Observations from the Oracle Open World 2009 Applications Keynote

It's been a busy conference, that's for sure.  On Monday I spent a fair amount of time both in keynotes and in the exhibition halls.  By the way, there are two exhibition halls; if you're like me and think that JavaOne is a large conference with "only" one enormous exhibition hall being enough to satisfy the vendors and attendees, well you haven't been to Oracle Open World.  Two exhibition halls in two different Moscone Center buildings is almost overwhelming.

Anyway.

The morning keynote session with Safra Catz and Charles Phillips was pretty straightforward; I wouldn't say the keynotes were inspiring, but they did move along smoothly and delivered their business messages crisply.  The demos all went perfectly which is also something I can't say about JavaOne in the past couple of years (man, it hurts to write that).

I've never seen Andy Mendelsohn speak in person but I did on Monday, watching his keynote about new features in the Oracle database 11g.  He did fine, the features seem interesting if you're a DB guy (which I am not, but I got the point of the features being discussed), and Andy seems like an uber-nerd.  I mean that as a compliment; I think Sun people would have an easy time adjusting to him.

The last keynote of the day was Steve Miranda's keynote about applications; to be clear, the focus was on the Oracle E-Business Suite ("E-Biz"), PeopleSoft, and Siebel CRM.  Here are the two main things I observed about that keynote's content:

  1. Miranda had a slide that mentioned PeopleSoft's latest release, and he made it extremely clear that this is the third release since PeopleSoft was acquired, and that thousands of features had been added.  The message: we are not killing off PeopleSoft, customers.  You like it?  We have continued to invest heavily in it.  I find it interesting that almost five years after the acquisition, Oracle is still emphasizing that PeopleSoft is still a viable entity; I wonder if this is still a customer concern?  In any case, it is a positive message for customers, and Miranda made sure his customers got the point.
  2. There is a component that I should learn more about, called "AIA" (Oracle Application Integration Architecture).  There was a slide that showed how Oracle's Analytics product (the former Siebel Analytics product) can be used to run decision-making analysis on data from the following applications: Siebel, PeopleSoft, E-Biz, SAP (yes, that's right: SAP), JD Edwards.  There was a component in the middle that took the data from these apps and did something to it to make it all look the same to Analytics, essentially.  That component in the middle is AIA.

Here is why I think this AIA thing is important to learn about.  Several years ago when I managed Sun's engineering relationship with Siebel, I remember a series of conversations with the Siebel Analytics business unit where they told us that their focus on Siebel Analytics was to "democratize" analytics; up to that point with everybody's analytics products, anybody in an enterprise used the CRM tool (think customer service rep at an AT&T Wireless store), but only a minority used the decision-making analytics packages. Siebel wanted to push decision-making power down the chain.  You can also think of analytics software as higher in the stack than the standard CRM / ERP software: you're taking the CRM and ERP data, looking at it, and making decisions about your enterprise based on it.

If AIA really can ingest data from SAP, then this is a smart strategy by Oracle to gain control over SAP in SAP accounts.  Suddenly, to the customer it doesn't matter so much what application is running under your analytics: the high-value activity is your decision-making activity (i.e., analytics), so who cares about whether it's SAP or E-Biz or JD Edwards that is feeding the ERP data into the analytics package?  SAP just became a lot less important.

So, I think it's important to learn more about AIA.  If it really can talk to all of these applications, it's a key component to the future integration of Oracle's application properties, and it's also an SAP take-out tool.


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