Oracle bullish on integration

At its AppsWorld developer conference, in front of an estimated 10,000 customers and developers, Oracle president Chuck Philips harped on the show’s theme of software integration. In his opening keynote, Phillips noted that interoperability (getting software to work in legacy and heterogeneous environments) is a pressing enterprise issue.

Oracle’s software applications business was never contingent on getting PeopleSoft, according to Phillips. As for the ongoing efforts to acquire business software provider PeopleSoft, Oracle execs offered few new details.

In a media briefing, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison deflected any Peoplesoft questions, preferring to talk about the company new focus on interoperability. Oracle’s takeover bid is still pending regulatory approval from the U.S. department of justice, Ellison said.

As for Canada, Ellison told ComputerWorld Canada that Oracle is committed to tweaking its mid-market strategy for the Canadian market, with a new initiative to be announced in coming months.

At AppsWorld, Oracle announced the Oracle Customer Data Hub, a Web services-based product that Phillips said allows users to collect real-time info within a heterogeneous environment.

The Customer Data Hub software essentially creates a central database for all enterprise data; the offering operates with the application server to pull data from 3rd party applications.

On the database front, Oracle 10g – featuring ease-of-use tools such as wizards for set-up tasks and partitioning – is expected to roll out late January.

Oracle also announced the latest edition of the Oracle e-business version 11i.10 suite it slated for a June release. The Internet-enabled software suite offers features such as process integration, inventory tracking and B2B integration with partners. Joining rivals such as Microsoft Corp., SAP AG, and Sun Microsystems, Oracle also plans to support Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. RFID will be incorporated into the next release of its warehouse management software, the company said.

The integration features support OAGs (Open Applications Group) standard interfaces for application integration. The product uses adapters and other integration tools built into Oracle’s upcoming Application Server 10g software; Oracle said it plans to add an estimated 150 OAG standards-based OAG business objects.

As CIO for Pella, Iowa-based Pella Corp., Steve Printz said that the window and door maker is currently integrating the IT environment using Oracle e-business suite.

Printz noted that for the small company it was “daunting at first” to deal with Oracle, adding the company now appears committed to integration and interoperability.

“It’s not a transaction-based relationship,” Printz said. Rather Oracle is a strategic partner, he added.

But the question remains whether Oracle is coming out a bit late out of the integration gate, especially since many of its rivals have long touted interoperability. Warren Shiau, software analyst for IDC Canada, noted that Oracle’s about-face has finally acknowledged that that its customers operate within a heterogeneous environment.

Now that Oracle believes in integration, the company should also focus on adjusting their pricing models, noted Craig Read, president of the Toronto Oracle Users Group and IT director at Toronto-based MTrilogix Inc.

Oracle has well developed applications and suites, Read said, and now needs to deliver ‘lighter’ and easier to use applications that can integrate disparate data sources including non Oracle engines quickly using out of the box and 3rd party or native gateways and connectors.

On the upcoming 10g, Read noted that most enterprises are still grappling with 9i or even 8i implementations. But 10g’s promise of harnessing both processing power and data streams into a coherent architecture sounds like a “good idea,” Read said.