PRO AND CON: The buzz about Oracle Beehive

San Francisco-based Oracle Corp. has returned to the enterprise collaboration space, releasing Beehive at its annual conference.

Three years ago Oracle was supporting Oracle Collaboration Server 10, but failed to win over many customers with the software. The enterprise software company quickly shrunk away from the product; it remained on the price list, but no one would talk about it.

“OCS was a failure,” says Jeffrey Mann, an analyst with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. “It became radioactive within their organization.”

Now Oracle is hoping they’ve found the collaboration sweet-spot with Beehive. The software doesn’t add a new icon to a user’s desktop, but rather changes the plumbing behind the enterprise software used on a daily basis.

There, it creates a workspace where users can share documents, exchange messages, conference, and make use of social relationship tagging.

Beehive is available as both a local program or as a service hosted by Oracle. The license for the on-premises model is $120 per user.


* Adaptable. Beehive users can choose to either use a Microsoft Exchange server or Oracle’s own server to operate the collaboration environment. The product plugs in to daily-use enterprise products such as Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes. It works with Microsoft, Linux and Solaris operating systems.

The software’s flexibility should help users ease into using Beehive, says Charles Phillips, president of Oracle.

“You don’t have to jump to Beehive all at once,” he says. “You can do it in little steps.”

* Secure. The user that creates a workspace has full control over the rights of the other users who are collaborating on a project. There’s also built-in document management to ensure control of information placed in the workspace.

For example, if a document is deleted in the workspace, it is deleted everywhere else that it might have been copied, says Greg Crider, senior director of product marketing at Oracle.

“Customers come to us because they have specific compliance needs,” Crider says. “Our initial focus is to help our customers that are feeling the pain of trying to bring together collaboration across many different service environments.” Users have the ability to audit all of the actions performed in a shared workspace.


* Not that different. The enterprise collaboration market is already fairly established and Oracle is late to the game, analyst Mann says. Microsoft and IBM likely have this cornered already and there’s nothing very new about Beehive that will turn heads. “It’s not so new and so different that people will want to dump something and move to it,” he says. “Even the mash-up capability has been seen before.”

Oracle is even suffering from some product overlap in its own lineup of software. WebCenter already has a wiki functionality, for example, and Beehive will gain this in a future update. Plus, some products Oracle acquired from BEA cover the collaboration space.

“They’ve got two different products that should be the same thing,” Mann says.

* Lacks out-of-the-box experience. Beehive comes ready with a minimal database to make it work, but is best used by companies with an existing Oracle infrastructure. That will limit likely adopters of the software to existing Oracle customers, not new clients, Mann says.

Also, the focus on plugging in to existing software could be a weakness for some companies.

“Because of the focus on the back-end, there is no single client,” the Gartner analyst says. “The downside of that is if you’re not ready for that, you have to mash it up, there’s no out-of-the-box experience.” While Beehive works very well with Outlook, the functionality is harder to integrate with Lotus Notes.