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Oracle's Top 8 stories of 2008

Database in the cloud, database in a box, the ongoing battle with SAP and another major acquisition. The past year was anything but quiet for Oracle.

An outspoken, billionaire, playboy CEO, a massive and ongoing predatory acquisition spree, a determination to lead the world in not only databases but applications and middleware as well -- Oracle always provides interesting material for the technology press, and 2008 was no exception.

As with 2007, Oracle continued to make headlines over the past 12 months. What follows are the stories and announcements we found the most interesting or that have the greatest impact on Oracle customers either now or in the years to come.

8. Oracle launches collaboration platform: Introduced at OpenWorld, the Beehive platform combines email, instant messaging, voicemail, and coordination activities such as calendaring in one platform. Analysts are skeptical, however, that Oracle will be able to compete with Microsoft and IBM in the market.

7. Oracle enacts a price hike: In June, Oracle raised list prices by 15% to 20% on most of its products, notably the 11g database Enterprise Edition and the BEA Weblogic server. And while no one is paying list price for Oracle technology (at least they shouldn't be), the price increase does have some serious consequences for Oracle users, particularly companies running products that Oracle has recently acquired. According to industry experts, however, buyers are not without leverage in negotiating with Oracle. They should take the most care when negotiating their first contract and be prepared to wait.

6. Oracle enters the appliance market with Exadata: The much-hyped "big announcement" Larry Ellison was going to make at OpenWorld turned out to be what many people were expecting -- an appliance. Exadata, Oracle's database machine and storage server, is a result of a partnership with HP. Ellison's claims that Oracle's products were cheaper than those of competitors Teradata and Netezza were met with some skepticism and were found to be a little misleading.

5. The battle with SAP rages on: Despite talks of a settlement, Oracle has maintained its courtroom attack on SAP and its TomorrowNow subsidiary, charging its competitor with "corporate theft on a grand scale." Oracle was handed another victory in mid-December when the judge threw out two charges of copyright infringement by SAP but upheld the rest. And outside the courtroom, in the marketplace, Oracle is also beating SAP, according to Forrester Research, thanks to the promise of its Fusion products. That's a total turnaround from 2006, when Forrester said SAP was winning the applications battle because of momentum around NetWeaver.

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4. Fusion applications arrive -- sort of: Oracle released the first Fusion applications with its social CRM tools (based on open standards and Oracle Middleware), though the first suite of applications isn't due until 2010. It has left people worried about Oracle's Fusion timeline, both for the past and the future, as well as confused about the specter of forced migration. Oracle, for its part, has outlined 10 steps to get to Fusion, which rely heavily on investing in more Oracle technology.

3. Oracle leaps into the cloud: In the past year, Oracle has bought land for a data center in Utah, launched a new set of social CRM applications on the Software as a Service (SaaS) model, and partnered with Amazon to offer a database in the cloud, all while CEO Larry Ellison has questioned the business value of SaaS and compared cloud computing to women's fashion. This has all left customers puzzled about just what Oracle's cloud strategy is.

2. Oracle database 11g starts seeing adoption: When Oracle ultimately produced a release date for its much anticipated database 11g release, most customers were content to wait. Some early 11g adopters, like Burlington Coat Factory, saw some advantages with jumping on board, but as 2008 progressed, more and more took the plunge, including Intermap, which went through an upgrade with Oracle's help. Still, Oracle executives continue to preach the benefits of the new release and OAUG presenters are offering their 11g upgrade tips.

1. Oracle makes its annual big acquisition with BEA: Once the paperwork cleared in February, Oracle was the proud new owner of BEA. But the acquisition meant some tough choices for middleware buyers.

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