Eye on Oracle

June 8, 2009  9:55 PM

Oracle edges closer to final approval of Sun deal

Shayna Garlick Shayna Garlick Profile: Shayna Garlick

Last week, Larry Ellison spoke publicly for the first time about the Oracle-Sun deal. At Sun’s annual JavaOne conference, Ellison revealed his plans for using Java on mobile devices and swapping AJAX for Java FX on Sun’s OpenOffice product.

But when will we actually see these proposed changes take place?

We’ll be one step closer to knowing the answer to that question next month, when Sun stockholders will meet to vote on Oracle’s proposed acquisition.  Sun announced today that this meeting will take place on July 16. If it goes through, the approval will mark the end of more than seven months of negotiations between Sun and interested buyers such as Oracle, IBM and HP, according to eWeek.

Oracle first announced its agreement to acquire Sun on April 20. Until now, the software giant has remained tight-lipped on the deal, with only a brief mention of it at the Collaborate ’09 conference in May.

But now, even with the recent announcements at JavaOne, many questions remained unanswered about the future of Sun, especially surrounding what exactly Oracle plans to do with Sun’s hardware business.

An article today in ComputerWorld suggests that Sun customers remain skeptical about Oracle’s plans for Sun and the assurances made by Ellison at the JavaOne conference.

The Sun customers interviewed in the ComputerWorld article were concerned about the future of a variety of Sun’s technologies, including Java, its Sparc architecture and its free GlassFish open-source application server.

Others were nervous not just about the technologies, but the future of the JavaOne conference itself. One attendee was quoted as saying that the conference had “the look and feel of being the end of the road for JavaOne… It was hard not to get a sense that this was the last one.”

In a recent blog post, JavaWorld’s Dustin Marx also speculates that Oracle will not continue to hold the annual conference.  First, he points out that in the current economy, it may not be feasible for Oracle to hold both Oracle OpenWorld and JavaOne and still make money. Marx also points out that Oracle already has many Java-related presentations at its Oracle OpenWorld conference, and simply expanding those offerings would not be too difficult.

We’ve already looked at how the Oracle-Sun deal will affect you, but as the approval of the proposed acquisition gets closer, new questions are beginning to emerge, on everything from Oracle licensing to the future of Java and JavaOne.

As more details of the Oracle-Sun deal start to surface, what new questions or concerns do you have?  As an Oracle customer what do you think about what the Sun customers have to say? Are their concerns justified? Leave a comment or talk about this in our Oracle-Sun discussion on the IT Knowledge Exchange.

June 4, 2009  5:37 PM

The biggest ain’t always the best when choosing an Oracle vendor

Shayna Garlick Shayna Garlick Profile: Shayna Garlick

If you were asked to choose between IBM Global Services and the lesser known Solution Beacon for your consulting needs, which would you choose?

Hint: don’t be too quick to pick IBM. It seems that when it comes to picking a vendor or consultant, IT professionals believe larger more global companies such as IBM or Oracle aren’t always the preferred choice.

According to a VendorRate Trade Show report from Collaborate ’09 in Orlando last month, Solution Beacon was the highest rated vendor of the approximately 200 attending the show.  The lowest rated vendor was Business Objects, with Oracle Consulting, Deloitte Consulting, Microsoft, BMC Software, ADP, Symantec Enterprise Storage and Verizon Wireless rounding out the bottom, according to the report.

VendorRate collected responses at Collaborate from nearly 400 IT professionals, who rated the vendors on a scale of 1 to 10 in 10 categories, including communication, timeliness, usability, reliability and customer service.

Three of the lowest rated vendors provide global consulting services. In a BusinessWire article, VendorRate CEO Rick Schaefer is quoted as saying, “Small and medium sized vendors continually score at the top of the charts while the big consulting organizations receive the lowest scores.”

Joining Solution Beacon at the top was Feith Systems & Software, Quest Software, Sun Microsystems Server, Oracle Software, Dell, HP and TUSC.

Here are a few of the highest and lowest scorers in specific categories, according to the report:

Best in Expertise: Solution Beacon and Sun Microsystems

Best in Communication: TUSC

Best in Recommend: Feist Systems and Software

Lowest in Recommend: ADP

Lowest in Timeliness: BusinessObjects

Lowest in Reliability: Microsoft

What do you think of these results?  Do they surprise you?

June 3, 2009  3:09 PM

Oracle drops the E-Business Suite requirement for Warehouse Management app

Shayna Garlick Shayna Garlick Profile: Shayna Garlick

Are you an Oracle user who wants all the latest warehouse management capabilities, but can’t always afford to update to the latest version of E-Business Suite?

Then today’s your lucky day.

A new version of Oracle Warehouse Management, released June 1, allows users to deploy the warehouse management application as a distributed product.  Users no longer have to be an E-Business Suite customer to use the application, as was required in earlier versions.

Oracle Warehouse Management can now either stand alone or be deployed as a module within E-Business Suite, giving customers the choice between an integrated or standalone product, according to Oracle’s Warehouse Management blog.

And that’s not its only enhancement — Oracle Warehouse Management will also be integrated more closely with Oracle’s transportation management application. According to Managing Automation, Oracle recently announced that Oracle Warehouse Management and Oracle Transportation Management have new integration points — such as load sequencing and cross docking — that indicate a plan to offer the applications together as a best-of-breed logistics management suite.

Other new capabilities with this release include advanced wave planning, task planning, demand-driven forward pick replenishment and high-volume performance, according to Oracle.

What’s behind all these changes?

Oracle Warehouse Management was originally built for industrial manufacturing and high-tech sectors. However, the product has evolved to have more appeal for higher volume environments such as wholesale distributors, food and beverage, life sciences and consumer packaged goods, according to Jennifer Sherman, Oracle senior director of logistics product strategy, in this Logistics Management article.

Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how new features such as these allow Oracle to compete with best-of- breed warehouse management systems.  If you’re an E-Business Suite user (or a non-EBS user who can now use the application), how will these extended capabilities help you?

May 27, 2009  3:45 PM

License management could be the key to your next Oracle review

Ed Scannell Ed Scannell Profile: Ed Scannell

In a news story that appeared on SearchOracle.com last week about Oracle’s acquisition of Sun triggering reviews of software licenses and audits, it hammered home the point to us that IT shops more than ever need to establish best practices for managing software licenses.

Oracle has always had the right to call for a review (with very little notice, I might add) to verify that users have not downloaded more copies than their contract calls for. But the Sun acquisition, coupled with the crushing effect the economy has had on Oracle’s revenue growth, the likelihood of reviews and audits has risen considerably.

As Jeff Greenwald, Acresso Software’s Senior Director of Product Management for Enterprise Licensing Optimization told us last week:

“This (Oracle-Sun) merger could spark other conversations with a shop that may or may not have Sun boxes running in them, but Oracle won’t know that when they start the conversation. Oracle could treat this as an opportunity to investigate a shop’s hardware base and without realizing it, users enter into an audit.”

It has been his experience, Greenwald said, that most users have no best practices guidelines or software in place to track deployments. In fact, many use only a spreadsheet to track their compliance, which is a bit scary. The drawbacks to this relatively primitive method are it is time consuming, prone to errors and its results are often out of date even before the exercise is completed.

Naturally, Greenwald believes his lineup of license management software offers a better alternative, but he does have a cogent case. Not only does Acresso’s products present an automated way to collect instances of Oracle software and store them it a central location, they also provide users with reports that “interpret” those deployments comparing them to their contract.

“It is about (Acresso’s) technology but it is also about services that can help customers come to a decision by recommending what the best course of action is when they renegotiate a new contract with Oracle,” Greenwald told us.

Greenwald believes there is a basic set of license management best practices that can be applied to a range of different “events” that trigger reviews and audits. Events can be many things including not just mergers and acquisitions but divestitures, re-organizations, expansions, facility closings, or layoffs.

The following rules can better prepare an IT shop for such reviews, he believes.

Pro-active, consistent monitoring of Oracle deployments.  IT shops should monitor Oracle deployments continuously instead of waiting until a review or audit deadline approaches. This is the most sensible way to avoid a crazed fire drill under tight time constraints.

Collect complete, granular information. Oracle deployments and licensing both can be complex, involving multiple instances on multiple platforms. Consequently, IT organizations should make sure their visibility into their Oracle deployments is complete and granular, including discovery of all processors and all named users.

Use of automation. IT organizations can reduce strain on their staffs as well as improve the accuracy of their information through automation. That automation however should be scheduled to avoid being a drag on performance of critical business services. It is a good idea to implement agentless automation to avoid management complexity.

Clear reporting against actual license structure. Once IT shops have a granular accounting of their Oracle deployments, they need to understand how those deployments compare to their actual current license entitlements. That understanding can come through reports highlighting where the deployment exceeds the license and where there is “shelfware” i.e. software that is not in use.

Fully leveraging of deployment insights across all IT and business functions. Once an IT organization can maintain pro-active insight into their Oracle deployments, it must then deliver that insight across an organization.  These organizations, besides developing the ability to monitor their deployments, will want to take advantage of experts in disciplines such as negotiation, budget allocation and planning.

May 11, 2009  5:33 PM

Larry’s a hardware man now

Ed Scannell Ed Scannell Profile: Ed Scannell

After weeks of speculation about whether Oracle would keep or sell off Sun’s hardware business, we have the answer. Well, the answer for now.

In an e-mail interview with Reuters, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison made it clear he intends to keep not just Sun’s chip and server products but its disk storage and tape backup businesses too. So with one short interview Ellison has confirmed he will attempt to significantly change the competitive landscape among major vendors competing for the billions of enterprise dollars at stake.

And he is not lacking for confidence about his chances. In the Reuters interview Ellison said he has the in-house talent — both from among Sun and Oracle engineers – to compete successfully against the likes of hardware giants including IBM, Hewlett Packard and Dell.

“We have lots of hardware experience inside of Oracle. Hundreds of Oracle’s engineers came from systems companies like IBM and HP. Even I started my Silicon Valley career working for a hardware company that worked with Fujitsu to design and build the first IBM compatible mainframe,” Ellison said in the Reuters interview.

I am not sure how much of Larry’s own hardware experience will successfully translate to competing against The Big Three in a cutthroat low margin business. I suspect it will have more to do with retaining key Sun engineers and their managers working on key hardware technologies. But you have to like his optimism here.

It could very well be that Oracle has no intention of engaging in hand-to-hand combat with his major competitors in the low end, Intel-based server market. According to his comments in the Reuters interview, he intends to invest heavily in Sun’s Sparc- and Solaris-based servers where margins would be significantly higher.

“Once we own Sun we’re going to increase the investment in SPARC. We think designing our own chips is very, very important. Right now, SPARC chips do some things better than Intel chips and vice-versa. While most hardware businesses are low-margin, companies like Apple and Cisco enjoy very high-margins because they do a good job of designing their hardware and software to work together. If a company designs both hardware and software, it can build much better systems than if they only design the software,” Ellison said.

Yup, that’s right. Apple is a model, if not the inspiration, for Ellison believing he can deliver high margins servers if he can form fit Oracle’s software with Sun’s chips and servers ala Apple’s iPhone and iPod.

There may be at least a little concrete evidence to back up his ambitions. Oracle’s Exadata database machine, which tightly couples Oracle’s flagship database with HP’s server hardware, has received good reviews, particularly for its speed and performance.  It must be noted however, that the Exadata server uses Intel chips, and not RISC-based chips such as Sun’s SPARC processor.

Both Ellison, in the Reuters interview, and Oracle President Charles Phillips at last week’s Collaborate conference, said Exadata was the most successful product launch in the company’s 30-plus-year history. Oracle, of course, declines to release sales figures for the system, so there can be no iron-clad confirmation of this.

But if Oracle successfully applies its Exadata model to other server hardware-software combinations, perhaps targeting each offering at a specific vertical market, it may not only succeed in the market but also lay down the law for how server bundles will be sold.

There are a couple of unanswered questions remaining, of course. One, is if Oracle proceeds with its plans to sell SPARC-based servers bundled with its software, where does this leave HP?  HP still competes with Sun in some segments of the server market, and may not take too kindly to Ellison’s aggressive commitment to SPARC.

Second, how will Ellison deliver bundled combinations of servers to Oracle and Sun customers?  If he intends to focus on complete solutions using only Oracle-Sun chips, servers, operating systems, databases, middleware, and tools, the emphasis would seem to be on largely selling  these systems direct.  If he does an end run around the resellers, will this drive the channel into the arms of IBM, HP, and Dell that can reach customers across a greater number of markets?

We may not get these questions answered for another few months. But I’ll say this, with the Sun acquisition Larry has brought back some of the fun and excitement that has been missing from this market for some time now.

May 5, 2009  8:24 PM

The top 10 security risks in Oracle E-Business Suite

Shayna Garlick Shayna Garlick Profile: Shayna Garlick

Users may be worried about the obvious security risks associated with putting data in a cloud, but what about those Oracle security risks which aren’t as obvious?

Collaborate ’09 speaker Jeffrey Hare, CPA, CIA, CSA from ERP Seminars, addressed some of these risks Tuesday in his session, “Top 10 Application Security Risks and Related Best Practices for companies running Oracle E-Business Suite.”

The majority of these application risks described by Hare are internal – so, even if you’re not putting your data out on the internet, you’re certainly not free from unwanted users accessing your systems.

What did Hare list as his the top 10 risks for E-Business Suite users, and what did he recommend for dealing with them?

10. Upgrade risk: To avoid upgrade risks, Hare said end user security should be designed from scratch, using completely custom menus and sub menus. He also advised against using AZN menus.

9. Risk analysis: Hare said it’s important to look at risk analysis holistically, from outside the system to access and processes inside the system. He recommended choosing a risk analysis firm that specialized in E-Business Suite, and to make sure to take into account material risks as well as sub-material risks.

8. Relying on auditors: Be aware that many auditors do not take into account risks of sub-material fraud and often fail to look at the business process holistically. He recommended starting with Procure- to -Play, hire a firm that specializes in fraud risk to do a risk assessment beyond SOX and review their conflict matrix before hiring them.

7. Security changes- Change management process: The change management process is not something you can afford to get wrong, Hare said. It should be very specific and include menus, responsibilities, roles, request groups, functions and profile options.  All security changes should go through a change management process.

6. SQL Forms: All activity in SQL forms should go through the change management process just like an UPDATE SQL statement would, including peer review and code freeze, Hare said. All activity should be audited via trigger or log-based technology.

5. High risk fraud forms: Hare said to be aware of forms subject to high fraud risk such as banks, remit to address, locations and suppliers. Define a procedure for changes and additions such as a form and procedure for new suppliers.

4. Password hacking: Hackers can get into production applications and database accounts via a published exploit code. Hare recommended reading the white paper Oracle applications 11i: Password decryption for solutions.

3. Override of workflow policy: It’s important to have a process in place regarding delegation of authority for processes such as worklist access and vacation rules, Hare said. Figure out the allowable delegation of authority within your company, and audit and trace back your changes.

2. Support personnel access: Lack of inquiry only access and non-production support instance is a problem within organizations, Hare said. He recommends using SysAdmin Views, identify high risk single functions and SOD issues and to take the same precautions with security analysts as with end users.

1. Utilities: diagnostics: Hare stressed that no one should have access to these profile options in the production environment – they should be left off the production environment and go through the change management process.

What risks and/or best practices could you add to this list? If you’re an E-Business Suite or other application user, what has or hasn’t worked in terms of security and what do you think is worth your time and investment?

May 5, 2009  1:03 PM

‘MySQL is not going to die,’ Collaborate speaker claims

Shayna Garlick Shayna Garlick Profile: Shayna Garlick

One question has been on everyone’s minds since Oracle announced its acquisition of Sun Microsystems:

What is the future of MySQL now that it’s in the hands of Oracle?

This question about the highly popular open source database is being debated in the Oracle and Sun communities — some are insistent that Oracle won’t kill MySQL, but other open source executives are split. Some point out that this is Oracle’s chance to innovate and prove it’s serious about open source; however, the software giant has not shown a commitment in the past to open source even as it’s grown in popularity, according to the ZDNet article.

Collaborate ’09 presenter and Oracle and MySQL DBA George Trujillo addressed the question Monday at the conference in his session, “What Every Oracle Professional Needs to Know about MySQL.” Trujillo said he could not say exactly what was going to happen with Oracle and Sun, but he did know one thing:

“I will tell you MySQL is not going to die,” he said.

Trujillo said because of the simple fact that MySQL is an open source database — a free source code available to anyone — it will continue on no matter what Oracle decides to do with it.

So, maybe MySQL is not as much in the hands of Oracle as we are think it is.

“It’s open source — if we wanted to get together tonight to get the source code and create our own version to start selling tomorrow, we could do that,” Trujillo told session attendees.  He said what’s more important is that whoever is the leader of open source has to be innovative.

Trujillo also discussed common misconceptions users have about MySQL, one being that the database can be compared with Oracle. He said comparing MySQL to Oracle is like comparing a fast speedboat to an aircraft carrier — if you bought one, it was probably for a reason, and you won’t be happy switching to the other.

So, maybe the real question is not will Oracle keep MySQL, but what will the software giant choose to do with it? How innovative will they be? Is there anything you would like to see Oracle do with the open source database? How do you think, or would like to see, Oracle will market itself to the open source community?

May 4, 2009  9:22 PM

Is your data secure in the cloud?

Shayna Garlick Shayna Garlick Profile: Shayna Garlick

As Oracle’s Bill Hodak looked out at the approximately 30 attendees at the Oracle in the Cloud session Monday at Collaborate, he noted it was probably the largest group he’s spoken to about cloud computing over the past two years.

Despite the growing interest, however, session attendees were not hesitant to voice their concerns – the biggest being the security of their data.

Hodak began his session by describing the benefits of cloud computing, which he described as “computing resources residing on the internet (aka’the cloud’).”  Cloud computing requires no long-term commitment, is infinitely scalable and allows the user to be billed by consumption rather than a fixed price, he said.

He went on to describe how Oracle works with Amazon — the top cloud computing vendor and Oracle’s first cloud computing partner — to provide Amazon Web Services for Oracle customers. Users can create an Amazon Web Services account to deploy Oracle software or back up an Oracle Database. Hodak described Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), an environment which can be used for Oracle deployments. In EC2, users can also choose from a catalog of virtual machine images, such as Oracle Enterprise Linux or APEX, and within 10 minutes have a fully functional Oracle environment.

But one user had a question that Hodak admitted was a good one — how does one ensure privacy and securing of personal data when operating in the cloud?

Amazon is just beginning to promote its cloud services to larger enterprises rather than smaller start-ups, Hodak said, so security is just now becoming a bigger concern. Though he could offer no specific details, Hodak said that Amazon is in the process of getting certified as a “secure organization,” but in the meantime, users should encrypt their data through Oracle.

Private, on-premise clouds are also an option that that may lessen security-related concerns. Hodak said these are a good option for large enterprises that might find it difficult to move to public clouds in the immediate future. While many companies may not be ready to move to a third-party cloud, internal clouds can allow developers to faster respond to their organization’s need at a lower cost.

Hodak emphasized that few enterprises are actually in the deployment stage of their cloud computing initiatives-most are still only in the evaluating stage or deploying non-mission critical systems.

But with Oracle cloud computing still in the initial stages, what can we expect in the future? While most of that is still to be seen, it looks like Oracle is close to announcing seven new online products as part of its SaaS initiative.

Is security a concern for you when considering cloud computing? Has your organization considered cloud computing as an option? What factors have helped you decide for or against a cloud computing initiative?

April 29, 2009  6:08 PM

Oracle users can attend Collaborate 09 virtually

Ed Scannell Ed Scannell Profile: Ed Scannell

Coming to the rescue of cash-strapped IT professionals unable to attend Collaborate 09 in Orlando (May 3-7) the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG) announced it will be hosting virtual sessions. IOUG officials said that companies registering at least one employee for the conference are then eligible to set up virtual access for everyone in their organization.

The IOUG plans to offer 40 virtual sessions over the course of the conference. IT professionals interested in Webinar sessions, which range between 30 minutes up to two hours, can be customized to best suit their specific educational interests.

Conference officials explained that obtaining a license for one seat provides unlimited access to virtual sessions.

“We recognize companies everywhere are looking for ways to save. This option takes into account economic conditions while still allowing members to get value from networking, continuing education and best practice sharing,” said Ian Abramson, President of the IOUG.

Collaborate 09 organizers, which also include the Oracle Applications User Group and Quest International Users Group, said they expect 5,000 people to attend the conference to be held at the Orange County Convention Center West.

Those interested in registering for virtual attendance can do so at:  http://www.ioug.org/collaborate09/attending/virtual.cfm.

If you are planning to attend Collaborate 09 virtually, let us know. If you have attended other Oracle conferences virtually, let us know what your experience has been and we’ll share it with the rest of the SearchOracle.com community.

April 27, 2009  6:26 PM

Will Oracle be the good shepherd for open source?

Ed Scannell Ed Scannell Profile: Ed Scannell

With its acquisition of Sun, Oracle, like it or not sports fans, is now the steward of the open source community. It is now Oracle’s opportunity to take open source technologies up to the next level of acceptance in corporate America — or not.

My guess is they will pursue that opportunity. Not necessarily out of any sense of contributing to the greater good by encouraging the spread of free software to IT shops strapped for cash in recessionary times, for instance. It would have more to do with the fact that there is money, good money, to be made by committing more deeply to open source technologies.

This should not surprise anyone. After all, this is the company that jacked up its licensing fees some 15 to 20 percent last year, right around the time the recession was crushing the economy.

I really don’t have any problems with vendors large or small, making as much money as they can from open source. If Oracle can intelligently and fairly find a way to charge Oracle and Sun users for open source products and associated technical services, it could lay down a business model that the rest of the open source world could follow. With greater revenue streams generated, more jobs can be created among both vendor and IT companies, which would result in more useful products delivered and greater productivity.

Lord knows many Linux distributors and other open source software developers have had their chance over the past decade to establish growing and profitable businesses. But with the exception of Red Hat and possibly Novell, none have succeeded at sustaining a largely open source business capable of generating hundreds of millions in revenues. Sun is the other possible exception here. A recent Goldman Sachs report estimated that the company’s Java-based revenues could approach $300 million in the current fiscal year ending in June, but even that tidy sum was enough to allow the company to continue under its own steam.

But Oracle, with revenues of $25 billion and significant market share in multiple enterprise software markets, is in a strong enough position to show the industry how real money can be made in open source world.

The biggest change Oracle has to make to achieve this goal doesn’t depend largely on clever ways of blending of open source and its proprietary products, although it will have to do some of that vis-à-vis positioning and pricing strategies, but on taking a more enlightened approach to attracting new customers. Yes, I’ll say it, we need to see a kinder, gentler Oracle coming into this market.

There is a way to achieve a balance that allows the company to continue to compete aggressively without trying to win the Albert Schweitzer Award for Humanitarianism .

And why not be kinder? The company can’t charge major companies such as IBM or SAP any more for licensing Java. Those licensing fees are protected under long term contracts and can’t be touched until they come up for renewal. The same goes for Sun’s corporate users, particularly those locked into multi-year support and maintenance deals.

Instead of tossing aside good products from Sun such as the MySQL and Glassfish, Oracle could put development monies into enhancing them and making them even more useful to customers. In doing so they could also serve as effective weapons against Microsoft in the lower end of the market. More than a few open source users have told me they would be willing to pay for products such as MySQL and Glassfish if they can continue to deliver good ROI and be properly maintained for a reasonable fee.

There is no need for Oracle to be overly protective (read greedy) of its higher end proprietary databases and applications. That business is solid and under no immediate competitive threats, even from IBM.

I’ll give Oracle the benefit of doubt here; it is still early in a process that will take a year or two to fully play out. The company may find the right balance between its software-as-a-contact sport approach and being a more enlightened leader that could bring the open source and proprietary worlds together in a way that profits everyone.

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