Eye on Oracle

February 11, 2009  2:19 PM

Recession a good time to spend on risk management, Oracle says

Shayna Garlick Shayna Garlick Profile: Shayna Garlick

Over recent months, U.S. banks and financial institutions have been exhausted of funds, faced with toxic assets and tremendous debt, and blamed for this seemingly insurmountable current economic crisis.

But this may be good news for Oracle.

We’ve already seen how the down economy has opened for doors for Oracle in terms of software-as-a-service (SaaS) and acquisitions, and now it seems like domination of another market — risk management — is in the software giant’s reach.

Following in SAP’s footsteps, Oracle announced Tuesday the release of two new risk management applications, Oracle Reveleus ICAAP Analytics and Oracle Reveleus ICAAP Assessments. According to Oracle’s press release, these tools will “help financial institutions comply with the Internal Capital Adequacy Assessment Process (ICAAP) requirements.”

According to S. Ramakrishnan, CEO of Oracle’s Reveleus and Mantas financial software units, the new applications will provide institutions with a “holistic, enterprise-wide view of risk and capital management while simultaneously helping to achieve mandated regulatory compliance.”

Oracle Reveleus ICAAP capabilities include capital planning, risk assessment and monitoring, and pre-configured and integrated economic capital models for credit, market and operational risks.

But do banks really want to spend on new technology when in so much debt?

This may be a special case where the answer is yes, at least according to Oracle executives. In the Insurance Networking News article, Ramakrishnan says that risk management is critical for survival in the market’s current state. Others also point out that banks are facing pressure from outside sources — such as shareholders, investors, boards and examiners — and risk management applications are necessary in providing these sources with the information they demand.

Oracle also has its own reasons for spending in a tough economy. ZDNet blogger Brian Sommer discusses a recent Oracle show he attended where the keynote speaker made a case for IT spending in a recession. However, Somner was wary of some of the speaker’s main points, such as how cutting an IT budget can have a small effect on a company’s total revenue, and investing during a recession can mean having an advantage when the recession is over.

Somner had another idea in mind:

“What I was really hoping for was that Oracle would have announced a different strategy for coping with a (big) recession: lower cost solutions from Oracle.”

February 6, 2009  3:19 PM

Welcome to our new blog location on IT Knowledge Exchange

Shayna Garlick Shayna Garlick Profile: Shayna Garlick

I’d like to take a moment to introduce you to some of our new blog features and also some of the features on IT Knowledge Exchange.

Instead of a long list of categories, we now have a Tag Cloud. Click any topic in the Tag Cloud and you’ll see only posts on that topic. The Tag Cloud is dynamic, so the more a tag is used, the larger and darker it will appear. This helps you quickly see the most popular topics.

You’ll also notice we’ve integrated more of our related editorial content in the right sidebar. If you’re on a post about a specific topic and wish to know more after reading the post, be sure to browse the links in the right sidebar.

We always appreciate your sharing our content on social networking sites and we’ve increased the number of bookmarking tools from four to forty-three. If you enjoy a post, please be sure to share it with friends and colleagues.

Look near the top of the page and you’ll see a row of tabs. You can click the IT Blogs tab to find dozens of technology blogs, both user-generated and TechTarget editorial blogs. You can even request your own blog and start sharing your expertise with your peers.

There is also a tab labeled IT Answers. This is where you can ask your own IT question and have it seen by thousands of IT Knowledge Exchange members. So be sure to pose your own Oracle question, browse thousands of Oracle answers or help out a fellow IT pro by answering a question.

Thank you for stopping by and be sure to bookmark our new blog location and visit the Oracle section on IT Knowledge Exchange.

February 4, 2009  10:51 AM

Should Oracle negotiate its nonnegotiable maintenance fee?

Shayna Garlick Shayna Garlick Profile: Shayna Garlick

Oracle software purchases carry with them a host of options and choices for buyers — cloud computing and SaaS, choosing between multiple applications that serve the same purpose, and a never-ending list of updates and upgrades. 

There is, however, one thing that never changes.

That is Oracle’s 22% annual maintenance fee, a nonnegotiable fee that Oracle president Charles Phillips describes the company as being “sticklers” on in this Information Week article.

But is it time for Oracle to rethink its policy?

That’s what some experts are thinking, especially as the economy continues to fall and more organizations are trying to save money and  turning to third-party support.  One such expert is Information Week’s Bob Evans, who wrote an “open letter” to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison explaining why Oracle needs to change its ways. 

Evans made some interesting points in his plea to Ellison. First, he says that even if Oracle doesn’t change the fee structure, it should at least change its name, since Oracle has admitted that the fees are actually used for product development rather than maintenance. 

He also asks Ellison to move away from his traditional, rigid maintenance fee system in these changing times — because if not, it will hurt Oracle in the future:

“The longer you dig in and tell CIOs that you’re not interested in the wicked expense challenges they’re facing, the longer they’re going to remember that when the current recessionary climate fades and new alternatives gain strength,” Evans writes.

At such a high price, how does Oracle maintenance even rate among its customers? One user quoted in the Information Week article, the CIO of Santa Fe Natural Tobacco, complains of poor and slow service from Oracle’s global support center. But just a couple of months ago, Oracle support received high marks in a UK Oracle Users Group survey.

Oracle isn’t the only company with high maintenance fees. SAP recently announced that it will increase the fees for SAP Basic Support customers — who currently pay 17% of net licensing fees – to 22% by 2012, right in line with Oracle. But according to Forrester analyst Ray Wang, with SAP you’ll actually be getting more when paying more, unlike its competitors.

Are you getting what you pay for from Oracle maintenance fees?

January 28, 2009  9:37 AM

Oracle integrates J.D. Edwards, CRM On Demand, gets closer to Fusion

Shayna Garlick Shayna Garlick Profile: Shayna Garlick

Oracle CRM users have much to look forward to with the new release of Oracle CRM On Demand, including an unlimited number of custom objects, a single-tenancy option and a disaster recovery service.

But another group of customers may have reason to be excited as well.

J.D. Edwards users will finally see their software integrated with Oracle’s, just four years after the PeopleSoft acquisition. As part of the latest Oracle CRM on Demand release, users will soon have the prepackaged integration with J.D. Edwards EnterpriseOne.

Will J.D. Edwards users really want that integration?

 J.D. Edwards users have had mixed views about Fusion applications; however, many of the uncertainties had to do with the fact that most of the Fusion apps’ functionalities were simply unknown.

But now, many of these unknowns are becoming a reality, starting with Oracle’s CRM Fusion products.  The first Fusion application — Oracle Sales Prospector, “a new social CRM application designed to enhance CRM and the productivity of sales professionals” — was previewed back in June.

Also, earlier this month, Oracle senior vice president and Fusion development head Thomas Kurian told Information Week that 450 customers will soon begin to test an early version of the Fusion application suite that is near completion. Kurian also said that Oracle will release a beta version of the application suite this year. The final version — which, as planned, combines the best features of applications like Siebel, J.D. Edwards and E-Business Suite – will be offered both as a full product suite and as individual applications.

If you are a J.D. Edwards (or Siebel or PeopleSoft) user, do you plan to migrate to Fusion applications? Why or why not? Has your strategy changed over the past few years? What are the major factors influencing your decision? Would you prefer to purchase the whole suite or just pick and choose applications?

January 19, 2009  10:35 PM

SOA in ‘09: Dead, alive or in search of new meaning?

Shayna Garlick Shayna Garlick Profile: Shayna Garlick

January 1, 2009 could be considered a big day in the Oracle world — a fresh start, new year and the chance to start practicing your Oracle New Year’s resolutions, whether they be to focus on cloud computing, open source projects or virtualization.

But according to the Burton Group’s Anne Thomas Manes, there’s one thing you should keep off your resolution list this year. In fact, if you ask Manes, she has a whole new take on what Jan.1 marks:

The demise of SOA (service-oriented architecture).

In her recent blog post, “SOA is Dead, Long Live Services,” Manes writes that a recent downfall of SOA is a result of it being “wiped out by the catastrophic impact of the economic recession.”

But is there any truth to this?

While some of Manes’ readers agree with her, many others are skeptical. One commenter writes:

“It’s my feeling that a hurting economy will actually drive MORE adoption of SOA principles across an enterprise, not less… if your budget has been slashed (or will be slashed)… then I suggest that you MUST consider moving, albeit in a measured approach, towards knocking down the vertical application stovepipes and towards an SOA approach.”

Last spring — well before the start of the economic recession — SearchOracle.com surveyed nearly 500 readers about the priorities and challenges in their organizations. One of the questions asked about the readers’ SOA plans for 2008. An overwhelming majority (68%) said they either didn’t have or didn’t know their 2008 SOA plans, with the rest citing plans to implement SOA within the next three years.

Economy aside, it seems that SOA — or at least its meaning — is in a state of uncertainty. Manes goes on to say that the “great failed experiment” is “survived by its offspring: mashups, BPM, SaaS, Cloud Computing, and all other architectural approaches that depend on ‘services.'”

What do others think? Here are some more notable theories:

  • Dhananjay Nene, in his post SOA ain’t dead but it certainly is transforming, disagrees with Manes’ idea that rearchitecture is required for successful SOA. The software engineer says that SOA has “never been healthier” and is just going through a transformation that includes less enterprise control, vendor-driven hype and top down approaches.
  • Many just see this controversy as confusion or disagreement about what the term “SOA” actually means. Jack Vaughan of SearchSOA.com points out that Manes essentially said that “services are good; it’s just SOA that as a term is bad,” but that point seemed to be lost. Vaughan goes on to say: “There is a lot in a word, and SOA is not a bad one. It’s everyone’s job to build good apps and good integrations. If you feel like discarding SOA as a buzz word, go for it – no need to ‘kill’ it.”

And it sounds like Oracle is doing something right when it comes to SOA technology — whether built or bought, Oracle technology  was just positioned as a leader in three new Gartner Magic Quadrants, including Application Infrastructure for SOA Composite Application Projects and New Systematic SOA Application Projects.

What do you think of the term “SOA”? What are your SOA plans for 2009? Even if you aren’t planning for an SOA anytime soon, are you considering it in the long term? Is your organization taking any baby steps by buying products that are SOA-enabled or running any pilots? Or do you think that SOA is dead — or was never “alive” at all? Let us know what you think.

January 13, 2009  10:54 PM

Are Oracle’s Critical Patch Updates really that critical?

Shayna Garlick Shayna Garlick Profile: Shayna Garlick

You most likely saw some of Tuesday’s pressing headlines about Oracle’s latest Critical Patch Update, such as “Oracle planning Patch Tuesday whopper” and “Oracle plans massive update for Tuesday.”

But just how massive — and critical — are these patches, really?

It’s a question that’s been asked before but certainly deserves to be asked again, especially as Oracle continues to grow, acquire more companies and products, and in turn, find more security vulnerabilities

This Critical Patch Update has 41 security fixes. These include fixes for vulnerabilities in products ranging from Oracle 9i to Oracle 11g, including the former BEA WebLogic Server and Portal, Oracle E-Business Suite, Oracle Application Server and JD Edwards Tools. Oracle also recently had a problem with its Cluster Ready Services, spurred by a change in the world’s time standard to adjust for the slowing of the earth’s rotation.

This “Patch Tuesday whopper,” however, seems relatively modest compared to previous patches, such as the 101 fixes in October 2006, and definitely equivalent to recent updates like the 36 fixes just three months ago.

With all these patches also comes the question: Should you apply them?

According to Oracle, yes. In its prerelease announcement to customers this month, “Oracle strongly recommends that customers apply fixes as soon as possible.”

But many DBAs and Oracle experts think differently. When we asked the question last year to see just how much DBAs really care about Oracle’s latest Critical Patch Update, many responses were consistent with a survey that found two-thirds of Oracle users never install the critical patches.

One concern is that while these patches are meant to fix problems, they can also cause some of their own. Oracle expert Don Burleson addressed this just a couple of months ago, when an Oracle user asked him for advice on when and how to apply Oracle Critical Patch Updates.

Burleson’s advice?

“You DON’T have to apply patches, and sometimes patches can CAUSE unplanned issues.  The best practices are always to conduct a full stress in a TEST environment before applying the patches in production… I wait for major releases and re-install at-once, and I only look at patches to fix specific issues.”

What’s your approach with Oracle’s patch updates? Are they worth the time and effort? Have your experiences with these patches changed at all in the last year, or are they still the bane of your existence?   

January 6, 2009  8:03 PM

What’s your New Year’s Oracle resolution?

Shayna Garlick Shayna Garlick Profile: Shayna Garlick

Cloud computing, OBIEE, Oracle certifications, security, middleware or open source projects….on what should you focus your Oracle-related efforts in 2009?

It’s a question that many Oracle customers are asking now, as a new year often means time for a new or revised Oracle strategy. SearchOracle.com recently talked to some Oracle industry analysts for tips on crafting such a plan, and the experts’ suggestions included putting security, automation and middleware decisions at the top of your New Year’s resolutions list.    

These lists have already begun showing up in the blogosphere. So, what are some Oracle gurus resolving to do in 2009?

Database developer Chet Justice has four resolutions for the new year: Go the entire year without losing his job, become proficient in OBIEE, build a PL/SQL test harness and contribute something tangible to the Oracle community.

Dan McGhan, however, has different goals, which include becoming an Oracle 11g Database Administrator Certified Associate and completing a new open source project after a previously failed attempt. 

Michael Sheehan of XML journal thinks this is an important year to focus on cloud computing. He offers his own suggestions, including taking some time to both understand what it is and research different cloud computing providers.

Your Oracle New Year’s resolutions obviously depend on your own job and experiences. However, whether or not you accomplish your resolutions also depends on what Oracle accomplishes this year.

For example, Senior Analyst Chris Wolf came up with a New Year’s resolution not for himself, but for Oracle. Wolf thinks 2009 is the time for the software vendor to “publicly define official support and offer virtual CPU-based licensing for all prominent x86 virtualization environments.”

We’ll be posting a story later this week on what some other users have outlined as their goals for 2009. What do you think Oracle should resolve to do in 2009? What are your own Oracle-related resolutions for the new year and how do you plan to accomplish them?

December 22, 2008  8:40 PM

Larry Ellison speaks 2008

Shayna Garlick Shayna Garlick Profile: Shayna Garlick

If there’s one thing that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is known for, it’s his willingness to share what’s on his mind.

The last time we looked at some of Ellison’s most quotable moments, we found he was candid on everything from business to parenting to being filthy rich.  And since 2008 was such an eventful year for Oracle, one can only imagine what the always entertaining Ellison had to say about the unveiling of Exadata,  Oracle’s leap into cloud computing and the rest of the software giant’s 2008 happenings. Here’s a look back at some memorable Ellison quotes from the past 12 months:

-“The customer will be de-installing Salesforce and replacing it with Oracle Sales on Demand, so we’re very excited about that.” –Ellison shows his confidence on a new cloud computing deal that he thinks will put Oracle on top of Salesforce.com.

-“This holds a lot of songs. It’s 1,400 times larger than Apple’s largest iPod.” –Ellison jokes about the size of Oracle’s new Database Machine at Oracle OpenWorld.

-“I don’t understand what we’ll do differently in light of cloud computing, other than change the wording on some of our ads.” –Ellison on the new cloud computing “fad.”

-“They are copying us. Others would be foolish not to try.” –Ellison on why Microsoft and other software companies are turning to acquisitions as a growth strategy.

-“We loaned them half a machine each instead of a whole machine because we’re really cheap.” –Ellison on the beta versions of the Exadata machines that Oracle offered early to some customers.

-“It’s crazy to say you will only grow through innovation. It’s bizarre that there’s a stigma to buying something rather than building it yourself.” –Ellison on why he sees nothing wrong with hostile takeovers.

-“The computer industry is the only industry that’s more fashion-driven than women’s fashion. I remember I was reading W — the fashion magazine — and I found out that orange is the new pink… We’ll make cloud computing announcements because if orange is the new pink, we’ll make orange blouses. I’m not going to fight this thing.”  –Ellison continues to deride cloud computing (and admits he reads women’s fashion magazines?)

-“We’ve redefined cloud computing to include everything that we already do. I can’t think of anything that isn’t cloud computing with all of these announcements. The computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women’s fashion. Maybe I’m an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? It’s complete gibberish. It’s insane. When is this idiocy going to stop?” –Just one more of the many notable excerpts from Ellison’s anti-cloud computing rant.

There’s also one that couldn’t make the list, as there was no direct quote, but certainly deserves a mention. Last March, Ellison “bagged a $3 million tax break after arguing that his flamboyant Japanese-style estate in Woodside is functionally obsolete.” For Ellison to argue that he and his 23-acre, 8,000-square-foot estate deserves a tax break more than San Mateo schools need funds — and win — there must have been some pretty good quotes in there, right? 

Let’s see if he can outdo himself in 2009.

December 16, 2008  8:52 PM

A small victory for SAP or another big win for Oracle?

Shayna Garlick Shayna Garlick Profile: Shayna Garlick

Every time we hear news come out of the infamous TomorrowNow lawsuit, it seems like SAP has found itself in even more trouble (or at least accused of it) than before.

Is this time — after SAP tried to get part of rival Oracle’s lawsuit against it dropped — any different?

It doesn’t seem that way, although one might argue that any win for a company who has been accused of “massive illegal downloading,” and “corporate theft on a grand scale,” could be considered at least a small victory.

On Monday, a U.S. court upheld an SAP motion that two Oracle entities did not have the right to sue for copyright infringement. That could be significant; however, the court also ruled against SAP in all of its other claims. According to Reuters, this means that Oracle still has the right to sue for the majority of their claims, a couple of which include:

  • Breach of contract: The court ruled against SAP’s argument that TommorowNow employees were not party to the contracts relating to customer terms of when downloading support materials. ‘”Clickwrap agreements” — where the online user clicks “I Agree” before continuing to password-protected areas of a Website — had been found enforceable by many courts,” the court ruled.
  • Unjust enrichment and restitution: “[The court] also rejected SAP’s argument that Oracle’s claim of unjust enrichment should be rejected as not being a legally proper claim.”

SAP responded that they were disappointed in the outcome, but “look forward to working with the court to achieve the proper resolution of this case.”

Just when that will be is still indefinite. SAP is set to respond to Oracle’s latest amended complaint by Dec. 30, and Oracle is scheduled to give a settlement price by Feb. 13 (SAP then has five days to respond).

In other recent news about the lawsuit (and again, not favorable for SAP), a recent court filing shows that SAP co-CEO Henning Kagermann was allegedly once concerned about the legal implications of buying TomorrowNow.

Whatever SAP thinks the “proper resolution,” to the case is, it seems like they have a long way to go if they want to reach it.

December 10, 2008  10:21 AM

Oracle could get serious about SaaS in a recession

Shayna Garlick Shayna Garlick Profile: Shayna Garlick

As the economy continues to fall into recession, we’ve already examined ways in which it may affect both the Web 2.0 business and Oracle’s acquisition strategy.

But now, another question is emerging, this time about an industry that has already been publicly denounced by Oracle head Larry Ellison and predicted to “collapse” by Lawson Software CEO Harry Debes.

Maybe Ellison and Debes should take a closer look — could our current economic state actually be beneficial to big-business software-as-a-service (SaaS)?

That’s what some experts are predicting. While the down economy may make businesses reluctant to commit to SaaS in the short term, the recession will probably be good for SaaS (especially for the larger, publicly-owned software vendors) in the long term, according to this Mercury News article, Economic crisis both a threat and an opportunity to SaaS.

The article also foresees a possible SaaS “shakeout,” where the smaller, sub-$20 million revenue companies will have a hard time surviving, and the big names like NetSuite and Salesforce.com will come out on top.

How does Oracle fit into all this?

Just because it doesn’t have a clear-cut SaaS strategy and doesn’t focus on SaaS like NetSuite or Salesforce, doesn’t mean it’s not a player in the market.

First of all, Ellison owns a majority stake in NetSuite. Second of all, the software giant itself can pose a threat to even the top SaaS companies. In today’s Information Week article, Salesforce CEO Benioff Sinks Teeth Into Non-SaaS Rivals, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff says that out of his company’s big application rivals (SAP, Oracle and Microsoft), he thinks Oracle will pose the biggest threat as a SaaS provider.

“‘When you see [Larry Ellison] coming out so strongly against cloud computing, you know he’s worried,’ Benioff said, noting that Ellison is a student of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War — when weak, feign strength,” according to the Information Week article. “It’s also worth noting that Ellison, Benioff’s former boss at Oracle, owns a chunk of Salesforce, so Benioff isn’t so quick to slag off his former master as he is to diss Microsoft and SAP,” the article continued.

Oracle may be seen as a threat, but is what they offer really SaaS? According to Information Week‘s Mary Hayes Weier, “sort of.”  It’s a tough question, because, as Weier points out, the definition of software-as-a-service remains somewhat ambiguous.

It seems as though Oracle wants to be a player in the SaaS market, but not at the expense of having to change its profitable structure — which includes license and maintenance fees. As Weier puts it, Oracle has no plans to “mess with the cash cow,” and wants to stay in the software business, being the “go-to infrastructure vendor for software companies providing SaaS to their customers.”   

SaaS has recently been an area of innovation for many smaller companies, but in this economy, it looks like Oracle — which has laid rather low in the industry thus far — and the other big names might still come out on top.   

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