Oracle Eyes the ALM Market

 
 
By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2007-08-07
 
 
 

Oracle Eyes the ALM Market


 

Oracle Eyes the ALM


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REDWOOD SHORES, Calif.—Oracle is planning to enter the application lifecycle management space, taking on the likes of IBM Rational, Microsoft, Borland Software and Serena Software in delivering tools that empower enterprise developers to more effectively build complex solutions.

In an interview with eWEEK at Oracles corporate headquarters here, Thomas Kurian, senior vice president of development for Oracle middleware platform products—including Oracle Application Server and development tools—said the software maker is hoping to make the same kind of splash in the ALM space that it did when it entered the application server market years ago.

Kurian said the basic idea for Oracles push into the new space was the realization that the development process requires an overall management scheme throughout the lifecycle. When developers build typical applications today, they might have a user interface built in JavaServer Faces, business logic built with Enterprise JavaBeans, workflow processes built with BPEL (Business Process Execution Language), and open source and community and collaborative technology from a variety of systems in a portal, he said.

"One of the things you realize is that, first, youve got lots of different artifacts youre managing," he said. "Youve got code of different kinds, youve got metadata, etc. And second, youve got a number of people collaborating on this environment."

So Oracles ALM approach will focus on three main elements, Kurian said. The first is collaboration between the business person and the IT person or the developer.

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"As an example, weve done some work on business process design to link the business person with the design experience," he said. "Traditionally, youve had this disconnect between what the business person wants and what the developer implements."

The first area to conquer is how to bring the business person together with the developer, "and weve done some things with our business process analysis and design toolset and how the JDeveloper experience is integrated with that," Kurian said.

The second area is the specific elements of managing the lifecycle of the software artifacts across the design, test, deploy, management scheme, he said, adding that Oracle plans to do this differently than other vendors in the space.

"If you look at other vendors, they basically come in with a toolset," he said. "Lets take IBM. They come in with Rational, and Rational gives you application lifecycle management, but in order to adopt Rationals ALM capability, youve got to standardize on IBMs tools for everything. Thats not a reality were encountering. Companies have got different source code management systems. Some of them will surely use Rational ClearCase, but there are a lot of people using [open source tools] CVS, Subversion and other things."

The second aspect of Oracles approach to ALM will be to allow customers to use tools of their choice. Oracle will offer an ALM solution, "but its going to coexist and be much more open to the systems that they are already deploying," Kurian said. "It will be plug-and-play with their existing investments, rather than being a monolithic system that comes in and says, Here is what youre going to use from Oracle, and if you want to use it, youve got to standardize on Oracle for absolutely everything."

Ted Farrell, Oracles chief architect and vice president of tools and middleware, said that "even in the best situation or the perfect world, nothings going to be all Oracle, so being able to interoperate is key for us."

Oracles third area of focus, which Kurian said differs from others, is the way the company is integrating the developer experience in the ALM solution, with the administrative experience in operating the overall system.

"Weve unified a lot of things across our development experience and our system management environment," he said. For instance, "a lot of times in an ALM solution, people forget operations like patches. So from your application lifecycle management solution, as you build code you can generate a patch. But the patch application is typically deployed through an administration tool, and a lot of times the solutions dont span these worlds. We will."

Kurian did not give a time frame for when Oracle will deliver these capabilities, but said the company is going to build out specific products to address these areas.

"We wont disclose things like packaging and pricing until much later, but our general approach with our tools is to make them easy for people to get," Kurian said. "You can take that as an indication were going after lots of people and getting broad adoption rather than charging a lot of money for the tools."

Oracles move into the ALM space will take the company deeper into the pure tools aspect of the software business than ever before. Kurian said market leader IBM is definitely within Oracles sights, as is up-and-comer Microsoft with its VSTS (Visual Studio Team System) offering. The move is an aggressive one, but one for which Oracle is up to the task, Kurian said.

"Five and a half years ago, when we got into the application server market, IBM, BEA [Systems] and others went around saying, Weve got the customer base locked up," he said. "But we went from zero [in revenue] in 2001 to over a billion [dollars] in 2006. And since then, weve grown over 60 percent. We see the same kind of thing with application lifecycle management."

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Oracle Eyes the ALM


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The billion dollar figure represents the whole of Oracles Fusion Middleware, of which the Oracle Application Server is a key component, company officials said.

Oracle started on the road to delivering ALM solutions last year, when the company announced some relevant capabilities with Configuration Support Manager, which is part of Oracle Premier Support.

Oracles ALM plans are meeting some skepticism.

"I think that Oracle can provide ALM capabilities specific to Oracle applications," said Carey Schwaber, an analyst with Forrester Research. "In fact, Oracle is already starting to do so. But I am very skeptical about their ability to provide ALM capabilities that span their own applications and either third-party applications or custom applications."

Schwaber said she sees no signs Oracle "will be able to break down the silos that exist around packaged applications. Smaller shops that use Oracle for 80 percent of their development may opt to use Oracle ALM capabilities for their non-Oracle development as well, but these shops will most definitely be in the minority."

Kurian said Oracles focus on openness will obviate those concerns. He said the company has watched IBM and Microsoft and he is convinced Oracle has a shot here.

Meanwhile, who will be building the technology for Oracle?

"Some of the people doing the work are developers coming out of Siebel [Systems]," Farrell said. Oracle completed its $5.8 billion acquisition of Siebel in January 2006.

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Some of the developers working on Oracles new ALM solutions "are coming off a Siebel project where they did a lot of home-grown, large-scale ALM work, and theyve been spending a lot of time researching what [Microsofts Visual Studio] Team Studio has been doing and what [IBMs] Jazz has been doing," Farrell said.

In addition, "we have a key guy who is an architect were bringing in who is known in this space," he said. "But the goal is to sort of do what Microsoft did when they started Visual Studio Team System," which was to start from scratch and build out its own solution with resources from its internal ranks and recruited from companies that have been successful creating ALM tools.

"Our targets are much the same as what Team System is trying to do and what Jazz is trying to do," Farrell said. "But you just dont go in and say heres our solution, replace everything you have."

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