Archive for June 2013

Oracle Group Hugs Microsoft, Salesforce.com, and Netsuite

This week Oracle announced three partnerships with rival software companies.  The announcements were not with small hot start ups or someone in an adjacent market segment, if such a thing exists for Oracle  These were bitter rivals, companies that have traditionally gone for each other’s jugular veins in the market. It has been a long time since we saw this kind of group hug in the software industry.

The first announcement was the Oracle-Microsoft match-up. This “enterprise partnership” facilitates the placing of the entire Oracle development stack, including Java, Oracle Database, Oracle’s flavor of Linux, and Oracle WebLogic Server, on Microsoft’s Azure IaaS cloud as well as Microsoft Hyper-V. A partnership to run Microsoft software on Oracle hardware would not surprise anyone. This agreement, however, amounts to running Oracle software on Microsoft virtual hardware.

It’s not really that weird that Oracle and Microsoft should want to support each other in this manner. Each company promotes rival developer camps. There is the Java-MySql/Oracle Database group and the .Net-SQL Server community. Development shops tend to fall into one category or another. There’s too much to know about one stack or another for a developer to switch between them effectively. For Microsoft, this is an opportunity to capture the Java camp to Azure. For Oracle, it’s a bit murky since they have their own cloud offering which already supports the entire Oracle Fusion stack. Of course, that is a relatively recent offering. The Microsoft deal helps to ensure that Java developers who already gone to Azure don’t decamp to .Net. As cloud computing has made moving between stacks a relatively easy thing to do, it benefits Oracle to not abandon Java developers who are using the Azure cloud.

The second partnership was more startling by far. In the past, Oracle has seemed to treat Salesforce.com as the devil, often calling them out specifically at events such as Oracle OpenWorld. Salesforce.com’s attitudes have been similar despite the love they seem to be showing now. Listening to Larry Ellison and Marc Benioff now praise each other in social media and on a conference call is mildly amusing. To have them announce a 9 year deal which includes Salesforce.com using Oracle’s Linux, Database, and Exadata engineered systems was inconceivable just little while ago. Even if Salesforce.com was already using Oracle hardware and software under the covers (as they have been) it was unimaginable that they would promote that fact. Integrating Salesforce.com’s flagship CRM applications with Oracle’s HCM and Financial cloud applications is truly interesting, given that each competes directly with the other in CRM and Marketing cloud applications.Meanwhile Salesforce.com has seemingly dipped its toes in the HCM lake with the Work.com sales performance management application. Given the overlap between the product lines and past rhetoric, the announcement that Oracle will use Salesforce.com’s CRM applications is positively mind-blowing.

The Oracle-Salesforce.com matchup shows how much the world of applications has changed. As more line-of-business managers heavily influence or outright purchase applications through a subscription, loyalty to a tech company is getting harder to come by. The idea of being an Oracle, Microsoft, SAP, Salesforce.com or anything shop is not as strong as it once was. Instead, companies are purchasing applications that fit their needs and that have a user experience that works for their employees, often at a departmental or divisional level. It’s becoming a mix-and-match world and both Oracle and Salesforce.com are wise not to fight it. Or as Larry Ellison put it “Customers like choices.” You bet they do and this is what is driving this love fest.

The final agreement pretty much supports this notion. Actually a three way between Netsuite, Oracle and Deloitte, the “alliance” is designed to support integrated, mid-market, cloud  solutions using Oracle HCM and Netsuite ERP. An interesting piece of the messaging is how this is good for larger organizations that may be using Oracle products at the corporate level but NetSuite ERP at the subsidiary level. Again, cloud software makes it easy for these subsidiaries to choose their own solutions with or without corporate IT approval. Once in place, it’s very hard to get a subsidiary or even department to change without disruption to the business.

The three agreements that Oracle announced with their rivals this week confirm that the enterprise business applications market has changed dramatically. Wooing an IT department to use only one vendor’s applications, no matter the advantage of having one throat to choke, is a losing strategy. Playing nice with rivals in order to provide a customer the solution set it desires is a better mode of operation. These companies seem to get it, which bodes well for them in the future.

Connecting People not Data

One of the chief challenges for teams that cut across several functional silos is sharing information. Often, information is created and held in one system of record, accessible to members of one silo, but needed in a different one. Typically IT departments have to build some kind of bridge for the data so what is created in one place can be used in another.
There are a lot of techniques for accomplishing data level integration. Creating a separate database to hold duplicate, shared, data, extending the database schemes of multiple systems to create cross reference tables, and using APIs or database queries from one system to another’s database to display the data are just a few ways that IT makes data available that is stored from one system to another one that needs it.
All of these techniques have two things in common. They require IT to build an extension to the system of record – basically to modify the standard system – which is expensive to build and maintain. It’s also inflexible since it relies on known information sharing needs. If a new set set of data sharing requirements pops up, IT has to build something new and, until they do so, knowledge workers can’t share like they should.
Social platforms take a different approach. When these social tool sets are available within the company’s systems of record, interactions including data sharing can occur without integrating the actual data. Anyone engaged in the cross-functional activity can ask for important information and have someone with access to it, provide the data on an as-needed basis. It’s often not necessary that the raw data be shared so much as aggregated information that one functional unit has access to.
By connecting through people rather than data, cross-functional teams can get the information they need from team members with access to it without the expense of integration. This approach allows team members to make on the fly decisions as to whether others should see certain data rather than having to adhere to ridged rules. Otherwise, similar interactions will happen in email where the information can go in an unintended direction. Social platforms, when integrated into a system of record, help maintain a record of these interchanges available from within the system of record, unlike email which lives outside the system of record.
Shipping or integrated data between systems is a rigid, command and control method, a blunt tool. Social platforms are a more flexible and responsive way of achieving the same goal – sharing critical information.