Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Oracle decides that integration is a good thing, after all

I'm spending some time at the Oracle AppsWorld conference in San Diego this week. One interesting development is Oracle's willingness to open up its application suite to integrate with other disparate systems. CEO Larry Ellison spent a lot of time on this subject in his keynote speech today. While other vendors, such as SAP and Siebel, have built integration technology into their offerings, responding to customer demands for such capabilities, Oracle has been somewhat of a hold out, choosing to emphasize the benefits of standardizing the entire business on a single enterprise suite, namely Oracle's.

Apparently Oracle has realized that few companies these days are prepared to undergo massive conversions to a single enterprise application suite. Even if a large company adopts such a strategy, it could be many years, perhaps more than a decade, before it is realized. Companies doing acquisitions every few years might never reach the goal. Therefore, as long as multiple systems are a reality, integration is a necessity. If Oracle does not provide integration tools, other vendors will.

In recognition of this market reality, Oracle is releasing something called the Customer Data Hub, to help companies pull information from multiple systems into one centralized place. Ellison likens the data hub to the large consumer credit databases that allow thousands of financial institutions to integrate their consumer credit data, even though they are on disparate systems. (Personally, having worked for one of the major credit data providers years ago, I think the analogy is weak. Consumer credit databases are more like gargantuan data warehouses, more like business intelligence applications, rather than data hubs allowing participant systems to interface with each other.)

Nevertheless, Oracle deserves credit for its new found interest in integration. But it has a lot of catching up to do. SAP has its Netweaver technology; Siebel has its Universal Application Network; IBM last year purchased Crossworlds, an early application integration vendor; and Microsoft has its Biztalk server, a lower end offering that addresses the same need.

CNET has a summary of Oracle's Customer Data Hub. A report on Ellison's keynote is here.

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