Saturday, June 20, 2009

The future of IT according to Oracle

On June, 17th I participated in an interesting oracle event: Oracle Day. The event took place near Tel-Aviv airport and its theme was: Building the Future.

Oracle's president Mrs. Safra Catz presented the company's vision. .

Two other senior Oracle managers presented Oracle G11 database and the company's CRM Software Strategy, (presented by a Senior Vice President who was a Siebel employee prior to its acquisition by Oracle). Afterwards concurrent tracks on various technological and applicative topics took place. I participated in the Fusion Middleware track.

Oracle's Vision

Mrs. Safra Catz used an analogy of buying a car vs. buying car parts and building it. As most of car consumers will not be able to build the cars the roads will be almost empty.

Oracle's view is that building and integrating IT systems is similar to building a car by a consumer. It takes a lot of time and resources. The weakest link is integration.

The Oracle alternative is a full solution including applications, infrastructure, build in integration and hardware (after completion Sun's acquisition).

The customers have the choice to use other infrastructure and application solutions (e.g. DB2, SQL Server databases).

The following highlights summarize her presentation:

  • IT solutions should be business driven and not Technology driven.

  • Oracle target market is large and medium Enterprises. The company's goal is to be a leader in three markets: Databases, Middleware and Applications.

  • Acquisitions are part of Oracle's strategy. It acquired successfully 57 companies. Sun acquisition is a natural acquisition. Solaris is the most frequently used Operating System for Oracle products.

  • Oracle launched together with HP Exadata Database machine. It is its first hardware and software combined product in the road towards a complete solution (as depicted in the car analogy).
  • Oracle moved from a collection of local branches to a global company i.e. unified products and unified service across the world. There is single global queue for service requests. The result is better and more efficient service which also reduce maintenance fees from 24% not including weekend (or 28% including weekends) to 22%.
  • The distinction between Oracle and its competitors:

No toys and Mice i.e. no solutions for home and SOHO users – Unlike Microsoft Oracle is focused on Large and medium enterprises.

No services of perpetual integration projects – Oracle does not have costly services such as IBM's IGS services its focus is on products which does not require much work to integrate

SAP market share of new licenses is decreasing significantly due to frequent strategy changes it changed it acquired Business Objects after announcing that it will not acquire companies, it stopped from focusing on small businesses – Unlike SAP, Oracle strategy and focus are steady i.e. Oracle choose the right strategy in contradiction to SAP.

Fusion Middleware Track

Fusion Middleware track includes presentations on BPM (previously BEA product), ESB (BEA product), BPEL (Oracle's product), new development environment (based on Oracle JDeveloper) and Content Management (previously Stellent product).

My Take on Oracle's vision presentation

  • The analogy of car manufacturing is not new to me. However, in the previous time it was used by one of the SOA vendors for a different purpose. The vendor described car parts as parts which were manufactured by niche companies. A company sells a part to all or most car manufacturers, so actually different car manufacturer share the same parts. Only some basic parts are manufactured by the car manufacturer itself. The analogy was used for demonstrating how assembly of services enables creation of an application and Reuse of service across enterprises. The difference between the SOA vendor's analogy and Mrs. Safra Catz's analogy is that in the latter one of the car manufacturers is buying the parts manufacturer.

Is it necessary that the single point of integration should own all the parts manufacturers? I am not sure that this is the optimal model.

I am not the only one. For example storage vendor like EMC buys disks from Quantum (more than 20% of the disks produced by Quantum), but does not acquire it.

The car manufacturing model, in which different manufacturers buy the same Best of Breed parts, looks like a better model for IT consumers in comparison to a one vendor lock in.

  • Are IT systems in a stage in which there is a limited need for non standard or proprietary systems and services? My opinion is different from Oracle's view: There is a long way to go until our IT systems reach that desirable state.

IT systems are in evolutionary process towards more standard systems or Services (SOA, SaaS etc.). The trend is for more Buy vs. less Build but usually IT systems are still a mix (including build of non-standard systems) and we also should not forget maintenance of existing systems. Due to the standardization process enterprises are gradually focused in building systems or processes which differentiate them from competitors, while gradually standardizing what is common.

  • Is the car analogy applicable to Software and Hardware combined or Software and Hardware separately? My opinion is that usually Hardware and Software are separated and will be for the future. There are dependencies but not synergy. A combined Hardware and Software is valuable for Appliance and for special purpose dedicated systems (e.g. Chess playing computers), but is not the best fit for agile and flexible complex systems.

  • Mrs. Katz presented Oracle advantages over Microsoft, IBM and SAP. My opinion about these vendors could be different, but discussing my opinion is beyond the scope of this post. As I already mentioned in a previous post titled: Will Microsoft survive until 2018? These vendors and Oracle are the four SOA Eco Systems that the probability that they will survive is very high. It looks like Oracle agrees with this opinion. As a result it defines them as its competition and therefore Mrs. Katz presented Oracle's advantages in comparison to Microsoft, IBM and SAP.

  • It is true that smoother Integration is a challenge. Expect for additional challenges in integration of Data Centers and External Clouds.

  • Oracle was and is a leader in the databases market. As far as market share in 2008 is concerned it is in second place in the Middleware market with about 15% (including Oracle and BEA). IBM share is more than 30% according to Gartner Group. SAP is still the market share leader in the Applications market followed by Oracle.

  • No more focus on Open Source. Linux was mentioned in a sentence about Solaris and Linux, MySQL was also mentioned. Eclipse was also mentioned in a presentation of the new development environment.
  • Acquisitions are necessary but challenging. I will discuss Acquisition in a future post.

MyTake on Oracle's SOA (mostly related to the Fusion Middleware track)

Oracle's BEA acquisition: SOA perspective – revisited again.

  • A ceremony of signing a distribution of SOA products and education contract between Oracle and Liam One1 (BEA's distributor in Israel) was celebrated during the conference.

It is additional evidence showing the dominance of BEA's products in Oracle's SOA solutions.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Blogging process: an iceberg example

In a previous post I used the analogy of an iceberg to describe processes in an enterprise. In this post I will illustrate it by a simple example.
The example is not about Enterprise processes. It describes a simpler single actor processes set: Writing a blog post such as this post.

As far as this post is concerned the scope is limited to professional blogging. Analyzing personal blogs or generalizing the analysis to all blogs types is beyond the scope of this post.

Blog Posting Process simplified
It looks like a very simple process composed of two steps:
  1. Writing a blog post
  2. Publishing a blog post
The writing step is composed of few activities: titling, writing, spell checking, adding hyperlinks and images etc.
Publishing looks like a one click activity.
Even in the simplistic description above, we missed one important activity: choosing a topic to write about. It is less formulated activity than the other activities, so it is easy to ignore it while analyzing this process.

The hidden parts
The significant hidden parts of the Blog Post Writing Process may be discovered if we will look for the purpose of writing a professional blog.

The purpose could be earning money from readers' clicks on advertisement or showing his expertise in order to open new business opportunities.
It could be a combination of the two purposes described above: earning money from readers' clicks and opening new business opportunities.

Whatever purpose is behind the blog writing process, maximizing the number of relevant readers is the means for achieving this purpose.

The Business Process of maximizing the relevant number of readers is included in the iceberg part below the waterline. This process is a lot more complex than the process of writing a blog post.
Publishing is not enough the blog writer may use some of the following internal methods for achieving that goal:
  1. Adding an RSS or Atom button
  2. Adding a followers list button
  3. Adding hyper links to external content such as books or articles he read, other's blogger's posts etc.
  4. Adding hyper links to other posts in the same blog
  5. Tags usage in order to include the blogs hyper link in search results.
  6. Readers' comments and discussing these comments.
Internal method in this context is a method of changing the blog's Web page.
Behind the cited above methods as well as behind other methods are hidden less formulated processes.
External processes and methods may supplement the internal processes and methods.

Examples for such external processes:
  1. Social networks notification – Notifying to your connections in Social Networks (Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter etc. No need to notify your Plaxo connections. Plaxo automatically uses RSS and includes it as part of weekly updates).
  2. Commenting on other blogs posts and adding an hyper link to your post
  3. Opening Group discussions in groups like Linkedin groups or Facebook groups. The number of members of such groups could be thousands; so many people will be alerted.
  4. Distributing to your personal distribution lists.
  5. I also add a short message to my e-nail messages including last post's title and hyper link.
As a result the simple one click publishing sub- process could become a complex process including a sequence of undocumented activities.

BI Process
This is another low visibility process.
It is not enough to publish a post and perform internal and external processes aimed at expanding the number of readers it also should be measured. Like in any other BPM implementation a Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) is required.
This process is a Business Intelligence (BI) like process: Producing reports and analyzing them. Google Adsense reports and optimization e-mail messages are the tools used for the reporting and analyzing process in Blogger.

However, different reports and activities could compose the BI Process.
The BAM like process is complemented by a Business Process Optimization (BPO) like process.
If needed, the blogger performs a process of optimization including activities such as template change, advertisement format and location change, Layout changes etc.

Even the simple Blog Posting Process, is not as simple as you imagine. Expect for many hidden under the waterline iceberg's parts in more complex enterprise processes.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The processes iceberg

The analogy between an iceberg and IT domains is a common analogy.

It describes an IT domain in which a little part is visible (above the water) and a bigger part is hidden (under the water).

This analogy may be useful for describing Enterprise Data.

Databases are clearly visible. Some Directories or Libraries as well as some stand alone disk files are also visible. The part behind the water mark is usually unstructured data, such as Web Pages, e-mail messages and attachments.

The Iceberg analogy was also used by SOA Software's CTO Brent Carlson for describing SOA: The actual projects are above the water, but more abstract architectural levels could be ignored because they are not visible.

This analogy came to my mind while reading an interesting Oracle White Paper titled:

Business Process Management, Service-Oriented Architecture, and Web 2.0: Business

Transformation or Train Wreck?

The White Paper included an article by Oralce's BPM specialist John Wylie describing Unformalized Collaborative Processes, which are not yet handled by traditional BPM tools. An example of Collaborative Process is a process including unformulated e-mail based activities, i.e. a Knowledge Worker is sending an e-mail message to another Knowledge Worker or workers as unformulated part of the process.

According to a survey of Oracle's customers in 2007, cited in that article 29% estimated that more than 75% of their processes involves collaborative activities among participants 26% opinion was that 50%-75% of their processes involves collaborative activities and 36% rated it at the 25%-50% range.

In summary the processes iceberg includes three basic levels:

1. Automated Processes – These processes are processes connecting systems or services. They are also called SOA Processes or BPEL Processes. Usually these processes are more visible than other processes, so they are the iceberg's part which is above the water line.

It should be noted that a major issue in implementing BPM is limited Visibility of these automated processes. In many cases these processes are not documented and it is difficult to find which applications are participating in the process, which departments perform tasks or sub processes included in that processes and which roles are participating in that processes. Therefore we may conclude that some of the automated processes are included in the hidden part of the iceberg.

2. 2. Human Processes – These processes were described by Jesse Shiah, Ascentn Corp's

President & Co-founder as 20% of cases usually consume 80% of resources.

I also referred to Human Processes complexities in a previous post titled BPEL for the People.

Processes of that kind are not as visible as automated processes and therefore are in a lower part of the

iceberg below the water mark.

3.Finally, The lower part of the processes iceberg is composed of the unstructured and undocumented

Processes described by Oralce's BPM specialist John Wylie's article.

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