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Is SOA/open source a threat or boost for Oracle?

In the wake of Oracle's OpenWorld confab a couple of weeks back, I had the opportunity to join ZDNet blogging colleague Dana Gardner, along with Steve Garone and Neil Macehiter, for one of Dana's rousing "BriefingsDirect SOA" podcasts. (Link to the podcast and transcript posted here.

In the wake of Oracle's OpenWorld confab a couple of weeks back, I had the opportunity to join ZDNet blogging colleague Dana Gardner, along with Steve Garone and Neil Macehiter, for one of Dana's rousing "BriefingsDirect SOA" podcasts. (Link to the podcast and transcript posted here.)

'Oracle's strength in the database is actually an aspect of the service-oriented strategy that they haven’t talked up significantly.'

One of the topics we bounced around was whether Oracle's latest moves were to fend off the specter of commodization, thanks to creeping service abstraction and open source in the database and application stack.

My own observation was that Oracle had to move more aggressively into the middleware space. Oracle is in the thick of promoting "big SOA," saying “Take your huge, 10-terabyte database, take your huge ERP system, and move some of that functionality out to a service layer, preferably Oracle’s.”

Dana pointed to the growing convergence between SOA and enterprise data management that is taking place, a trend that breaks in Oracle's favor. Dana's own research on SOA deployments found that of the SOA-enabled services that are in production, "fully two thirds were of a services data layer nature," meaning that the services "were all about making data available from a variety of sources, repositories, and applications to then be used more generally. Therefore, the whole role of data seems to be that the horse sits in front of the cart when it comes to using SOA, which of course would put Oracle in a pretty good position."

Neil agreed that SOA was opening up access to data sources -- and therefore information -- and therefore helping organizations address compliance and gain better insight into business operations. This presents many opportunities for Oracle's data management acumen. "Interestingly, given where Oracle comes from, and its strength in the database, it’s actually an aspect of the service-oriented strategy that they haven’t talked up significantly."

Steve expects Oracle to begin to aggressively move forward with Fusion, "which really brings together the leverage point of its product strategy, applications and middleware." He doesn't see a major threat, yet, to Oracle's core business, the database, either by service abstraction or open source software.

Essentially, despite many industry predictions, it will be some time before a relational database management system such as Oracle becomes commoditized. "'Commodities' implies there’s really not a lot of differentiation and value-add; you’re just kind of getting the same thing from everybody at a bare-bones price," he pointed out. "I don’t really think that reflects the database market today, or even the database market down the road."