In its most important middleware announcement of the last few years Oracle gave IT professionals a something of a preview of how it will approach enterprise computing. And happily, whether it was intended to or not, the company also put to rest those nagging questions about whether it would ever pursue a cloud strategy.
The shiny new Fusion Middleware 11g was described last week by Oracle President Charles Phillips as a “convergence layer” that will glue together an integrated stack of Oracle products.
That stack would be comprised of the upcoming Fusion applications, (the design and function of which will be based on Fusion Middleware 11g), the company’s core database, and the refurbished series of development tools optimized to work with Fusion Middleware 11g including JDeveloper.
If Oracle could deliver a truly seamless applications stack that, as he said, “worked like an enterprise version of the iPod,” it would lift a significant technical and financial weight from the shoulders of IT.
“Vendors throwing stuff over the wall that you (IT shops) have to assemble is architecture by improvisation. Improvisation is good for jazz musicians but not so good for enterprise architectures,” Phillips said.
Wouldn’t it be a relief for already overworked IT shops to not serve as their own systems integrators for a change. They could actually spend that new-found time developing more innovative applications that take advantage of a solid software foundation.
Phillips added, although without much detail, that Oracle could further build on this integrated stack strategy once it officially gets its hands on Sun’s hardware servers. It was his hope, Phillips said, that Redwood Shores could spearhead an industry-wide movement back to selling integrated stacks.
This would not be a novel approach of course, just one brought back from the dead. One of Oracle-Sun’s chief rivals, IBM, successfully pioneered the concept of selling integrated hardware-software stacks to corporate customers decades ago. But for Oracle to successfully pursue this back-to-the-future strategy itself, never mind convince the likes of IBM, SAP and others to follow them, it will take almost perfect technical execution and a nifty piece of marketing to get people excited about the idea.
Given the tough economic times and the aforementioned over burdened IT staffs, this is not impossible. We could see an era of Stack Wars emerge. All we need now to make this a reality is for IBM, Hewlett-Packard or even Dell to buy just one or two major enterprise vendors like SAP. And that’s not an impossibility over the short term either.
Another Oracle executive, Hasan Rizvi, senior vice president, Oracle Fusion Middleware Products, said rather clearly at last week’s announcements that Oracle will provide cloud and software-as-a-service-based solutions. Yes, you read that right. Oracle really is recognizing the market’s growing interest in these technologies.
“There is a lot of focus around SaaS and the cloud the last six months. Customers want to deliver their IT systems as services,” Rizvi said, in explaining some of the cloud capabilities of the new products. “A lot of customers want to do that internally and not necessarily through a public cloud.”
So pay no attention to the vague statements of that billionaire chairman behind the curtain. Cloud computing will be part and parcel of Oracle’s next generation strategies.
Best line at last week’s Fusion Middleware announcement had to go to Oracle President Charles Phillips. Coming on stage to kick off the announcement in Washington, D.C., fully aware he was not all that far from another President of African-American decent who dresses as nattily as he, Phillips said: “I know what you are thinking, but I am not him.”