Posts Tagged ‘middleware’

Oracle + Sun: Five questions to ponder

January 27, 2010 3 comments

I spent a couple of hours today listening to Oracle talk about the long-awaited integration with Sun Microsystems. A real end of an era and beginning of a new one. What does this mean for Oracle? Whatever you might think about Oracle, you have to give the company credit for successfully integrating the 60 companies it has purchased over the past few years. Having watched hundreds and perhaps thousands of acquisitions over the last few decades, it is clear that integration is hard. There are overlapping technologies, teams, cultures, and egos. Oracle has successfully managed to leverage the IP from its acquisitions to support its business goals. For example, it has kept packaged software customers happy by improving the software. Peoplesoft customers, for example, were able to continue to use the software they had become dependent on in primarily the same way as before the acquisition. In some cases, the quality of the software actually improved dramatically. The path has been more complicated with the various middleware and infrastructure platforms the company has acquired over the years because of overlapping functionality.

The acquisition of Sun Microsystems is the biggest game changer for Oracle since the acquisition of PeopleSoft. There is little doubt that Sun has significant software and hardware IP that will be very important in defining Oracle in the 21st century. But I don’t expect this to be a simple journey. Here are the five key issues that I think will be tricky for Oracle to navigate. Obviously, this is not a complete list but it is a start.

Issue One: Can Oracle recreate the mainframe world? The mainframe is dead — long live the mainframe. Oracle has a new fondness for the mainframe and what that model could represent. So, if you combine Sun’s hardware, networking layer, storage, security, packaged applications, middleware into a package do you get to own total share of a customer’s wallet? That is the idea. Oracle management has determined that IBM had the right ideas in the 1960s — everything was nicely integrated and the customer never had to worry about the pieces working together.
Issue Two: Can you package everything together and still be an open platform? To its credit, Oracle has build its software on standards such as Unix/Linux, XML, Java, etc. So, can you have it both ways? Can you claim openness when the platform itself is hermetically sealed? I think it may be a stretch. In order to accomplish this goal, Oracle would have to have well-defined and published APIs. It would have to be able to certify that with these APIs the integrated platform won’t be broken. Not an easy task.
Issue Three: Can you manage a complex computing environment? Computing environments get complicated because there are so many moving parts. There are configurations that change; software gets patched; new operating system versions are introduced; emerging technology enters and messes up the well established environment. Oracle would like to automate the process of managing this process for customers. It is an appealing idea since configuration problems, missing links, and poor testing are often responsible for many of the outages in computing environments today. Will customers be willing to have this type of integrated environment controlled and managed by a single vendor? Some customers will be happy to turn over these headaches. Others may have too much legacy or want to work with a variety of vendors. This is not a new dilemma for customers. Customers have long had to rationalize the benefits of a single source of technology against the risks of being locked in.
Issue Four: Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Can Oracle really be a hardware vendor? Clearly, Sun continues to be a leader in hardware despite its diminished fortunes. But as anyone who has ventured into the hardware world knows, hardware is a tough, brutal game. In fact, it is the inverse of software. Software takes many cycles to reach maturation. It needs to be tweaked and finessed. However, once it is in place it has a long, long life. The old saying goes, old software never dies. The same cannot be said for hardware. Hardware has a much straighter line to maturity. It is developed, designed, and delivered to the market. Sometimes it leapfrogs the competition enough that it has a long and very profitable life. Other times, it hits the market at the end of a cycle when a new more innovative player enters the market. The culmination of all the work and effort can be short as something new comes along at the right place at the right time. It is often a lot easier to get rid of hardware than software. The computer industry is littered with the corpses of failed hardware platforms that started with great fanfare and then faded away quickly. Will Oracle be successful with hardware? It will depend on how really good the company is in transforming its DNA.
Issue Five. Are customers ready to embrace Oracle’s brave new world? Oracle’s strategy is a good one — if you are Oracle. But what about for customers? And what about for partners? Customers need to understand the long-term implication and tradeoffs in buying into Oracle’s integrated approach to its platform. It will clearly mean fewer moving parts to worry about. It will mean one phone call and no finger pointing. However, customers have to understand the type of leverage that single company will have in terms of contract terms and conditions. And what about partners? How does an independent software vendor or a channel partner participate within the new Oracle? Is there room? What type of testing and preparation will be required to play?

Why did IBM buy Lombardi?

December 16, 2009 Leave a comment

Just as I was about to start figuring out my next six predictions for 2010 I had to stop the presses and focus on IBM’s latest acquisition. IBM just announced this morning that it has purchased Lombardi which focuses on Business Process Management software. Lombardi is one of the independent leaders in the market as well as a strong IBM business partner. The obvious question is why would IBM need yet another business process management platform? After all, IBM has a large portfolio of business process management software — some homegrown and some from various acquisitions such as Filenet, ILOG, and Webify. I think that the answer is actually quite straight forward. Lombardi’s offerings are used extensively in business units, by business management to codify complex processes that are at the heart of streamlining how businesses are able to differentiate themselves. Clearly, IBM has recognized the importance of Lombardi to its customers since it has had a long standing partnership with the company.  I think there are two reasons that this acquisition are significant beyond the need to provide direct support for business management. The ability to use Lombardi’s technology to sell more WebSphere offerings and the connection of business process to IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative are the two issues that stand out in my mind.

Selling more WebSphere products. There is no question that the WebSphere brand within IBM’s Software business unit includes a lot of products such as its registry/repository, applications integration, security, and various middleware offerings. IBM likes to sell its products by focusing on entry points — the immediate problem that the customer is trying to solve. The opportunity to gain direct access to business buyers who start with business process management and then may be see the value of adding new capabilities to that platform.

Supporting the Smarter Planet strategy. Business transformaton often starts by reconstructing process. IBM’s smarter planet strategy is based on the premise that customers want to be able to transform their businesses utilizing sophisticated technology. Therefore, it is important to look at how business innovation can be supported by IBM’s huge hardware, software, and services portfolio. The fact that Lombardi’s technology is the starting point for business units looking at transformational process changes is an important marker in IBM’s evolution as a company.

Oracle Plus Sun: What does it mean?

April 20, 2009 16 comments

I guess this is one way to start a Monday morning. After IBM decided to pass on Sun, Oracle decided that it would be a great idea. While I have as many questions as answers, here are my top ten thoughts about what this combination will mean to the market:

1. Oracle’s acquisition of Sun definitely shakes up the technology market. Now, Oracle will become a hardware vendor, an operating system supplier, and will own Java.

2. Oracle gets a bigger share of the database market with MySQL. Had IBM purchased Sun, it would have been able to claim market leadership.

3. This move changes the competitive dynamics of the market. There are basically three technology giants: IBM, HP, and Oracle. This acquisition will put a lot of pressure on HP since it partners so closely with Oracle on the database and hardware fronts. It should also lead to more acquisitions by both IBM and HP.

4. The solutions market reigns! Oracle stated in its conference call this morning that the company will now be able to deliver top to bottom integrated solutions to its customers including hardware, packaged applications, operating systems, middleware, storage, database, etc. I feel a mainframe coming on…

5. Oracle could emerge as a cloud computing leader. Sun had accumulated some very good cloud computing/virtualization technologies over the last few years. Sun’s big cloud announcement got lost in the frenzy over the acquisition talks but there were some good ideas there.

6. Java gets  a new owner. It will be interesting to see how Oracle is able to monetize Java. Will Oracle turn Java over to a standards organization? Will it treat it as a business driver? That answer will tell the industry a lot about the future of both Oracle and Java.

7. What happens to all of Sun’s open source software? Back a few years ago, Sun decided that it would open source its entire software stack. What will Oracle do with that business model? What will happen to its biggest open source platform, MySQL? MySQL has a huge following in the open source world. I suspect that Oracle will not make dramatic changes, at least in the short run. Oracle does have open source offerings although they are not the central focus of the company by a long shot. I assume that Oracle will deemphasize MySQL.

8. Solaris is back. Lately, there has been more action around Solaris. IBM annouced support earlier in the year and HP recently announced support services. Now that Solaris has a strong owner it could shake up the dynamics of the operating system world. It could have an impact on the other gorilla not in the room — Microsoft.

9. What are the implications for Microsoft? Oracle and Microsoft have been bitter rivals for decades. This acquisition will only intensify the situation. Will Microsoft look at some big acquisitions in the enterprise market? Will new partnerships emerge? Competition does create strange bedfellows. What will this mean for Cisco, VMWare, and EMC? That is indeed something interesting to ponder.

10. Oracle could look for a services acquisition next. One of the key differences between Oracle and its two key rivals IBM and HP is in the services space. If Oracle is going to be focused on solutions, we might expect to see Oracle look to acquire a services company. Could Oracle be eyeing something like CSC?

I think I probably posed more questions than answers. But, indeed, these are early days. There is no doubt that this will shake up the technology market and will lead to increasing consolidation. In the long run, I think this will be good for customers. Customers do want to stop buying piece parts. Customers do want to buy a more integrated set of offerings. However, I don’t think that any customer wants to go back to the days where a solution approach meant lock-in. It will be important for customers to make sure that what these big players provide is the type of flexibility they have gotten used to in the last decade without so much pain.

Oracle plus BEA…Sun Plus MySQL

January 19, 2008 3 comments

Just when it began to look like BEA might take itself private, the company gave into the mounting pressure and became the latest Oracle acquisition. A few months ago I wrote about my thoughts on the potential acquisition. While on the surface it might appear that Oracle is going after the customer base, I think that the move is more significant in terms of the software assets including middleware and business process management software. An interesting and little discussed asset is the high end Tuxedo transaction monitoring software developed by Bell Labs in the 1980s and commercialized by AT&T Unix Systems Labs, then owned by Novell and finally sold as part of the formation of BEA.

So, I think that Oracle did the right thing in acquiring BEA to fill in its middleware stack. However, the real question remains: how will Oracle be able to rationalize all of the middleware components to create a platform. For example, I predict that it will take years for BEA to have a Fusion middleware stack that incorporates BEA’s value. The same issue will persist for business process software. The assets from various acquisitions will have to be sorted out. I thought that James Governor made some interesting observations in his recent blog on Oracle. Josh Greenbaum, as usual has some interesting thoughts about Oracle’s approach to the market…At least where Oracle is concerned, we won’t be bored.

Now, about Sun Microsystems. I have to say that the acquisition of MySQL left me scratching my head. Sun seems to have taken on the mantle of the place where software goes to die. Can you spell Forte (a development environment with $80 million in revenue that Sun acquired for $450 million — what a deal!)? How about other notable acquisitions like NetDynamics, and Netscape Application Server? There are others, of course, but I can’t remember their names anymore. Even with the Java franchise Sun hasn’t figured out how to make money on software.

So, what about MySQL which Sun payed $1 billion dollars for? Jonathan Swartz in his blog makes a case that Sun can win in the market though a focus on open source software. While commercial support of open source is important for customers I suspect that it won’t really help Sun’s revenue climb. Clearly, one of the reasons that MySQL has been successful is that it works and is open source — I can’t figure out how Sun will leverage this asset to build a successful commercial business.

SAP’s Journey: SOA By Design?

December 4, 2007 3 comments

I am attending SAP’s “Industry Influencer” conference this week. It is clearly an interesting time for SAP. The company’s platform is evolving both in scope, architecture, and markets. SAP is a company that likes control and likes to control its own world and the world of its customers. The message was clear. The customer is best served by adopting a homogeneous platform based on a business process layer and a repository based on SAP’s Netweaver. This is true whether you are a large enterprise or a mid-market customer.

SAP’s view of the world is quite interesting. It has appeal in many ways. If a customer buys in, they buy into a neat and clean view of the world where they can link into their accounting, CRM, multi-channel applications, logistical, shipping, etc. and have a process centric comprehensive view of the world. If the customer buys into the platform it does help the training and management of a very complicated world.  I can see how a customer that buys into an SAP centric world could find the strategy compelling.

What is impressive about what I am hearing this morning is that SAP has a well thought out architectural plan that integrates a business process platform with the application platform, with a repository and a meta data and master data layer. The idea is that the customer interacts with an underlying platform that they never touch. Rather, the customer composes work flows at the upper layers of the platform to create composite applications.

So, why does this bother me? I think that because that the strategy and platform assumes that customers will be willing to adopt a single vendor platform that everything in their enterprise will flow through. To its credit, SAP does expect that third party applications and environments can be integrated through well defined interfaces. These outside resources would be integrated through the repository. However, will a customer want to give a single vendor that much power? Perhaps? Will most customers overcome the internal political issues to have everyone agree on a single platform across departments, subsidiaries, and even partners? I would say that I am skeptical.

If this is indeed a pure service oriented architecture platform as SAP claims, where is the loose coupling of services that offers the customer the flexibility and modularity that encompasses a heterogeneous environment?

So, how would SAP react to a situation where the customer doesn’t buy into the grand vision? What if a customer wants two or three SAP ERP applications but relies on some Oracle applications, some IBM middleware and services, and a bunch of home grown solutions? Can that customer make use of the end to end process platform? Or is it all or nothing? Right now it feels like if you don’t buy into NetWeaver you can’t play in an SAP SOA world.

I will write some other entries over the next day or so as I get more insight into what I am hearing.

The Oracle Syndrome: why there are no big bangs

November 19, 2007 5 comments

I was thinking this week about Oracle. You remember them. The big database company that decided that it would be a big packaged applications company and a big middleware company. I have to give them credit for swooping in and buying their way into a leadership position. While it is hard to buy companies and keep them going, in the packaged software arena it isn’t as hard as it looks. For example, customers who buy a PeopleSoft HR application are not going to dump it just because the company was purchased by Oracle. Software is a funny thing — it lingers for decades after everyone assumed that it would be dead. As I always say, old software never dies.

So, what is my point about the Oracle Syndrome? The reality is that Oracle is not about innovation. It is about leveraging a captive installed base. It is about stitching together packaged applications with business process connectors so that one package can send an piece of data to another application.

Therefore, forget about Fusion middleware. Rather than a big bang common platform under all of Oracle’s packaged applications, it is a slow methodical revamping of small components of Oracle’s applications. It will take decades before Oracle could claim to have a common infrastucture under its applications.

I think that this is the future of software. No big bangs. Incremental business focused innovation will be the rule — not the exception. Does this mean that there will be no unexpected innovations? Of course not. There will be innovations that come out of nowhere and transform the world of software. However, they will not be overnight wonders — the most important innovations take years even decades before they mature and change the world overnight.

Will Oracle win BEA? And what next?

October 12, 2007 1 comment

It has been quite a week. First, SAP sets its sights on Business Objects and now for about the same amount of money, Oracle is ready to swallow BEA. Indeed, it looks like the world of enterprise software is continuing to consolidate. So, what do I think? I actually think that Oracle’s decision to buy BEA is a smart move. Oracle needs the depth of middleware and business process software that are two strengths of BEA’s platform. I have spoken with Oracle customers who have not been happy with Fusion middleware. Therefore, the BEA acquisition should strengthen Oracle’s infrastructure assets. Remember that one of BEA’s original assets was AT&T’s Tuxedo distributed transaction processing software suite.

AcquaLogic , BEA’s services integration and business process management platform is well regarded among customers. A few years ago BEA bought Fuego, a very well designed business process management engine.

I could go on for a long time talking about the depth of the BEA software environment. Both its transaction management and business process platform are the jewels in the crown that will benefit Oracle — especially in its Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) strategy.

So, let me get to the bottom line. Here are my conclusions about the Oracle move:

1. Oracle is moving to pick up a strong middleware platform. It has the potential to fix some of the problems with the Fusion platform.

2. It will be a more complicated integration task than some of Oracle other acquisitions. Oracle will have to rationalize its work on Fusion middleware with BEA’s offerings. This will take some time.

3. The comparison between Oracle and SAP’s acquisition moves are very interesting. While SAP has bought a BI platform that will have to be kept separate from its ERP business, Oracle’s purchase will be much closer to its core strategy. The money isn’t that different.

4. BEA was in an uncomfortable position in the market. It has been a player with some impressive acquisitions and leadership. However, it was never able to break out as a leader in terms of revenue. It made its mark with WebLogic — the leading application server. However, it was never able to break out to be viewed by customers as a overall leader — despite some very nice acquisitions.

I expect that this acquisition will go through. I do not expect any other company to come up with an offer. HP, for example, that has been mentioned as a suitor, is unlikely to move in this direction.

I thought that Dana Gardner’s blog today was a well constructed analysis. I agree with many of his points. But don’t think that an HP counter offer is likely. I do think that his view of the interactions between other players will be impacted by this move.

My bottom line: I think that there will be major ripples from this move by Oracle. IBM will not sit still for long. Will IBM increase its alliances with other players — I think so. What does this mean for Tibco? I have talked to customers lately who have been buying Tibco for both its business process and scalable SOA middleware platform. Is Tibco in play? Will SAP and IBM strengthen their relationship?