Oracle/BEA: 12 months on

In the heady days of January 2008, database maker Oracle had finally captured the prize that it had been courting for many months, BEA, and in an instant became the largest middleware player in the market. But are the real results yet to appear?

In the heady days of January 2008, database maker Oracle had finally captured the prize that it had been courting for many months, BEA, and in an instant became the largest middleware player in the market.

In the haze of conjecture and rumours about what would happen to BEA, Derrick Wheeler, national manager IT at DP World Australia, pushed on with a BEA implementation.

It made us a little nervous, but it was Oracle, it wasn't some fly-by-
night takeover.

DP World national manager IT Derrick Wheeler

"When we were in negotiations, there was murmurings that Oracle were looking at buying BEA at that time. It made us a little nervous, but it was Oracle, it wasn't some fly-by-night takeover," he tells ZDNet.com.au. "They wouldn't acquire it if they didn't want it for a very good reason."

With DP World already being an Oracle customer, Wheeler is quick to point out that a key benefit he saw was vendor rationalisation: "We figured that having that two-vendor relationship and Oracle taking over a product we liked was a good thing".

Cameron Tuesley, managing director of Integral Technology, found himself in the rather serendipitous situation of being a long-term primary partner of BEA that had independently become an Oracle partner just prior to the acquisition.

As Tuesley recently tells ZDNet.com.au: "The reason behind that was that a lot of our business is in integration [...] and for us as a consulting company, we saw a lot of clients were going to be going down that path. And so we thought: 'we probably should be involved in that'."

Not surprisingly then, Tuesley welcomed the Oracle acquisition. "It filled a lot of the technology holes out which were our main concern at the time, particularly the application server and the service bus. BEA had some good, solid, mature products in that space," he says.

It's a trend that is occurring throughout the industry, as many BEA customers and consultants had already dipped a toe into the Oracle pond, so the takeover was well received as the company was a known quantity. Indeed, the blueprint used for the PeopleSoft acquisition was once again rolled out for BEA — unveil a product plan and support all products for a number of years to come while creating a super suite taking the best parts of the products available.

It filled a lot of the technology holes out which were our main concern at the time

Integral Technology MD Cameron Tuesley

"There was a few overlapping products, I have to say that I thought Oracle did a pretty good job of clarifying early on where they were going," Tuesley says, "And I have to say that I think they picked the right products, where there were two products they seemed to have picked the stronger one rather than the incumbent."

Over at DP World though, Wheeler was a little nervous where the BEA products sat within Oracle's roadmap.

"The Aqualogic service bus, pretty well straight away [Oracle] said that was going to be their premier product in that space. We were concerned about WLI (WebLogic Integration) a little bit as to where that would fit," he says. "We were a little nervous what would happen to that product. We've since been assured that we can purchase more licences and that we'll be supported — at least five years developed, another five years supported — that makes us feel more comfortable.

"But I think early in the piece it took them a little while to come out and say exactly what they wanted to do with those products."

Inertia appears to have played its hand in customers choosing to remain with Oracle despite an upheaval in its product line. As Tuesley says, "I'm not seeing BEA clients becoming WebSphere clients, I'm seeing BEA or Oracle clients saying 'I'm going to continue to go down this path with this vendor'."

"A lot of this infrastructure, particularly the core stuff like the application servers, most of the people using it have a lot of experience in it and a lot of momentum in it, so it might be harder to swap over," he says.

Although the acquisition may have progressed well and customers continue their previous Oracle or BEA investments, this is not a one-off scenario. Over recent years, Oracle has acquired many companies and is well versed in the ways of acquisition.

But Chris Muir, senior Oracle systems consultant and trainer at SAGE Computing Services says it is time for Oracle to consolidate what it has.

"I had a colleague who I well respect, the other day come and say to me one of the reasons why he used to like Oracle was because it was a stable product set. You always knew the set of products and you always knew where the products were going to go in the future.

With all [of Oracle's] acquiring
they are accumulating some of the best products in the world

Senior Oracle systems consultant Chris Muir

"But now Oracle's such a large company and they seem to be buying bits and pieces of everything, you can't work out with some of their products where they are going to go from one product to the next," says Muir.

Things are not about to get any easier for Oracle or Sun customers in the near future with that acquisition yet to complete. "If this Sun acquisition comes through, and it's not definite, but Oracle, if I remember correctly, will have four portal products. That's just a crazy amount of products," Muir says. "You're looking for stability in product sets, you certainly want new features but what you don't want to do is invest in a product that two years down the line Oracle says 'oh that's not the one we are going with, we're going with another one'."

Muir does not see it as doom and gloom though, and says that for the majority of his customers, change is not a bad thing. "It will mean that it will bring Java and a lot of those other Sun products into the awareness of those guys," he says.

"They'll be suddenly going to user group events and oracle events and Java will be talked about. We'll probably see that it'll bring a whole bunch of options onto the playing field."

Though the world is not going to come crashing down for Sun customers as the BEA experience shows. With over a year gone in the acquisition process, the results of Oracle's acquisition of BEA Systems are only just beginning.

"I think the thing that is exciting me at the moment is now we are actually starting to really see the activity happening [...] 12 months on we are really starting to see that activity," Tuesley says.

Wheeler is also in agreement: "We're keen to see what actually happens from here but so far, so good."

Muir is also optimistic on what is to come from Oracle: "With all their acquiring they are accumulating some of the best products in the world, they are a major player and those acquisitions is what is allowing them to do that," he says.

"I guess it's a bit of a yin and a yang thing."