Oracles OpenWorld conference—opening this week in San Francisco—is the companys opportunity to give customers a progress report on its efforts to assimilate the dizzying array of companies and products it has acquired in the past 10 months.
Oracle Corp. has waged a relentless acquisition campaign since its last OpenWorld customer conference in December 2004. It has bought up no less than five companies: PeopleSoft Inc., Retek Inc., Oblix Inc., TimesTen Inc. and Siebel Systems Inc.
The count is actually six if the PeopleSoft acquisition is counted as a two-for-one deal, since it included ERP (enterprise resource planning) software company J.D. Edwards.
These acquisitions have brought a diverse set of technology into the company, including high-speed, real-time data management from TimesTen, identity management technology from Oblix, retail management software from Retek, customer relationship management from Siebel and ERP software from PeopleSoft J.D. Edwards.
The conference will open just a week after Oracle announced that it was acquiring Siebel and its CRM (customer relationship management) technology for $5.85 billion.
Attendees will be looking for more details on how it will integrate Siebel into its Project Fusion strategy, which is aimed at delivering a coherent ERP product line based on Oracles own technology combined with the applications it has acquired from PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards and now Siebel.
Oracle will doubtless be spending a lot of time talking to its new PeopleSoft constituency to reassure it of Oracles commitment to Project Fusion, said Carl Olofson, Information Management and Data Integration research director with International Data Corp., in Framingham, Mass.
“Therell be a lot of talk of Fusion middleware and forward direction of that technology and a lot of talk of making PeopleSoft customers feel comfortable” that the technology to which theyve committed fits into Oracles product strategy, he said.
“[That] doesnt mean Oracle will support PeopleSoft applications forever,” Olofson said. But it does help “neutralize the idea that they went and simply bought customers” while giving short shrift to the applications, he said.
But customers and users will also be looking for information about future plans for its flagship database technology.
Oracle has come under fire from database researchers about faulty product patches and has faced criticism that it needs to improve its whole process of delivering security patches and enhancements.
However, while the issue is raising questions, Olofson contends that its uncertain at this time whether Oracle installations are seriously vulnerable to security breaches and attacks because of problems with the patches.
Question of Hubris
“My impression is most Oracle database instances out there in the world arent directly exposed to attack because of the way data centers are organized,” he said.
“If we were getting stories about people whose systems were brought to their knees or getting security breaches, if this was coming up in multiple places, that would be an area for concern,” Olofson said.
Customers and commentators are quick to voice their concerns because of what they see as the “hubris of Oracle advertising,” which has contended that its database is unbreakable, he said. But in the absence of solid evidence about the level of vulnerability, “I cant get too excited about it,” Olofson said.
Olofson said he also expects Oracle to spend a considerable amount of time talking about its mid-market strategy and the process of migrating between different editions of the Oracle 10g database.
“What Im really curious to find out is how customers view the rather big steps to take to go from [Standard Edition One] to Standard Edition and then to Enterprise Edition,” he said. While there are big jumps in cost, the technology is basically the same in Standard Edition and Standard Edition One, Olofson observed. The only difference is license restrictions.
Another issue that customers may take interest in is how Oracle will support open standards in its products, said Wayne Kernochan, president of Infrastructure Associates, a market research firm.
Software producers like Oracle should take a hand in developing an industry-wide open standard for RFID (radio frequency identification) technology, Kernochan said.
There is an impetus by the “Wal-Marts and the governments of the world to make [RFID] more open and more standardized,” said Kernochan, who said he would like to see more discussion of this idea in the industry.
Enterprise information integration is another concept that Oracle would do well to talk about during OpenWorld, Kernochan said.
This concept involves developing “a data management veneer” that would give users and database administrators the ability to view and access all types of data stored in multiple databases as if it were stored in “one gigantic database,” Kernochan said.
Enterprises really need this capability, because it is virtually impossible for any enterprise to organize its data in a single database or even multiple databases from a single vendor, he said.
The reality is that all enterprises have islands of corporate data stored in multiple databases from multiple vendors, he said.
The idea of master data management is a “huge discussion” these days among database administrators, he said.
“I would drop dead if [Oracle] actually said something about it, but I would die happy,” said Kernochan.
OpenWorld will continue through Thursday at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.