Oracle WebCenter and Fusion Middleware 11g

July 9, 2009 at 7:07 am | Posted in BEA, collaboration, Enterprise 2.0, Microsoft SharePoint, Notes/Domino, Oracle, portals, Web 2.0 | 5 Comments

Oracle’s analyst summit in mid-June provided a good look at their plans for Fusion Middleware 11g and WebCenter (released July 1st for download; see summary of features here).  Now that we’re out of non-disclosure mode (and into “please disclose!” mode) I’d like to share my high-level impressions.  They covered a ton of stuff, but my view is biased towards my coverage area of portals with connections to search, productivity, and collaboration. Other Burton Group analysts were also in attendance from our Identity and Privacy Strategies team and our Application Platform Strategies team (see Anne Thomas Manes’ thoughts here).

First, although Oracle owns 4 portal products, all the portal-related time was spent on WebCenter. Sure, other portals were mentioned in bullets as examples of how they can plug in (or consume WebCenter’s social software), but it was clear WebCenter is the leading actor here (and supporting actor in the stories of the SOA, identity, and enterprise application teams). This confirms what I (and Oracle) has been saying: that WebCenter is the primary portal and that the other 3 (Oracle Portal, WebLogic Portal, and WebCenter Interaction née Plumtree) will be supported and have their die-hard fans but will not be best for new portal projects.

It was helpful to hear Oracle frame its collaboration/portal/search/productivity/social software ambitions in relation to Microsoft SharePoint.  For all its plusses and minuses, SharePoint provides a common point of reference against which to measure.  They described how they line up with SharePoint as an alternative, can coexist with it, and where they surpass it.  This is what IBM should have done with Quickr+Connections at Lotusphere.

As with SharePoint, WebCenter provides an impressive set of functions in one box. There is often better integration between WebCenter and other Oracle assets (like their applications and development tools) than Microsoft where other groups can sometimes get away with ignoring what the SharePoint and Office group does.

There are numerous SharePoint analogies in WebCenter.  From conversations with the execs there I found that some are intentional and in other cases they say SharePoint copied them (well, copied AquaLogic User Interaction)!

  • Business Dictionary as a role based catalog of information assets. Seems like SharePoint’s Business Data Catalog.  This should be an interesting battle since SharePoint’s BDC is clearly a version 1.0 work-in-progress and Oracle has a lot of expertise to bring here being a database company at heart.
  • Federated search. ‘Nuff said.
  • Office integration. Clients I speak with expect Microsoft will always have the best Office integration, but there are cases where Microsoft’s internal silos or some good ideas can expose openings.  Oracle showed a nice Word sidebar for document management that had people, versions, etc.
  • Slide sorter. This was a neat feature that SharePoint offered, but Oracle’s version seems to leapfrog it. They demoed picking all the slides for a sales deck. Oracle calls this a “folio” or compound document. Oracle acquired a neat little company called “Outside In” that has sophisticated filters for productivity files.  Blending this into Web Center can provide for some good Office integration.

Oracle did a fine job of acknowledging the need to work with SharePoint and others.  But the meat boils down to their WSRP producer running on .NET, selective metadata consumption, and Ensemble (a reverse proxy solution).  Hopefully this gets beefed up with more programmatic integration, discovery tools, and guidance so it requires less reliance on WSRP.

Of all the competitors, WebCenter is the newest architecture from the ground up.  Being the youngest has its advantages.  Since WebCenter is newly architected it feels like it more seamlessly integrates new concepts like tagging, linking, social connections, and REST services than IBM and MSFT where it’s more bolted on. So they’re better at utilizing these features across the suite that Microsoft and a little bit better than IBM.

But will Oracle – the whole company – give WebCenter the resources it needs to win the marketplace(not just the resources required to be a good and useful product)?  In the Q&A session, Oracle President Charles Phillips said there are “No plans to have middleware broken out in reporting. We have lots of product lines, we’re getting more with Sun… ” This hits at the perennial knock on Oracle’s efforts around knowledge infrastructure – lack of push and commitment.  Oracle did talk about how much revenue Fusion pulled in, the growth rate, penetration, etc.  That would indicate the company would have to care.  But still, Microsoft manages to report on four breakouts (Client, Server and Tools, Online Services Business, Microsoft Business Division, Entertainment and Devices Division).  Oracle sticks to two (Applications, Database and Middleware).  Sun will add at least one more (servers and hardware).  If Oracle is dedicated to the enormous space between enterprise apps and the database, breaking out middleware from the database would be a great way to track and prove this commitment.

Note: This is a cross-posting from the Collaboration and Content Strategies blog

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When IBM Was Faced With 2 Options, They Picked #3

May 19, 2009 at 3:58 pm | Posted in IBM, Microsoft SharePoint, Notes/Domino, social software | Leave a comment

Good posting from Mike Gotta on IBM’s nice, but too late integration point between Connections and SharePoint.  Mike says that if he was picking directions for IBM he would have “prioritized deep integration with SharePoint”.  I agree entirely. 

Actually, as I mentioned in previous blog posts (like here and here) I think there were two angles to explore and IBM picked #3.  #1 is the “insanely great integration” that Mike describes.  #2 is a compete strategy if they think their social software is good enough to go head to head against SharePoint and knock it out of the running. 

What I do not feel was a real option was the “don’t say anything” option, also known as “wait and see” or “I’m sure clients will include us on head-to-head comparisons and POCs and figure it out themselves”.  Or “pretend Jive is your only competition”.  That’s option #3 and a non-starter in my book.

So I’m happy to see some effort coming out of IBM to address coexistence strategy, but I would like to see a more comprehensive strategy with technology, sales awareness, and marketing push (e.g., catchphrase and branding such as ConnectPoint, brochures, maybe even a sliver of the Lotus advertising budget) behind it.  If it’s not too late to pull that together.

Vendor Conferences: Preaching to the Faithful (and the Press)

April 21, 2009 at 8:01 am | Posted in IBM, Lotusphere2009, Notes/Domino | 1 Comment

I had an interesting discussion with Bob Picciano and Ed Brill of IBM Lotus about big name vendor conferences like Lotusphere while they were in Chicago for Lotusphere Comes to You.  It seems to me that one of the ironies of the success of Lotusphere is that Lotusphere is not the best place to make game-changing announcements about Lotus.  The people that go to Lotusphere – a sea of yellow shirts (and sometimes hair) that IBM says broke attendance records this year – are the Lotus faithful. They already like Notes/Domino and have dedicated years of their life to it.  If they weren’t interested in Lotus, they wouldn’t be there. 

But when you’re in a saturated market (which the developed economy large enterprise e-mail market is), you can only gain market share by taking it from your competitors, so how do you get them to listen and what do you tell them?  Messages that resonate with the faithful (removing hassles, UI beautification, and incremental feature improvement) don’t resonate as well with prospects.  Prospective buyers don’t want to hear about eliminating redundant attachment storage (which I’m sure got a standing ovation).  They want to hear why something has strategically changed versus their current point of reference which impels them to reconsider their position.  This often involves hitting at soft spots in the competitor’s armor that the faithful may not care as much about.  Better Quickr and Connections integration, for example, is a minor point to current users but has a more strategic edge when used to provide a better apples-to-apples comparison against Microsoft SharePoint.

This isn’t an IBM issue – it is the same for any vendor that holds conferences and needs to prioritize messages for current customers against those that attract new ones.  But some other vendors have the advantage of broader conferences that allow for more cross-selling, such as OracleWorld where a database faithful can get pounded with a portal and collaboration or business process management message at 120db and possibly walk away with something new to think about.

Accordingly, IBM made a great move when they spoke at MacWorld, speaking to a huge audience of prospects that offer a real chance to steal marketshare.  Bob also recited several other non-IBM events they had spoken at.  I think this is the right path for hitting a new set of ears.

What I Am Looking for Out of Lotusphere 2009

January 19, 2009 at 10:22 am | Posted in collaboration, IBM, Lotusphere2009, Microsoft SharePoint, Notes/Domino | 1 Comment

While I’m freezing here in Chicago and looking at the pictures of arriving conference goers in shorts squinting in the sun, my significantly warmer CCS teammates Guy Creese and Bill Pray are in Orlando at Lotusphere 2009.  They will be writing blog posts from Orlando as events occur, but here’s an opening set of thoughts from me about what I am looking for out of the Lotusphere 2009 announcements and what comes out of the sessions (and Guy and Bill’s meetings with IBM execs).

  • The overall question every year for me is whether Lotus can gain upward momentum in our target market – large organizations in developed countries
  • Is there a 3+ yr strategy or vision apparent in the messages? Or is it, like previous years, a big, long, unprioritized list of features, branding, and acquisitions.  To simplify a message you have to know your audience, so this is a proxy for asking whether Lotus has identified its target market for new client acquisition and a clear strategy to attack it
  • In talking with the rest of the CCS team about the upcoming Lotusphere, we bounced around the idea that maybe Lotusphere isn’t the right place to make strategic IBM Lotus announcements. Kinda ironic given the title of the conference, but it really is meant for the Lotus faithful, and particularly the techies (admins, developers) among them. It’s all just preaching to the converted. Maybe that’s why the MacWorld announcement got so much attention – to gain marketshare they have to convey a message to those not among the faithful, and those people won’t be at Lotusphere.
  • Will Bluehouse finally include email, the first priority for SMBs wanting SaaS communication and collaboration?
  • What are the new growth figures for Notes/Domino and its new cousins Quickr/Connections?
  • What’s new with the SaaS strategy?
  • What is the SharePoint compete strategy?  What is the SharePoint coexistence strategy?  SharePoint has been growing like a weed on their home turf and to this point we’ve heard no marketplace messaging on how to compete with it or live with it.  To date the answers out of IBM have been conversationally pointing out where IBM is better (e.g., social software, UC) or why Microsoft sucks.  But a verbal script plus labeling your competitor’s customers as morons doesn’t equal a strategy.
  • How has the messaging for portal evolved as portals are subsumed into the superplatform and mashups are sprouting up everywhere?

This promises to be a make-or-break Lotusphere and I’m interested to hear what comes out of Orlando. 

Note: This is a cross-posting from the Collaboration and Content Strategies blog.

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