Oracle’s SOA lags, says analyst

Oracle Corp. must better focus its Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) message and begin using SOA inside its own organization if the software company hopes to truly challenge such SOA players as IBM Corp. or BEA Systems Inc., according to a market research firm.

Oracle officials, meanwhile, insist the firm is taking steps to boost its SOA initiative by adding sales staff and consultants.

Jason Bloomberg, a senior analyst with the Waltham, Mass.-based ZapThink, an analyst firm specializing in XML and Web Services, said Oracle as an SOA player is right now no better than a number three, behind IBM and BEA Systems.

“Oracle is the number three player in the J2EE-based SOA platform space behine IBM and BEA,” Bloomberg added.

“Oracle lacks the installed base, mindshare and reputation that IBM and BEA have. If you consider a broader SOA marketplace, then they’d be running up against folks like CA and Sonic Software. I liken Oracle to the five-year-old kid who follows after the nine-year-olds.

He desperately wants to play with them but can’t keep up. That is the way Oracle is.” Bloomberg suggested Oracle must focus its SOA message more clearly.

He feels Oracle must also more fully develop strategic initiatives that can showcase the usefulness of SOA for businesses. Currently, Oracle’s SOA strategy is built around several products and platforms.

These include the company’s application server and database products such as the Oracle 10g Database and Oracle Application Server 10g, both of which have embedded SOA support.

They also encompass the Oracle JDeveloper Web and Java development platform, and its business process management solutions, such as the recently acquired Collaxa, for developing process automation tools and services for the Web.

Thomas Kurian, senior vice-president, server technologies with Oracle in Redwood Shores, Calif., says Oracle is focusing on what it calls its “Wave’ strategy for making the company’s SOA message clearer and to get customers to see SOA’s advantages.

“This is a sales and discovery process where we go to a customer who is looking to understand SOA and we analyze the customer’s IT and business challenges, then we work through those challenges to see where the customer can use SOA,” he said.

Kurian added some of the areas where SOA can help companies include tying legacy systems together, automating business processes so those processes can be delivered as services over the Web, or improving security and access management across different applications.

“This program helps translate the abstract notion of service oriented architecture to a concrete business benefit,” Kurian said.

Kurnian said he was not concerned about the challenges posed by such SOA players as IBM and BEA Systems.

Oracle has dedicated increased numbers of its sales force and consultants to help push Oracle’s SOA-enabled solutions and the company’s SOA message to customers, he added.

Ron Schmelzer, another senior analyst with ZapThink, suggested Oracle must do more than simply dedicate larger sales and consultant resources to get customers interested in SOA.

He suggested Oracle will have to showcase the benefits of SOA by tackling a SOA opportunity in Oracle right now — the merger of Oracle with PeopleSoft Inc.

In that merger, Oracle acquired not just PeopleSoft’s range of business solutions, but also J.D. Edwards’ solutions that PeopleSoft had previously acquired before the merger with Oracle. Schmelzer suggested Oracle’s best hope of showing customers the benefits of SOA would be for Oracle to use SOA to help merge the three companies’ product lines.

“(Oracle) talks about how great SOA is for helping other customers in terms of their merger and acquisition activities, but they are now going through the same thing,” he said.

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