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Oracle Takes Another Stab at Collaboration

Oracle offers up 'Beehive,' its own enterprise-collaboration platform.

With the lion's share of the enterprise-collaboration market dominated by IBM's Lotus Connections and Microsoft SharePoint, Oracle Corp. is looking for a piece of the pie.

Oracle is now offering its own collaboration platform, code-named "Beehive," which combines the company's database and app-server technologies into a software suite that provides a range of services including team workspaces, messaging, e-mail, calendar management, instant messaging, presence, task management, document management, Web and voice conferencing, mobile access and voicemail.

The company -- which officially launched Beehive at its annual Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco last month, after revealing plans for the product in May -- says the new collaboration platform is available both for on-premises deployment and through the Oracle On Demand managed-application service.

New Dev Environment
With the release of Beehive, Oracle is also out to win the hearts and minds of developers with the inclusion of a development environment in the Beehive suite.

"In the old days, Lotus was an open platform that you could build mini-applications on," says Chuck Rozwat, Oracle's executive VP of product development. "What we've done with Beehive is update that so the dev environment you use is industry-standard. [Developers can build] Java apps using Web services -- and even apps using .NET -- that run on top of Beehive."

Beehive's Prospects
With IBM's and Microsoft's established footprint in the enterprise -- collaboration market, Oracle "has an uphill climb" against the "better -- entrenched collaboration and communications vendors," says Irwin Lazar, researcher and principal analyst at The Nemertes Research Group Inc., in a research note. But Ovum analyst David Mitchell is optimistic about Oracle's latest effort, pointing to its "much -- improved functionality, architecture and user -- interaction models," which have the potential to change Oracle's losing streak in this space.

Unlike previous Oracle offerings, Mitchell points out, Beehive is built on service-oriented architecture foundations. This foundation means that, instead of providing what will ultimately become a standalone software island, Beehive can be integrated and embedded into many different elements of a corporate architecture. Mitchell says that this capability "will be one of the most important aspects of collaboration in the future, as collaboration becomes an inherent element of other applications."

Oracle Brings Middleware to Cloud

Oracle Corp.'s new collaboration platform, code -- named "Beehive," is integrated with most of Oracle's other products, including its database, applications and key components of its Fusion Middleware.

While the company has a lot to say about Beehive, Oracle is more guarded about Fusion Middleware 11g, which is the next major release of Fusion Middleware. In advance of that release, Oracle is shipping new tools for developing Fusion Middleware 11g applications, including the Oracle JDeveloper 11g IDE, Oracle's Application Development Framework and its TopLink Java object -- to -- relational persistence architecture.

The complete Fusion Middleware stack will be available in the "Amazon Cloud," said Charles Rozwat, Oracle's executive vice president of product development, speaking at last month's annual Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco. In what may be its first cloud -- computing initiative, the Redwood Shores database giant is collaborating with Amazon.com Inc. to enable its customers to run its Fusion Middleware -- and the 10g and 11g databases -- in virtual machines within Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud service (EC2).

During a post-keynote Q&A at OpenWorld, Rozwat told reporters that Oracle would be making "subsequent announcements for other cloud-computing environments" in the future. However, on the future of Fusion applications -- the delivery of which have lagged behind expectations, and, it might be argued, Oracle's predictions -- Rozwat was less forthcoming.

"Across all of our product lines, we talk about general directions, but we try to avoid giving specific features or specific dates," he said.

In a research note, Gartner Inc. analysts characterize Oracle's middleware announcements as "mostly incremental." The Fusion stack currently bundles a dozen tools and technologies -- everything from an app server to business-process analysis tools, and a SOA suite to data-integration dev tools. Complicating matters is Oracle's recent acquisition of BEA Systems, which offered its own data-integration stack.

-- J.K.W.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance author and journalist based in Silicon Valley. His latest book is The Everything Guide to Social Media. Follow John on Twitter, read his blog on ADTmag.com, check out his author page on Amazon, or e-mail him at john@watersworks.com.


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