Oracle targets app at Exchange users

San Francisco – In a move designed to take advantage of the migration of Microsoft Corp.’s customers from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2000 and their likely willingness to look at other solutions during the process, Oracle Corp. announced the release of Oracle Collaboration Suite Release 2 at OracleWorld here earlier this month.

The new offering is targeting two deemed pressure points for Microsoft Exchange users – cost and the inability to centralize e-mail into one database repository, according to Oracle. The Oracle Collaboration Suite is designed to integrate e-mail, voice mail, calendaring and wireless applications (to name just a few) into one multi-clustered database, taking advantage of Oracle’s renowned strength in this field. During one keynote, Oracle claimed that the total cost of ownership of Oracle’s solution – hardware, software, administration and migration – is US$110 per user versus US$455 for Microsoft.

“Whether there really is a huge cost differential between Oracle and Microsoft remains to be seen,” said Sara Radicati, president of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Radicati Group Inc., a consulting and market research firm which specializes in messaging and unified communications.

But pricing aside, Radicati said the time is ripe for Oracle to position itself as a viable alternative to Microsoft Exchange, especially the fact that many users seem to be thinking about migration anyway, she said.

“This creates the situation where [users] can say, ‘let’s take a look at Oracle,’ which they wouldn’t have done a year ago,” Radicati said.

Open for debate is whether tried-and-true Microsoft shops will take a serious look at the Oracle solution. Radicati says it is a tough call. Many companies, she said, will view the migration to another vendor as too much of a hassle for the perceived gains while others, who are more bottom-line focused will take the plunge. “In the immediate future, I think the cost issue is probably what is going to get people to take [Oracle] seriously,” she said.

One user who has decided to make the move is Michael Stoeckert, the CIO of Birmingham, Ala.-based financial services company EPL Inc., though cost was not his primary driving force. With dramatic changes being made in the way American financial institutions have to keep records, Stoeckert said it was necessary to get increased control over corporate e-mail for auditing purposes. With Oracle Collaboration Suite Stoeckert will be able to integrate the company’s entire e-mail infrastructure into one multi-cluster database, he said.

Though EPL is just in the process of installing the Oracle solution, Stoeckert envisions few problems on the way. Initially there will be about 250 users. The roll out will be completed by the end of the year with “no Microsoft Exchange left behind,” he said. Stoeckert said his company is hoping to reduce the total cost of ownership of the corporate e-mail solution by about 40 per cent. He also plans move to the company to either a Netscape or Oracle e-mail client. He said the move away from Microsoft Outlook was in part due to “licensing” frustrations. “The credit unions are screaming about that,” he said.

Bernd Kosch, vice-president, strategic alliances with German-based Fujitsu-Siemens Computers, is also making the move to the Oracle Collaboration Suite. Fujitsu-Siemens is making the move due to the phenomenal growth in the amount of corporate e-mail that is generated and a desire to, like EPL, be able to control it, Kosch said. It allows you to control your e-mail since it is part of a real database, he said. Now Kosch said the company can manipulate e-mail like other corporate data, taking advantage of advanced storage, backup and disaster recovery technologies which are usually associated with data centres. You can configure the system to fit your needs which “was not the case before.” Fujitsu-Siemens too will reduce its total cost of ownership, Kosch said, though he did not give exact numbers.

At present there are no Canadian customers using the new collaboration suite, Oracle said.