Whoa! Talk about trying to spread FUD

A colleague of mine forwarded me this Sun blog post by Paul Walker commenting on the rise of Oracle IAM to leadership status. I read it with some amusement, as I remembered my days at Thor when I, a hard-working serf in a startup, would rail (in private, as I didn't have a blog back then) against the big bad companies (Sun, HP, IBM) that would try to muscle us out of deals on viability, after we had painstakingly won the technical evaluation. My colleague, who works on the Oracle Pre-Sales team, must be wondering why he has to work so hard on POCs if Oracle can just get all these deals by giving away the software or making backroom deals.

The post is grossly inaccurate on several counts. For one, Oracle IdM wouldn't be experiencing the phenomenal growth it is if we were giving away the software for free (a dirty word in many quarters). Paul also says "Every day of every week we go head-to-head with Oracle and we neverĀ  loose technically". Really, never? That's a bit of an overstatement, isn't it? I have personally been involved in quite a few deals where we (as Thor and later Oracle) won the technical evaluation. And Sun was always part of the competition. Paul thinks that "when it comes to Identity Management they (Oracle) certainly have an advantage in that they own the back-end". If owning the back-end were such an advantage, Microsoft would rule the roost because of AD (uh oh, I'm not starting that whole fracas again), and we would have won no deals as Thor.

Sun has always been our strongest competition in the provisioning space (back since they were just Waveset), and it was always a healthy competition, which is why such a post surprises me. They have a very good product, just like a few other vendors, and each product brings something different to the table, which means that the customers that bought them usually did so because they were a better fit for their needs.

Being big bad Oracle can be an asset in some deals, but it can also be a disadvantage. On a few occasions I have tasted the bitter pill of not getting the deal despite the evaluation win for business/political reasons, a reality that every company has to deal with no matter how big or small they are. But by and large. most enterprises work very hard to try and make the right choice of vendor based on who solves their problems, not backroom politics or a difference in dollar amount. IdM is just too complex to cripple yourself further with bad decisions made for petty reasons. Oracle, Sun and every other IdM vendor is competing in a congested market where the winning formula is value proposition and customer satisfaction. Boutique vendors wouldn't survive, even thrive, in this market if that were not the case. HP would not have exited the market if this wasn't true.

But the post did remind me of something that I do want to touch on, and would definitely play to Oracle's position in the space - the many customers that are looking for deeper integration between ERP and IdM. I'll touch on this in a later post.

I Work for Large company

Comments:

Hi Nishant, Thanks for your comment, please allow me to defend myself a little ! It's no surprise that Oracle often have software deployed at customers and so have a better board room relationship and without going into pricing Identity is often used as the sugar bait for other deals, this is no surprise and is business as usual in any case. Concerning your comment about Microsoft owning the back end, Microsoft are no big player when it comes to Identity integration, not in the circles that we work in anyway, their product has recently come through a facelift but it's still a weak player in the ring. Owning Active Directory gives them little advantage (at the moment I might add) I just don't see them able to solve the customer problems that Oracle and Sun can, it plays in a different league. Having worked in Identity Management for over 15 years I can't remember one large deal we lost where Microsoft where a big player. We never loose the presales POC technically, we might loose the occasional use-case but not the fight. I'm constantly up against our biggest and most competitive foe, Oracle. When I see articles that state all the vendors in Identity, except Sun, that gets my back up, sorry about that!

Posted by Paul Walker on August 04, 2008 at 06:07 PM EDT #

Comment left on Paul's blog. Paul, I will not comment about all the details as I think you defend your church which is somehow normal. But I agree with you on one fact. It's in my opinion, correct to say that it's an clear advantage to "own" the applications like HR or CRM at a customer. Why : As an Application vendor you re best positioned to help the customer and understand his needs and challenges because you are also working with your customer on key business processes, organizational or relation structure, or Compliance or Risk Management for example. Your application are often also the source of identity. These are all topics that are key in a identity management project. And it's why I think Oracle has a unique position on the market on top o their excellent products... And ho by the way, last time I lost against SUN it's because they gave the software for free in a hardware deal ;-)

Posted by Chris on August 04, 2008 at 06:59 PM EDT #

Paul, My real issue is with your insistence on sticking with the "never losing a POC technically" statement. It puts down our product in no uncertain terms, and I cannot take that lying down. You seriously mean to tell me that every deal that we ever won (as Thor and later Oracle), we won after losing the technical evaluation? That is simply absurd, and one that I personally know is patently wrong. Not to mention that if it were remotely true then it would reflect poorly on the execution capability of your sales team, which I also happen to know can't be true as I have some good friends there. And not being able to complete a use case is considered a technical loss. Nishant

Posted by Nishant Kaushik on August 05, 2008 at 05:07 AM EDT #

Nishant, I'm glad that you brought this to my attention. I tried to comment on Paul's rant, and the comments were closed. I wonder why that would be? Did someone from Sun really accuse us of giving software away? Certainly we do have the advantages he speaks of in the application space, which is why I joined Oracle. In fact, the only time we lose to Sun anymore is either because of the perception of their software being "free," or their salespeople giving it away with a hardware purchase. Paul should look in the mirror. Sun has a fine provisioning product, but we have an excellent track record of beating them in technical bake-offs, and I look forward to continuing to compete with them in fair competition, rather than this silly perception game. Kevin

Posted by Nishant on August 10, 2008 at 02:49 AM EDT #

Nishant, Paul, Nothing like a bit of vendor-and-vendor competition going on :) Having evaluated, and also implemented, Waveset & Thor both under their previous and current ownership, I can see both sides of the "discussion" that is ongoing. In my opinion, both products are the best in the industry. However they are both at the opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of information architecture - one goes for the "pointer/meta" approach, whereas the other goes for the centralised-copy-and-reconcile approach. Both are good approaches, but to be honest the difference between them isn't much, and not something that can't be got around through configuration. But at the end of the day, its what meets the customer's needs and their own enterprise architecture is what makes the choice. Being "big bad" Oracle doesn't help in all cases, indeed in a number of cases it can be more than a hinderence! Both vendors have the ability to "bundle" or "give away" their IdM suite with software or hardware, so I think both sides are "pots calling the kettle black" in this case. Both products are a lot weaker than what customers expect in full out-of-the-box ERP integration (this is also true for the whole industry). This is somethiing they need to improve on. We had the same issue with Roles a few years ago- now all the vendors have improved their in-built support, and also acquired/extended with pure-play Role Management product sets. So I assume that the same will occur for integration *within* ERP systems and not just *to* ERP systems - competition is healthy regardless! Kind Regards Simon

Posted by Simon on September 15, 2008 at 11:50 AM EDT #

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