Oracle Pushes Collaboration

By Dennis Callaghan  |  Posted 2003-07-21

Oracle Pushes Collaboration

Oracle Corp. is preparing advanced capabilities for its Oracle Collaboration Suite that could give enterprises a compelling alternative to rival messaging and collaboration platforms from IBM and Microsoft Corp.

Oracle this week will ship Release 2 of OCS, which introduces Web conferencing to the platform. Then, in September, the Redwood Shores, Calif., company will announce a major upgrade, due in the first half of next year, that will add embedded instant messaging and presence throughout the suite, which includes e-mail, voice mail, calendaring, file serving and search applications.

Oracle will offer integrated content management and document and records management in next years release, said Sunir Kapoor, vice president of Oracles enterprise messaging and collaboration business. Oracle isnt looking to rival stand-alone vendors in those areas but offer a more basic level of functionality to make it easier for customers to store and manage e-mail, instant messages and Web conferencing sessions, Kapoor said.

The company next year will replace existing interfaces to add collaborative components to applications with APIs that provide more robust, higher-level, scriptable interfaces, Kapoor said. Collaborative work spaces, similar to those offered by Documentum Inc.s eRoom, Groove Networks Inc. and SiteScape Inc., are also on next years road map.

Embedded IM is becoming a key feature in messaging and collaboration software. IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., will offer those capabilities in its Lotus Software divisions Notes client in the Version 6.5 release of Notes/Domino, also planned for September. Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., is working on a similar vision with its Real Time Communication Server product, which is expected to be released to manufacturing next week.

Chris Colomb, manager of messaging systems at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, said embedded IM is a key feature hes looking for. "IMs a big deal to our student body," Colomb said. "Ive been looking to install systemwide IM here. If it comes with a product we already license, its a big advantage, especially if it comes integrated with the products we already have."

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UNC-Chapel Hill uses only the calendaring component of OCS now, but Colomb said hes interested in deploying the rest of the suite, replacing the open-source Cyrus e-mail server the school now uses.

"We have a really solid solution for basic e-mail, but over time were looking to add more enterprise-type features like scheduling and workflow," said Colomb. "But were a state school that cant afford those solutions. This is the first one that looks affordable."

The Oracle Web Conferencing component of OCS, known in beta as iMeetings and now shipping as part of Release 2, includes support for co-browsing, document presentation, whiteboarding, desktop sharing, chat and voice streaming. It also supports storing of documents and transcripts generated by the application and playback of recorded meetings.

Oracle plans to add task and project management capabilities by the first half of 2005, along with business process management integration with business applications from both Oracles and other vendors enterprise applications. Also in that release, Oracle will offer a Web services platform—based on Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition—for rapid application development of collaborative components, Kapoor said.

Vital Signs Inc., in Carlsbad, Calif., recently migrated to Oracle Collaboration Suite from Microsoft Exchange 5.5, mainly because it was less costly and offered a more open environment for wireless and remote connectivity, said Chief Technology Officer David Sanders. Sanders said that the product is likely going through some "growing pains" but that Oracle has been good about insulating customers from them. "There are some features Id like to see that they dont support, but as far as being able to run a company on it, were doing it," he said.

Oracle, which claims more than 500 OCS customers, said it already has a technological lead by using its namesake database as the file store. Microsoft and IBM plan to replace their file systems with the SQL Server and IBM DB2 databases, respectively.

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