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Oracle president touts Sun buy, new releases of Beehive, AIA

Charles Phillips told attendees at Collaborate '09 that the acquisition of Sun will help Oracle provide a full range of technology.

ORLANDO -- Speaking for the first time publicly about his company's acquisition of Sun Microsystems, Oracle president Charles Phillips said today that he is excited about the range of technology assets Sun can contribute to a number of Oracle's strategies, particularly its software.

During his keynote address here at Collaborate '09, the annual conference put on by Oracle's three major user groups, Phillips emphasized the strategic importance of both Java and Sun's Solaris operating system.

"Solaris is one of the best operating systems created, and Java is a great technology, and we plan to invest aggressively in its growth," he said. "[With the Sun acquisition] we will be the only company out there that can provide everything from the applications to the disk."

Speaking before a few thousand Oracle users and developers, Phillips said Oracle realizes the constraints and pressures the economy has placed on it but knows that it still has to deliver products that add value to users. He said users can expect Oracle to be a willing partner in that mission.

"We understand this is a difficult time in the economy but that you are still on the hook for delivering good products that perform well," Phillips said. "So our recommendations are going to be a little different. We want to talk to you more about products that are affordable but add value."

One way Oracle will accomplish this is through tighter integration of its own existing products as well as integration with technology bought from other vendors or that users developed themselves. The focal point for this will be Oracle's Application Integration Architecture (AIA) and new products that support it.

"Our overall strategy will not change, but we realize you have picked up so many products from so many suppliers, and integrating them increases your costs," Phillips said. "We want to build better interoperability among these products and to do so in a way that is consistent with the way you want to build products."

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Hoping to make good on that promise, Phillips today took the wraps off several new products that will help users integrate or work more easily among their products.

First, was the release of Oracle E-Business Suite 12.1, which will offer product enhancements in the areas of supply chain management, procurement, projects, CRM, MDM, financials and human resources. Philips highlighted several products that come with this latest release, including Oracle Site Hub, a location mastering solution that helps organizations centralize information from heterogeneous systems. This tool can help eliminate data problems associated with rapid business expansion or mergers and acquisitions.

Philips also showed off enhancements in AIA with the announcement of AIA Foundation Pack Release 2.4. This release will include new PIPs for transportation management, content management for E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft and Siebel, and Oracle Secure Enterprise Search.

In addition, he revealed that Oracle will waive Extended Support fees for a number of the Oracle major product lines through 2010 and 2011. Products affected include Oracle E-Business Suite Release 11/10, JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 8.11, Siebel CRM 7.8, Oracle Database 10gR2 and PeopleSoft Enterprise 8.9 releases.

Beverly Riffon and Tom Gilpin from the IT department at West Virginia University left Phillips' keynote most excited about the Extended Support announcement. Gilpin, an E-Business Suite user, said the waiving of support fees was good news and exactly the kind of news his manager had hoped he would bring home from the conference.

Oracle also rolled out a spruced up version of its Beehive collaboration platform with a new Web-based Team Workspaces feature that is designed to help teams better manage and share information.

Built into Team Workspaces are a handful of capabilities including team calendaring, contextual search, wikis, file sharing, support for RSS, and a micro blog for sending out announcements. The new feature can be either centrally accessed or set up by individual teams, and it does not require a portal to function, company officials said.

Riffon, a DBA at West Virginia University, said she enjoyed learning more about Oracle Beehive but was not sure how easy it would be to convince her company to switch email systems.

The enhanced version crystallizes the goal Oracle had for Beehive when it first introduced the product, according to David Gilmour, senior vice president in charge of Oracle's Collaboration Technologies, who gave attendees a live demonstration of the new version today.

"The new version finally brings to completion the coverage for all the major categories, which includes email, synchronization collaboration, and team collaboration," Gilmour said.

Because the Team Workspace client functions as a browser-based Web service, administrators can more easily create a place for teams of people to work collaboratively. A key feature in the new version is the wiki, he said.

"At the center of this is a wiki which allows a team to either produce content in an ad hoc, unstructured way or to organize its own work in some other ways better suited to its needs," Gilmour said.

Oracle continues to extol the virtues of Beehive's all-in-one, centralized approach to collaborative computing compared to the more distributed offerings of archrivals such as Microsoft and IBM.

"Microsoft and IBM have quite a few products that cover this [collaboration] space," Gilmour said. "When you take all those products and scale them in a data center, you get a complicated and expensive piece of infrastructure. Our approach is to offer one platform with everything in there for things like archiving, records management [and] information rights management, and have that sit on top of Oracle's middleware and database."

While users can deploy all the Oracle-developed applications in Beehive, they can choose to swap them out in favor of competitive open source or proprietary products giving them more flexibility.

Some attendees were impressed with the product, which both Gilmour and Phillips said is the first integrated collaboration platform specifically intended for the enterprise, but expressed some doubt about how easily they could make the transition from existing technologies.

"The Beehive is a good thing," Riffon said. "I just don't know how feasible it is to switch to something like that."

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