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BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition vol. 4: Oracle's growing support of Linux and SOA

Oracle's been trying to get into this operating system space for a long time. In the past decade, they were one of the aggressive promoters of the whole network computing concept, where theoretically you wouldn't be relying on a fat client, so to speak, meaning Microsoft Windows. You could access all your applications via some type of thin client or network computing device.

Read a transcript of the podcast.

Welcome to the latest BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition, a weekly discussion and dissection of service oriented architecture (SOA)-related news and events with a panel of independent IT industry analysts and guests. Yours truly, Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, is your host and moderator.

BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition brings a new focus to the SOA thought leadership field by assembling noted independent IT industry analysts and guests to investigate the trends and news of the week. Take the content via this blog and excerpts, by listening to the podcast, and/or by perusing the full transcript of the discussion.

This week's panel consists of Steve Garone, a former program vice president at IDC and founder of the AlignIT Group, Neil Macehiter, a research director at Macehiter Ward-Dutton, and making his debut, Joe McKendrick, an independent research consultant, contributing editor and columnist for Database Trends, and a SOA blogger for ZDNet and ebizQ.

This week's topics center around the recent Oracle OpenWorld conference. Listen as these thoughtful analysts weed through the many weighty Oracle announcements and developments -- including the bombshell Unbreakable Linux news.

Here are some excerpts from Gardner, Garone, Macehiter, and McKendrick:
In terms of the broader recent announcements of Oracle, clearly they’re upping the ante in terms of their credibility in the SOA space, with one eye on IBM, another on Microsoft, and their third eye -- or their eye in the back of their head -- on SAP with NetWeaver. It was interesting, looking at the announcements they made particularly around the SOA suite, which is their bundling of their BPL Process Manager, Business Activity Monitoring, JDeveloper, Business Rules Engine, where they were really talking up the governance aspects of their offering there.

This is something that historically Oracle has not spoken greatly about. They didn’t make a big push there, and that is no surprise given that governance has been such a hot issue recently. I was also interested in the announcement around their WebCenter, which is the coming together of their portal capabilities with more Web 2.0 style technologies around RSS, Wikis, etc. This is still in its comparatively early phases, and is primarily oriented toward the application developer community, in terms of being able to build these mashup style applications that merge content ... to enterprise applications, and support what some people refer to as situational processes. That’s something that IBM has been talking a lot about around its  QED Wiki technologies.

Oracle’s been trying to get into this operating system space for a long time. In the past decade, they were one of the aggressive promoters of the whole network computing concept, where theoretically you wouldn’t be relying on a fat client, so to speak, meaning Microsoft Windows. You could access all your applications via some type of thin client or network computing device. They very aggressively were at the forefront of those efforts, as well as other servers, I guess you could call them, preformatted packaged database servers, where you wouldn’t need to worry about the operating system. This is an interesting move, and an interesting end-run around a major Linux provider.

Also, what I find interesting from OpenWorld is their agreement with IBM to support implementations of the Oracle database on an IBM mainframe. Now, this is  very historic, in a sense.

I spent six and a half years of my career working for Oracle, and two and a half at Sybase, in the heyday when the database was absolutely the control point. If you look at what’s happened in the market, the industry has consolidated massively...  You’ve really only got Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft with SQL Server vying for dominance in terms of the commercial database. So, you’ve had significant consolidation. You’ve got the entry of, the likes of, MySQL, which now  is offering much more of an enterprise offering with its support network.

I think all the signs are there that it’s becoming commodity technology, but that should naturally result in a driving down of cost. I think the organizations also depend more and more on unstructured information that doesn’t exist inside of a relational database. So, everything is there that points to there being a drive down in cost, and it's interesting in that regard, and also in regard to the Oracle Unbreakable Linux, where Oracle makes the vast majority of its profit in its maintenance services. The control point is shifting, and it’s much more about how you get the information out and harness it in the business processes and activities that support employees, customers, and partners in their operations. I think absolutely the writing is on the wall.

Looking forward, we’re going to see a lot of emphasis put on Fusion by Oracle, which really brings together the leverage point of its product strategy, which is applications and middleware. I agree with everything Neil said, I think it’s important to know that what’s going on here, and to some extent it's mimicking what is going on with a lot of other software-type products or markets that have seen open-source offerings come in and have their effect on what you can charge, and how you license, and so on.

I think middleware is becoming the battleground. We talked about the abstraction of database functionality and ERP, large application functionality into the service layer. And this is where the battleground is going to be in.

Oracle sees this with JBoss as a huge threat. Oracle talks about making its Fusion components “hot-pluggable” with other software from other vendors, but, make no mistake about it, Oracle wants Oracle customers doing SOA the Oracle way. Oracle has this huge built-in customer base, and it has expanded it greatly over the past year, and its likely many will eventually move to Fusion. But Oracle really has to make a good case as to why customers should consider sticking with Oracle up and down through the stack, and not go on with a commodity or an open-source middleware type of solution. That’s a big challenge all the large infrastructure vendors face.

Listen to the podcast, or read the full transcript for more on this week's SOA news and analysis.