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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Oracle : Racing Ahead

This note follows the post on Fusion Apps Launch announcement. There were a slew of announcements from Oracle this Open World 2010 and Larry said few times that Oracle has launched so much this week like never before in the history of the company. I spent time at the Oracle Open World conference talking to partners, customers, oracle teams and fellow influencers and found that in general the mood was positive and Oracle was trying to move things forward. The tagline hardware and software engineered together was resonating quite a bit in the variety of announcements made in the meet . Oracle’s integrated hardware and software systems approach is a major step forward and brings an element of twist to the data center game. I want to quickly look at the core ideas, rationale and benefit of the integrated appliance model, the impact of Exadata and Exalogic, the new Fusion suite, and an early view of what could be coming next.

Oracle Fusion Apps – Giant Leap? : Integration, Simpicity, Ease of Use, Flexibility are the key advantages touted by Oracle. The first set of apps encompass 7 big modules of fusion apps – Financial Management, HCM, Sales and Marketing, Project Portfolio management, SCM, PROCUREMENT & GRC . A good spread so to say, Oracle claims that these modules have within themselves, 5000 TABLES, 20000 VIEW OBJECTS, 10000 BUSINESS PROCESSES , 2500 APP MODULES – no doubt a mammoth effort. An Oracle engineer told me 8000 plus engineers worked for several years to get this out – truly a massive engineering effort. Oracle showed a good demo of Fusion Apps in action integrating a variety of business processes. The demo showed Fusion Apps having good clean UI with modern look and feel with lots of embedded activity stream.

Apparently, these modules were simultaneously tested with select customers while getting developed and Oracle says extensive efforts went behind optimizing the screens, workflows and functionalities. The key thing here is that the Fusion Apps platform leverages standard middleware and oracle says no proprietary language is involved. By using Java as the development standard, Oracle seems to have pushed the platform become lot more easy to adopt and Oracle highlighted that competition ranging from SAP to Salesforce.com insists on using proprietary languages to develop on their respective platforms. Such a middleware support makes it possible to connect easily with SAP and any other enterprise system and the emphasis here is that the ease come from the fact that everything is web service enabled. All these confirm the fact that Oracle is one of the few vendors to completely rebuild its apps, BI, and middleware from scratch though their stand on multitenancy is not clear as of today. It’s a major step forward to see that all models of cloud - Public, private, hybrid, on premise are fully supported with facilitated help to move easily across these clouds. Fusion Apps, the long-awaited next iteration of the company’s application suite, will begin shipping to customers in CY1Q11, but the full vision is likely still a couple of years from reality( as in fully blown implementations)

I did spend a lot of time looking at the new set of fusion apps - HCM to CRM to SCM etc.. Oracle is claiming embedded collaboration inside Fusion apps and what I saw therein was an integrated social layer built inside, engineered to share and use the profile information tied to identity management and leading onto analytics. The standard features that we see in terms of begin able to synthesise information based on social profiles, initiate loose form of collaboration like chat, VoIP are now integral inside Fusion Apps. The in-speak, in-context enablement was certainly there inside the apps. This may run contrary to purist form of social collaboration but context is a powerful element in the collaboration mix and coupled with enterprise objectives of easing communications amongst stakeholders make this a powerful enterprise collaboration enabler. The product has good social networking inside the ECM product with support for activity streams and features like integration with Microsoft Outlook to support threaded conversations, document level collaborations etc, ability to have linkages with non Oracle apps through social networks signify important advancements therein. Fusion apps is stepping up to behave and act like an enterprise collaboration infrastructure for Apps users and this is SIGNIFICANT advancement in and of itself.

Collaboration inside Fusion apps looks very powerful – mirroring SAP’s streamworks, it provides context based social conversation possible. The real-time and intelligent collaboration inise Fusion Apps is designed to operate around ‘conversations’ as the primary social object, it works as a central engagement utility in the enterprise that can be triggered from anywhere – natively or (soon) from other applications. Oracle executives told me that this extends to provide a lightweight collaboration feature such as tagging and annotating digital assets , analytics integration With light collaboration features such as annotation on digital assets, multimedia support (like video, voice), this will prove to be very useful inside enterprises. It appears to me that Oracle’s goal was to be best amongst the enterprise players in the social and collaborative space (ignoring the stand alone best of breed players) and they seem to have achieved their objectives here. If these go into their customer’s enterprise, we will see significant usage and extensions

With the launch of Exalogic Elastic Cloud, Oracle now has an integrated, purpose-built machine for data warehousing, OLTP, (Exadata) and application server middleware workloads. The key things to note is that when Fusion Apps rolls out early year, they will also run on Exalogic. Potential Impact : Significant – Oracle gets a differentiated position to balance and consolidate workloads and given its significant marketshare, gets to become a big force in the data center.

Exalogic- Optimizing (Redefining?) Java Workloads

The launch of Exalogic is a real milestone for Oracle and for the enterprise users. An integrated Java middleware aimed at balancing and consolidating workloads and potentially drive costs down for the enterprise. We now see Oracle making full use of the BEA acquisition here – the complete WebLogic stack is made to run on an optimized Linxu Kernel delivers can deliver very high reliability and a mindblowing performance. Add the Tuxedo piece here (forthcoming according to Oracle) – this makes the combo more powerful and can potentially run as a credible candidate in some cases for mainframe replacements. Tuxedo already has offerings that can enable enterprises migrate OLTP apps to run on Oracle platforms without any code change. Today Tuxedo can run on Exalogic but a fully optimized Tuxedo on Exalogic is rolling out shortly.

I could not attend the Java one conference but would expect Oracle to make Java programming easier to compete with easy to use newer cousins like VMWare’s spring source framework. Such a move would add more possibilities for growth herein.

Consolidating Customer Spend

Together with Exadata and Exalogic, Oracle’s positioning would be that they are giving their customers the real opportunity to reduce TCO. With more than 2/3rd of the IT budget goes towards sustenance leaving less than a third for new programs and innovation, Exalogic is engineered to enable customers to provision, monitor and manage the infrastructure stake end-to-end. This obliviates the need for enterprises to invest in separate storage and management mechanism for enterprises. If Oracle muscles into enterprise and help them lower costs by having an integrated, simpler to use and easy to maintain well engineered systems, By optimizing across the stack including middleware and database, Oracle can optimize so much that queries can run faster and performance can get a real push. Exalogic obviates the need to purchase SAN storage, by integrating disk storage, compute and middleware into Exalogic. Not only would it impact high end sales but Oracle also integrated several backup features including replication, snapshots, and disk to disk to tape backup, Enterprises will begin to see opportunities around consolidation od their assets and leverage their internal talent to reduce maintenance overheads – resulting in a potentially big savings, if thought through and executed well. For enterprises, such a strategy could unlock more dollars from sustanence activities to be redeployed to new programs and innovation. Belief in such a philosophy could force enterprise customers to consolidate more and more around the oracle stack.

Its undeniable that the “feel on the street” at Oracle OpenWorld this year was that it was “full speed ahead” at Oracle. Its clear that Oracle has attempted to create an entirely new architecture here and amongst the key differences include building business intelligence and analytics directly into the applications, This move also in a way gives an upgrade path to users of add –on enterprise apps like JDE, Peoplesoft etc that Oracle over a period acquired, This increases the stickiness for Oracle customers and potentially make competition look that much more distant. Oracle has been able to demonstrate its ability to integrate wide ranging technology players and show a decent financial performance and their streak seems to continue here with hardware and software engineered together to deliver successful performance, Oracle blue stack is now well ahead of the pack in terms of owning key technologies in every layer of the stack from the chip through the application. If all these reach the customer in exactly the same way Oracle demonstrated, it will be a huge success story for Oracle and the enterprise software industry,

Oracle is moving very fast here –considering its size and reach. They are now rightfully setting the pace for its ecosystem partners to keep in step and deliver value to its customers . In fact Oracle seems to be getting closer to be the leader in the enterprise technology space –putting competition on alert and forcing them to collaborate with them as well as race fast where they want to play and lead.

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