Show Guide: Oracle OpenWorld 2007

More than 45,000 attendees, 450 exhibitors, and 1,500 sessions!

“Information overload” seems almost too anaemic a term to describe the phenomenon of Oracle OpenWorld 2007.

The Conference runs from Nov. 10 – 14 at the Moscone Centre in San Francisco.

To simplify the task of registering for sessions attendees have access to a Schedule Builder tool on the Oracle OpenWorld Web site.

Right now, however, a big challenge for many seems to be deciding which sessions to attend.

From the surfeit of topics, four are likely to gain huge traction at OpenWorld 2007 – judging from attendee and user community comments recorded in scores of blogs, community chat rooms, and Oracle discussion forums.

These topics are:

– Oracle’s new Application Integration Architecture (AIA)

– The Future of Oracle Fusion Apps

– BEA and the middleware debate

– Oracle Database 11g

1. Animated about AIA

All the initial buzz suggests Oracle’s new Application Integration Architecture (AIA) will be one of the hottest topics at the Conference and sessions on AIA are likely to fill up very quickly.

What is Oracle AIA and why such a huge interest in this technology?

Oracle AIA was unveiled in April this year by Oracle president Charles Phillips, who devoted a good part of his speech at Oracle’s Collaborate conference to the topic.

Simply defined, Oracle AIA is a bunch of Oracle products designed to support integration across a wide range of Oracle as well as non-Oracle applications.

Oracle says its AIA technology responds to the need – especially in larger enterprises – for technologies that support the roll out of cross-functional business processes.

“Today, most enterprise applications are siloed within individual lines of business,” Ken Vollmer, principal analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Inc. says in a podcast.

“This makes coordinating activity between them very difficult. That’s where the cross-functional process improvement efforts come into play and they’re very much in demand.”

Key Oracle AIA components include:

Industry Reference Models – These are templates specifying industry best practices for specific situations – for instance: offering telecom customers product bundles (a task that could require multiple apps acting in concert).

Process Integration Packs (PIPs) – PIPs provide integration code that abides by the specifications laid down in the Industry Reference Model and supports the deployment of best practices.

IT environments in many large enterprises are quite often a dog’s breakfast of heterogeneous apps from multiple vendors, alongside custom made software.Automating business processes across the boundaries of these multiple apps is usually very laborious, complex and time consuming.

The stated aim of Oracle AIA is to simplify and speed up this process – and make it seamless.

To what extent have these goals been achieved?

Given that this is a very new technology, there’s so far little information on the uptake of this technology.

But experts say if Oracle AIA works as it should, companies will be able to optimize benefits from their existing IT environment and investments.

They will also be able to “create elegant bridges between applications” says David Andrews founder of the Andrews Consulting Group.

From Oracle’s perspective, AIA is a smart move, given its laundry-list of acquisitions over the past couple of years – 30 acquisitions in 30 months (including 10 this year alone…so far).

With AIA, Oracle has found a way to convince acquired companies’ customers to stay with their current products, and derive further value from them.

Oracle potential revenues from AIA products and technologies are likely to be pretty substantial.

The initial Process Integration Pack pricing is $30,000 to $90,000 per CPU per process – a steep price that Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. says may be a barrier for those who don’t push hard for discounts from Oracle.

AIA “protects [Oracle’s] user maintenance revenue streams for current products and, possibly, expands its installed base revenue beyond AIA, because customers may buy more Oracle products,” say Gartner analysts Jeff Comport and Yvonne Genovese in a research note.

2. Fusion’s future

The departure of John Wookey Oracle’s former vice-president of application development – reportedly over differences with CEO Larry Ellison – prompted a whole bunch of questions about the future of Oracle’s much-hyped Fusion initiative that Wookey headed.

Fusion is the brand name for Oracle’s program to combine the “best” apps from its many acquisitions on to a single service-enabled platform.

“Does Wookey’s departure signify trouble in Fusion land?” is a question many are going to be asking at Oracle OpenWorld 2007.

At least one expert doesn’t believe Wookey’s exit will jeopardize the Fusion program.

“It just looks like a transition in terms of [Oracle’s] approach,” says Ray Wang, principal analyst with Cambridge, Mass based Forrester Research in a podcast.

He says it’s very likely Oracle was looking for new leadership in this area, given pressures from other parts of the business following Oracle’s numerous acquisitions.

Wookey’s replacement is Thomas Kurian, Oracle’s senior vice-president for Oracle Fusion middleware.

Kurian has already done a lot of work “in building extensions within Fusion middleware to be make it very useful on the applications side,” Wang says.

From a business standpoint, Kurian is also one of Oracle’s most successful executives, growing Oracle’s Fusion Middleware business to a point where it now generates $1 billion-a-year in revenue.

The release schedule for Oracle’s Fusion apps is also likely to be a dominant issue at OpenWorld 2007 – most importantly, whether Fusion apps will be launched in early 2008 as was promised.

According to Wang, that’s a tough question to answer because it wasn’t made clear what exactly was to be released in 2008. “We knew Fusion apps were coming but didn’t know what portion of apps those would be.”

He said the general view was Financial apps would be “delivered in the first part of the release, with other pieces such as supply chain, and CRM coming in subsequent years.”

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