features to support the concept of an "Oracle database in the cloud." Oracle customers can license 11g, Fusion Middleware and Enterprise Manager to run in a cloud environment. The first products will be available in Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud. Customers can also use the cloud as a backup store using Oracle Backup Cloud Module.
  • A new version of Oracle VM includes VM templates that allow partners and application developers to take predefined steps for Enterprise Manager, Siebel applications and the Middleware suite to embed in their own applications.

"It's safe to say we're the only company to start a presentation talking about building applications and close talking about Linux and virtualization," Phillips said. "That's the stack, that's the power of the stack."

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