I have received a number of inquiries on the future of SPARC and Solaris. Sun’s installed base was already getting somewhat nervous as Sun continued to self-destruct with a series of bad calls by management, marginal financial performance, and the cancellation of its much-touted “Rock” CPU architecture. Coming on top of this long series of negative events, the acquisition by Oracle had much the same effect as throwing a cat into the middle of the Westminster dog show, and Oracle’s public responses were vague enough that they apparently increased rather than decreased customer angst (to be fair, Oracle does not agree with this assessment of customer reaction, and has provided a public list of customers who endorsed the acquisition at http://www.oracle.com/us/sun/030019.htm).
Fast forward to last week at Oracle’s first analyst meeting focused on integrated systems. While much of the content was focused on integrating the software stack and discussions of the new organization, there were some significant nuggets for existing and prospective Solaris and SPARC customers:
This week, I was at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C., and it was all about THE CLOUD. Now, many colleagues argue that Microsoft will be the second-to-last major vendor to show a 100% cloud commitment, saying that “it’s too embedded in its traditional software business,” “it doesn’t understand the new world,” and “it’d be scared of cannibalizing existing and predictable maintenance revenues.” But I remember Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft Business Systems, tell me with a mischievous grin that he’ll probably earn more money from Exchange Online than the on-premise version — “firstly, it’s mainly new business from other platforms like Lotus Notes, and second, I even generate revenues by charging for things like the data center buildings, the infrastructure, even the electricity I use.” That was in Berlin last November. I suspected then that Microsoft did get it but was just getting its platform ready. This week, I am convinced — Microsoft is “all in,” as they say.
And at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, it was driving its partners to the cloud as aggressively as any vendor has ever talked to its partners at such an event. All of the Microsoft executives preached a consistent mantra: “MOVE to the cloud, or you may not be around in five years.”
Microsoft’s cloud-based Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) is already being promoted by 16,000 partners that either get referral incentives for Microsoft-billed BPOS fees or bundle it into their own offerings (mainly telcos). There are nearly 5,000 certified Azure-ready partners. This week, Microsoft turned up the heat with these announcements:
Informatica is one of the traditional leaders when it comes to data quality and data integration. More than 4,000 customers trust Informatica's software products globally and drive more than half a billion dollars in revenue. Informatica solves many of the traditional data integration challenges, for example, between custom developed apps and packaged ERP solutions. As a result, IT operations professionals and enterprise architects are well aware of Informatica’s solutions. However, what has gone under the radar so far is Informatica's cloud computing approach. For about two years now, Informatica has provided www.informaticacloud.com, a cloud-based integration offering, for customers. Informatica recently announced a new version of this service, and Forrester had the chance to talk to the vendor prior to the launch. The new solution offers an improved service for data quality, B2B data transformations, and a number of continuous improvements. But what really caught my attention is Informatica's well-kept secret of a sophisticated agent technology.
Back-office managers and European customers have ignored the message — until now
The rise and rise of cloud has been dominating the headlines for the past few years, and for CIOs, it has become a more serious priority only recently. People like cloud computing. Well - at least they like the concept of cloud computing. It is fast to implement, affordable, and scales to business requirements easily. On closer inspection, cloud poses many challenges for organizations. For CIOs there are the considerable challenges around how you restructure your IT department and IT services to cope with the new demands that cloud computing will place on your business - and often these demands come from the business, as they start to get the idea that they can get so many more business cases over the line for new capabilities, products and/or services, as they realize that cloud computing lowers the costs and hastens the time to value.
Today, Google announced Google App Engine for Business, and integration with VMware’s SpringSource offerings. On Monday, we got a preview of the news from David Glazer, Engineering Director at Google, and Jerry Chen, Senior Director Cloud Services at VMware.
For tech industry strategists, this is another step in the development of cloud platform-as-a-service (PaaS). Java Spring developers now have a full platform-as-a-service host offering in Google App Engine for Business, the previously announced VMforce offering from salesforce.com, plus the options of running their own platform and OS stacks on premise or in virtual machines at service providers supporting vCloud Express, such as Terremark.
What’s next? IBM and Oracle have yet to put up full Java PaaS offerings, so I expect that to show up sometime soon – feels late already for them to put up some kind of early developer version. And SAP is also likely to create their own PaaS offering. But it’s not clear if any of them will put the same emphasis on portability and flexible, rich Web-facing apps that Google and VMware are.
So Google aims to expand into enterprise support – but will need more than the planned SQL support, SSL, and SLAs they are adding this year. They'll also need to figure out how to fully integrate into corporate networks, the way that CloudSwitch aims to do.
Finally, SAP Is Acquiring (At Least A Mobile) Middleware
SAP’s customers and the analyst community have been speculating about the possibility of SAP acquiring a middleware company for a while. After it had missed out on acquiring one of the heavyweights like BEA and hesitated over TIBCO and Progress Software, SAP and Sybase agreed yesterday on the $5.8 billion transaction.
Sybase used to be a database, but its database’s visibility in the market decreased so dramatically that, in a recent Forrester survey, it wasn’t considered to be a primary database choice by any application domain. A good share of the 4% of open source databases used in the ERP space are actually SAP’s open source MaxDB (based on SOFTWARE AG’s original ADABAS D), which is a default for SAP systems if a customer doesn’t provide a third-party database like Oracle or DB2. SAP is unlikely to replace this default database with Sybase. This would be an even less important database than MaxDB, which integrates well with NetWeaver. But different analysts have different opinion and you might like to look for Boris Evelson's take on the impact of Sybase's database. If SAP runs a careful post-merger process, it will recognize Sybase’s database knowledge and employ all the engineers who have already developed in-memory database capabilities to bring Hasso’s idea from the Palo Alto “garage” to full product availability. While SAP has deployed in-memory capabilities in its analytics technology stack, the in-memory capabilities for transactions are still in the lab.
It's been a little over a year now since it was announced that Oracle would buy Sun, and in the intervening time, there has been a great deal of speculation over what would happen to Sun's storage division. I know I've been waiting with bated breath (ok, that might be a BIT strong) to find out what the future of Sun storage would be, and now we have at least a small nugget of information (Oracle has been frustratingly mum on the topic since the acquisition). As you might have guessed, there is good news and there is bad news for Sun storage customers:
Today, Oracle announced yet another acquisition - this one of Phase Forward, a clinical research suite that helps life sciences companies manage their R&D process. Oracle paid $685 million in cash for this acquisition. While my research role focus does not encompass life sciences software specifically, Oracle's overall apps strategy is definitely of interest to me. My thoughts about this deal are as follows:
Oracle continues to aggressively acquire industry-specific applications to complement its core ERP solutions (e.g., EBS, PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards, and the yet-to-be-released Fusion Applications). Industry apps enable Oracle to achieve deeper relevance with specific types of businesses, and sell them additional products, including middleware, integration accelerators, BI, databases, core ERP applications, and now even computer hardware.
The Phase Forward clinical trials software puts Oracle into the mix in large pharma accounts, where SAP tends to have the lion's share of the wallet for applications.
Healthcare overall is a massive market opportunity for which Oracle has only scratched the surface. Oracle only recently established a Health Sciences Global Business Unit, and more acquisitions can be expected in and around the healthcare ecosystem. Healthcare provider solutions may fit into this build-out at some point.
Your thoughts on Oracle's apps strategy and portfolio? Feel free to comment here.
I was lucky enough last week [22 March 2010] to moderate a panel at EclipseCon on the future of application servers. The panelists did a great job, but I thought were far too conservative in their views. I agree with them that many customers want evolutionary change from today to future app servers, but I see requirements driving app servers toward radical change. Inevitably.
The changes I see:
Get more value from servers, get responsive, get agile and flexible
Tuxedo is Oracle’s application environment for the non-Java languages. Like most “legacy” transaction servers, Tuxedo provides major large enterprise functionality to the programming languages prior to Java. Tuxedo had focused on C/C++ and COBOL until now. Among a couple of innovations, the most exciting news in the just-announced Oracle Tuxedo 11g release is the support for Ruby and Python. This pushes these newer languages immediately up the enterprise performance and reliability scale, making them comparable to COBOL, ABAP, and NATURAL.
The huge challenge for Oracle after this move will be to get access to the Ruby and Python developer communities. Most of them are looking more at open source runtime environments than at heavyweight enterprise transaction environments. However, this latest move by Oracle may resonate with these young open source natives, who’ve gone from university to their first job at banks, insurance companies, and other traditional mainframe shops. Ruby and Python on Tuxedo could be appropriate choices for those developers who want to move stuff off a mainframe but don’t want to get into COBOL on the new platform again.