Oracle Takes Services Tack

Company advances software-as-a-service message with suites for small businesses, e-businesses

Pushing forward its software-as-a-service message, Oracle Corp. last week rolled out software offerings and partnerships with hardware vendors aimed at small businesses and partners alike.

Oracle unveiled its Oracle Small Business Suite, a new set of e-business applications for small companies looking to Web- enable their business, and its Oracle E-Business Suite Online Any Place offering, which gives hosted e-business customers the option of managing server hardware in-house.

Previously, customers that bought the online services had to buy Oracle hardware management services to boot. Now, customers can go the traditional application service provider route or buy hardware through Compaq Computer Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. to run in-house or at a co-location center.

Compaq and Sun partnered with Oracle to offer preconfigured servers that are required to run E-Business Suite. With preinstalled, pretested software bundled on preconfigured servers, software implementation will be a snap and offer quicker return on investment, according to Oracle officials.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison acknowledged in a press conference at company headquarters here that where the computers running hosted software reside is not the ultimate decision. Instead, he focused on the integrated nature of the Oracle applications.

"The idea that small businesses are going to assemble a lot of different software packages and make it work is a fantasy. Its impossible," Ellison said. "The only thing that works is an integrated suite that works in one place."

The service may help small businesses that cant afford or dont want to gather best-of-breed applications and hire a service integrator to put it all together, said Albert Pang, an analyst at International Data Corp. But a hosted all-in-one solution bears other considerations, Pang added.

"There are some companies that might not feel comfortable with that arrangement," said Pang, in Mountain View, Calif. "They dont have control of their business processes anymore. They have to be handed over to Oracle, and that might not sit well."

Oracle Small Business Suite will enable companies with less than $50 million in revenues and fewer than 50 employees to buy an integrated suite of online applications and services that manage key business processes such as financials, customer relationship management, purchasing and e-commerce. The price will be $99 per month.