Integration is good. But you can’t really demo it. Thomas’s keynote was a runthrough of the wonders of vertical integration, from UI down through applications, database, and (for the database appliance) even hardware. When all your systems can work together and speak to each other, wonderful things can happen.
The problem is that integration is not a yes/no question, but a matter of difficulty. A systems integrator could also show how a dozen different systems can produce miracles when integrated properly. Of course, it would cost a lot more to do it that way. But short of showing the check in the demo, that part doesn’t come across.
There are also two issues that have always prevented integration nirvana. One is that few organizations start from scratch, so you need to integrate with another vendor’s products at some point. Second is that mitigating vendor risk is often accomplished by spreading one’s IT eggs across many baskets.
I was interested to hear the messaging to the audiences of the “other” portals that Oracle still sells, even though WebCenter is the annointed portal. This was an issue that bookeneded the presentation. At the beginning, there was a slide for people entering the room clarifying “This presentation is about WebLogic Portal. Not the product Oracle calls “Oracle Portal” …”. At the end Josh addressed the relationship to WebCenter. The official answer is that WebCenter can add in collaboration and portlets. That doesn’t ring true to me as it’s not like BEA didn’t build that into their product and nothing has been removed. When an audience member asked which portal to use in his case (“a customer-facing portal”). The answer was “it depends … WebCenter is an umbrella term … leverage common services … not one or the other”.
Josh Lannin described how the new version will have better drag and drop and better organization of the portlet library. Simplification of the huge API set using controls (started in 8.1) and REST (10.2). Will now REST-enable the user profiles. Nice, but not earth shattering. There will be CMIS support to get at content, which is more RESTful and subscribeable.
On the development front there will be a new “Oracle Enterprise Pack for Eclipse”. It’s a set of free plugins for Eclipse. He pushed the JSR286 standard since it works well with new UI frameworks like JSF, struts, webflow. The IDE will have good JSR286 functionality including what he called “upgrade from jsr 168”. Neat – I haven’t heard about that before. And needed since it’s not like developers are creating jsr 286 portlets right now. They’ll add more of the WSRP 2.0 optional specs too, like coordination, resource serving, and consumer control over navigation.
There will also be increased “Oracle-ization” (my spell checker is flagging that word). Cute way of describing the security and internationalization standards that are required of their products.
Nothing new here since my posting after the Oracle analyst event in June. There is a new set of product codenames (Sunshine for WebLogic portal, Neo for ALUI, RoadRunner for WebCenter). Oracle Portal doesn’t seem to have a cute name yet, and they couldn’t talk about Sun.
I like how Oracle continues to address SharePoint – the gorilla in the collaboration room – and how they recognize the need for integration. As far as I can tell, the integration is still mostly through the WSRP producer though. They also recognize this isn’t an “open” market – there are a significant number of existing implementations, so “protect and leverage” is what they are aiming at. Good to hear.
Again, Oracle blurs “Enterprise 2.0 and Portals” (as it subtitled the strategy slides). Portals can surface information from social software, but “and” is not the right way to approach it. Social software sites need their own environments that enable them to be easily integrated in context with other applications. Not that it can’t be used that way, but the messaging is that these two things are one combined entity.
Hello from San Francisco, where I’m attending the first few days of Oracle World ’09. I got a good briefing in June (blogged here), and didn’t hear much new, so my postings will be more commentary than lists of features.
Today’s kick-off keynote was content rich. I mean it – no Olympic rhythmic gymnasts, no loud band, no dancing bears as it common at these big conferences. There was a factual discussion of what has been released by Oracle in the past year. Still, after a difficult day getting to San Francisco, some dancing bears would have helped wake me up. There may have been more fanfare last night for Larry Ellison, but I got in too late for that one.
The keynote’s theme was “Art of the Possible”. That phrase is a trimmed version of Otto Von Bismark’s line “Politics is the art of the possible.” The presentation wasn’t about politics at all, but ironically they hit on a recurring theme in the portal, collaboration, and social software coverage we do. Politics – cooperation across organizational boundaries, incentive systems, ownership – is what makes collaboration or social networking possible, or impossible. Most of the difficulties with setting up governance around intranets or portals is politics and diplomacy. Once the right political environment is in place, the technology can thrive. Despite the title, that wasn’t what Charles Phillips and Safra Catz were talking about. The coolest new thing they talked about was the Sun Oracle Database Machine, an attempt to demonstrate synergy with Sun and Oracle by combining hardware and software. Time will tell if such an appliance is in high demand from organizations that have already figured out how to work with separate hardware and databases.
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
Oracle announced its release of Beehive 1.5 today. They are hoping that a technology refresh of the Beehive collaboration assets (along with additional assets acquired along with BEA) can give Oracle another shot at the collaboration market after the moribund Oracle Collaboration Server has fizzled.
The announcement comes at a good quiet spot between IBM’s collaboration announcements at Lotusphere in January and Microsoft’s announcements on SharePoint 2010 that will probably come to a peak at their conference in October. Likewise, its most attractive feature is that its platform and standards offer an alternative to a Microsoft stack (Windows Server, SQL Server, SharePoint) and an IBM stack (Notes/Domino and/or Quickr+Connections with WebSphere). Beehive offers more standards than you can shake a stick at (although I don’t recommend shaking sticks at beehives generally): WebDAV, IMAP/SMTP, JSR 170 for content repository access, XMPP for IM and presence, LDAP or AD for directory, and JMX for management. You can use Solaris, Windows Server, or Linux for the serve and any development tool desired. From a technology point of view its appeal is likely to be based on architectural decisions about what standards and stack an organization wants to embrace (or stay away from).
But technology aside, the key for Oracle (as always) is whether they can utilize their channel to sell this stuff and whether organizations can be persuaded to pay real money for it after previous false starts. In the past, Oracle hasn’t had much voice left to talk about collaboration and portal after yelling about database and ERP. But since the Stellent acquisition, content management has been a bright spot for them and I think it has changed some minds.
Personally, I want to see the collaboration market stay competitive. End users win when vendors compete hard on features, quality, and pricing. Lately it seems like Microsoft SharePoint has gotten a lion’s share of attention from organizations. Microsoft has been the main attraction at this tournament and I’m glad to see Oracle showing up to play. IBM Lotus still feels to me like they haven’t shown up to the tournament and are setting up a parallel exhibition match for the same sport in another part of town. They didn’t mention SharePoint by name in the Lotusphere main tent (although it was clear who they were talking about and Jive got a mention). But as an analyst I’m like an unaligned spectator at a sporting event – you just want to see a diverse set of skillful challengers compete really well and bring up the level of play.
Note: This is a cross-posting from the Collaboration and Content Strategies blog
A belated congratulations to the JSR 286 group, which went into final release in June. You can get the details here. Good job to Stefan Hepper of IBM, the specification lead, who must have had a tough time herding the cats on this one. Right out of the gate it’s good to see JSR 286 getting some attention from the portal vendors.
Of course it’s been in development for quite some time. When JSR 168 was being created a number of enhancements were shifted to JSR 286 to keep from slowing down the original portal spec’s ratification. The most important features of JSR 286 are inter-portlet communication (IPC) and alignment with the ongoing work on Web Services for Remote Portlets 2.0 (WSRP 2.0).
Vendor support has been promised soon as well (or is already here in the case of IBM).
- IBM quickly announced support in for WebSphere Portal 6.1 (as well as for WSRP 2.0). Way to track the standards guys!
- Oracle’s ALUI and Oracle Portal don’t have support yet. I’m told Oracle Portal may get it in 11gR1 release or later
- JBoss (Red Hat ditched its own portal in favor of the JBoss portal after acquiring JBoss) is promising support in Version 2.7, due out in Q3 2008 according to CMS Watch.
- A document from someone at SAP coldly stated that “SAP supports and actively participates in this new standard as EG member. As this specification is in draft version, it is not supported in NW CE.” I checked with my contacts at SAP and was told that JSR 286 is currently in scope for NetWeaver 7.0 Enhancement Pack 2, which is expected around October. I also noticed they did not vote on the standard. I wondered if this was a sign of lack of interest or a passive way to vote “no”, but their analyst relations staff said it was in fact because their committee representative was in the hospital.
My guidance to portal architects though is to consider bypassing JSR 168 or 286 portlets and even WSRP and focus on creating web services for information that they want to expose. Once the data portion is available as a web service, any decent portal product can create a quickie portlet (maybe in JSR 168 or some proprietary format) from the WSDL of the web service so it can be used in a portal. And then you have the option of leveraging that interface through non-portal mechanisms as well.
I should mention JSR 301 here as well. Presentation models have changed since the original JSR 168 specification was created. JavaServer Faces (JSF), the most significant of the presentation models for Java and has spawned many proprietary and open source attempts to transform JSF interfaces into JSR 168 portlets. The JSR 301 specification is only in its early stages, but promises to standardize these bridging mechanisms. No solid word yet on what that’s coming though.
I got a chance to talk to Oracle yesterday about how they plan to integrate the BEA middleware assets they picked up in their acquisition into their own middleware portfolio. Oracle let it be known that – no surprise – Oracle strategy is constant and BEA integrates into it. Fusion Middleware is the brand and it’s all about Fusion in this integration strategy. Dictionary.com defines fusion as “a nuclear reaction in which nuclei combine to form more massive nuclei with the simultaneous release of energy.” That seems to be what is happening at Oracle these days as the nucleus of Oracle and the nucleus of BEA (which had already combined with the nucleus from Plumtree) combine to form something pretty massive. And there is certainly a lot of energy being released, so that definition certainly applies.
Still, Oracle assures BEA customers that all products continue under “existing BEA support lifetimes”, there’s no forced migration, and license costs are grandfathered for existing customers. In fact, some support costs may come down since Oracle policy is to price support as a percentage of net price rather than list, but others could increase or decrease a bit since Tuxedo’s pricing tiers get remapped to CPUs.
I won’t comment much on development since that isn’t my coverage area. I will say that JDeveloper is still the flagship development platform for Oracle. BEA Beehive is just in maintenance and Workshop is a freebie in the Eclipse Pack.
And now, the answer to the portal conundrum I wrote about in my “Four Portals of the Apocalypse” posting when Oracle announced its intention to acquire BEA. For portals, as expected, the winner is WebCenter. It’s not that the others are dead, but WebCenter is the “hot” product they want to talk about first, connect everything to, and anoint with all the cool, buzzword-compliant enhancements. Users of the other portals (Oracle Portal, BEA WebLogic Portal, AquaLogic User Interaction aka Plumtree) need to figure out how soon a rewrite is going to be in their future since those products are in the “continue and converge” category (C&C). A C&C portal will keep going forward for existing customers for quite a while (Thomas Kurian publicly stated the lifecycle would be about 9 years), but will not have new customers steered towards it and will eventually be merged into WebCenter.
So, here’s my recommended strategy based on which Oracle portal product you’re using based on what I know so far. I’ve been told that more detailed migration plans will probably come out in 2-3 months:
- Oracle WebCenter: You lucky dog! You picked the winner. It’s a rosy future for you, full of the best piece parts from other portal products, new Enterprise 2.0 functionality, and you’ll meet lots of new friends at each annual WebCenter user’s group meeting. For a new portal project being planned, WebCenter is the only reasonable choice in the Oracle portfolio unless you’re into planned obsolescence.
- Oracle Portal or BEA WebLogic Portal: You’re probably OK coasting along as is unless you fall into one of a few categories. If you’re really thinking of adding the newest functionality (Enterprise 2.0) and architectural standards (REST, RIA) you’ll want to start thinking about migration soon, although Oracle intends to have some WebCenter services plug into WebLogic Portal, Oracle Portal, and ALUI to be leveragable without migrating. And if you are in the rare situation of having a strategic portal with a long lifespan expected ahead of it (5+ years), you’ll have to make a reminder for yourself in 2010 or so to start thinking about migration.
- AquaLogic User Interaction: The picture for ALUI users is pretty similar to that of Oracle Portal and BEA WebLogic Portal – it’s in the C&C category so expect it to be supported for quite a while. Still, it’s my personal opinion that Oracle will have a harder time with ALUI since it will be chopped up into more pieces and there are lots of legacy installations with deep customization. Also, ALUI has a .NET side to its heritage. In the Plumtree days they had spent quite a bit of effort on building out .NET support. For example, the Enterprise Web Development Kit (EDK) could be installed with either a Java or .NET (C#) development and there was a .NET version of the EDK is available as a dynamic link library (DLL). The .NET portlet creation capabilities are going to be rebranded as the Oracle WebCenter .Net Application Accelerator.
Oracle is rolling out a few new SKUs (packages) that will help portal owners.
- WebCenter Services combines the WebCenter Framework with some Oracle pieces (BPEL Worklist, their portlet bridge and JSR 168 container) and sprinkles some ALUI and WebLogic Portal pieces in. Ensemble is renamed Oracle Ensemble and put into services SKU and Analytics gets Oracle branding.
- WebCenter Suite has everything in WebCenter services as well as restricted licenses for content, Oracle Presence, BPEL Process Manager, and search. ALUI is renamed WebCenter Interaction and goes in the suite for now, although as of 11g there’s nothing in ALUI that they’d recommend for new deployments. AL Collaboration is renamed WebCenter Collaboration and goes in the suite until they can roll out new collaboration in WebCenter 11g.
I was a fan of the BEA Pages and Pathways products, both of which will melt into Fusion Middleware. Pages melts into the WebCenter Framework. It will be part of WebCenter Composer for users to create mashups and its wiki and blog capabilities go into WebCenter Services in the 11g timeframe. Pathways melts into two separate places. Its social search merges into secure enterprise search and the social tagging merges into the 11g foundation.
All in all, this roadmap is pretty complete and as good as owners of Oracle Portal or BEA WebLogic Portal could have hoped for. Owners of complex, customized ALUI portals need to see the writing on the wall and plan to migrate to the new WebCenter model (method TBD by Oracle) or re-architect off the Oracle platform entirely. But one more telling statement about nuclear fusion may shed light on Oracle’s strategy of unifying all its pieces under the Fusion umbrella. Wikipedia notes that “Artificial fusion in human enterprises has also been achieved, although not yet completely controlled.” Ah, yes, how true. We still have to see how well this bit of fusion winds up being under control over the next few years.
Note: This is a cross-posting from the Collaboration and Content Strategies Blog
This is the first of several posts I’ll be doing about the BEA Participate conference that happened this week. For my first subject, I’ll focus on the biggest issue for me this week: What light does this conference shed on how BEA and Oracle will mix?
This was a strange time for a BEA conference, coming on the 2 week anniversary of the closing of their acquisition by Oracle. There weren’t a lot of balloons or cake to celebrate the acquisition – it was very quiet (as required by law and quarterly reporting deadlines). For example, Mark Carges (EVP Products and GM, BEA) kicked things off and didn’t quite seem up to referring to BEA and Oracle as “we” yet. There was simply a dry reference at the beginning to “Our new owners, who you will meet later”. After the one quick reference, the rest of the presentation was BEA business-as-usual.
The second presenter was indeed “the new owners” in the form of Hasan Rizvi, VP of Fusion middleware at Oracle. He showed a chart of all their middleware products and saying (I’m paraphrasing here) they are “best of breed, but of course BEA also has best of breed products in all these categories so that’s why this is such a good combination”. He said they will be doing “Welcome BEA Customers” events at 25 cities in the US/Canada and 25 in EMEA.
He introduced the BEA crowd to Oracle Fusion middleware and their tools. The crowd didn’t seem very partisan, was attentive and soaked in the information. From my 7 years (on and off) of going to BEA conferences I can say that, like past BEA conferences, the vibe is one of a mature, techie environment. While JavaOne may have techies lounging on beanbags, playing videogames, and eating kiddie snacks while challenging each other to coding duels, the BEA conference attendees are mature programmers, in the second or third decade of their careers, confident in their abilities, who tend to understand the value of well architected systems. They like BEA although they don’t need expensively produced videos making fun of their competition and they don’t paint their hair in the company colors (both of which I’ve seen at other vendor conferences).
It’s appropriate that the Oracle and BEA colors are within a few Pantone shades of the same red since the company colors don’t represent a religious issue like it would be in some other acquisitions (the blue and purple devotees of Microsoft and Yahoo! wouldn’t have mixed as easily). However, the BEA audience is technically adept and will require practical reasons and detailed roadmaps if they are going to buy into new Oracle+BEA solutions rather than shifting their development platforms, application server, portal, and BPM to IBM or open source. I can’t wait to see these roadmaps, particularly in my area of portals, since there are many overlaps that will require sacrifices to resolve. The sacrifices will take the form of placing some products and customers on the sacrificial altar or placing profits on the alter due to the long-term inefficiencies of maintaining redundant products.
And, just to prove that in the end some people always stay loyal, I counted about 300 people in the packed “What’s new with AquaLogic User Interaction” session. When the announcer asked “how many of you still call ALUI Plumtree?” about 75% of the audience raised their hands.
ZDNet writes today that Oracle is making a bid for BEA for the demonic price of $6.66 billion. Well, the devil is in the details and there are plenty of them to hash out if this deal ever flies. There is a large degree of overlap in the application server, development tool, collaboration, and portal spaces between BEA and Oracle. At least BEA doesn’t have a content management offering too, so Stellent is safe for now. I find it rather ironic that after writing in May about “How Many Portals Should a Vendor Offer?” that both Oracle and BEA have two sets of portal products on offer, now Oracle could have four (4!) portal products in its portfolio. I’d love to be a fly on the wall as they try to rationalize that one!
There have been rumors of Oracle (or others) buying BEA for quite a while, but it hasn’t happened yet. For example, in May of 2004, Java.net reported “Faced with a tough, if not losing, battle for PeopleSoft, Oracle executives said Thursday that they were considering other acquisitions… Henley (CFO, Chairman) said Oracle had been ‘looking at a variety of areas’ but didn’t identify any potential takeover targets. It has expressed interest in BEA as well as reserve over the price.” Of course BEA was trading at about $8.00 a share in mid-2004 versus $18.05 at the moment.
Time will tell if this deal shall come to pass. It is not for me to judge the will of Carl Icahn, who has reportedly been pushing for a sale for quite some time now. This simply shows that Oracle is continuing to seek growth through acquisition and that BEA has been undervalued, which should came as no revelation to anyone.