ZDNet blogging colleague Larry Dignan broke the story of Oracle's 'Project X' announcement, which the software giant is now branding as its Application Integration Architecture. This is clearly aimed at helping customers bring together various enterprise applications now under the Oracle tent (Siebel, PeopleSoft, JDEdwards, and Oracle e-Business Suite, of course), but also is a another step on the road to service-oriented architecture. SOA the Oracle way, of course -- Big SOA.
The news Oracle brings to the table is that the software giant is emphasizing process, not product. Oracle is introducing what it calls "Process Integration Packs" (PIPs?) that employ BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) and leverages Oracle's Fusion Middleware SOA Suite. The first two PIPs now available include quote-to-order and order-to-cash process bundles, built upon the Siebel CRM product.
I agree with Tony Baer, who closely tracks all things Oracle, who noted that Big O recognizes that it would be impossible to try to force its greatly expanded and captive constituency (Siebel, PeopleSoft users, etc.) into some type of new Oracle mold. Instead, Oracle has shifted its strategy to accommodate and support a very gradual and incremental migration. And moving functions out to the SOA middleware layer is a good way to do that.
As Tony put it so aptly:
"When you have a large enough customer base, you’ll attract more flies with honey and that maintenance can become quite a lucrative business. ...conventional wisdom was that maintaining multiple incompatible lines would drain the business. But once you have accumulated such a large chunk of the market and so many product lines, the costs of convergence get far outweighed by the revenue potential of simply maintaining and gradually enhancing them. Anyway, with Y2K over, customers hardly in the mood to rip and replace once more."
Oracle VP Paco Aubrejuan said as much: "We're being as pragmatic as we can and picking the greatest hits of solutions we already have. Service oriented architecture shouldn't be about reimplementing. The costs are too high so you have to evolving existing assets into SOA."
Tony adds that Project X "might try to accomplish what has so far eluded cross industry organizations like the Open Applications Group (OAG): defining a set of common business objects so one enterprise system could exchange its customer object or order-to-cash process with another." The ability to integrate processes -- beyond simple standards -- is the new value proposition that vendors can offer the market. And Oracle gets that, as does its arch competitor, SAP. Expect to hear about more Big SOA.