Behind the Buzzwords

Four core principles guide Oracle’s fastest-growing business: middleware.

by John Matelski, November 2009

It’s no secret that middleware is the fastest-growing component of Oracle’s business and is the foundation of the eagerly anticipated Oracle Fusion Applications solution set. So, it’s pretty clear that the company’s recent announcement of Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g is its most important middleware announcement in several years.

The high-level objective and vision for Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g, as stated by Oracle, is a technology platform that is “complete, integrated, hot-pluggable, and best-of-breed.” Although an objective like this can be seen as just a “feel good” universal statement of good intentions, the specific solutions and plans outlined by Oracle contain some notable and real advances that underscore these claims.

I see IT unification as the overriding vision behind those four phrases. This is a natural result of the need to unify former BEA technologies and existing Oracle technologies into an integrated suite; but it is also a bigger vision, reflected in an architectural approach to the suite that emphasizes sharing of resources and user experiences.

Complete. Completeness of the middleware stack is a lofty and evolving objective that must adapt to constantly changing technology and new business demands from customers and prospects. Although Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g offers a large set of features and functions, the stated goal of functional completeness is a predictor of a continuing acquisition policy at Oracle, and a confirmation of Oracle’s ambition to be a universal IT solution provider.

Integrated. Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g reflects a real and growing need for business systems to work together and share data. For example, the new release of Oracle JDeveloper aims to unify all development across Oracle Fusion Middleware component products. Business process management (BPM) was also announced as a unified function handling the orchestration of people, document, and system processes in a common model and through one new development tool for business users (Oracle Composer). Oracle Enterprise Manager aims to provide the unified administration and management environment across the entire stack. Meanwhile, Oracle has built one common metadata management architecture (Metadata Service) and a common metadata repository (Oracle Enterprise Repository) that provides a common foundation underlying Oracle JDeveloper; BPM; and, over time, most other Oracle Fusion Middleware products.

Hot-pluggable. “Hot-pluggability” was first introduced by Oracle in 2005. Oracle has since expanded its focus from the early priority of portability (the ability of Oracle Fusion Middleware solutions to run on competitive underlying prerequisite technologies, such as non-Oracle Java application servers or messaging engines) to interoperability (the ability of third-party tools, such as portals, business intelligence, rule engines, and other tools, to run on Oracle platform technologies). Again, the focus on interoperability fully supports the overarching theme of unification.

Best-of-breed. But despite the vision of a complete and unified (integrated) technology portfolio stack, Oracle also aims to pursue best-of-breed opportunities in the market. Best-of-breed buyers do not select general-purpose technology suites or brands, but rather evaluate individual technology offerings, select them based on their strengths, and often mix technologies of multiple providers. Oracle’s technology products are built to function as an integrated stack, but the products also stand on their own as viable best-of-breed options.

Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g was promised as a convergence release, completing the integration of the acquired BEA technology and Oracle Fusion Middleware 10g. But Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g delivers more than just an incremental set of new features and a sum of the acquired technologies—the release also seems to function as an articulation of the company’s middleware strategy, featuring an acceleration of Oracle’s aggressive investment in the marketing, engineering, and competitive positioning of Oracle Fusion Middleware technology.

In the end, Oracle’s real commitments to these four foundational elements could resu

lt in a middleware solution that actually allows CIOs to achieve the elusive goal of simplifying technology while improving business performance.

John Matelski is a spokesperson for the International Oracle Users Group Community (IOUC) and a member of the board of directors of the IOUG. He is the CIO and director of IT services for Gwinnett County, Georgia.

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