Oracle Buzzes for the Gold

SAN FRANCISCO -- Oracle sure knows how to fill a room with buzz. At the OpenWorld keynote at the Moscone Center here today, Judy Sim, chief marketing officer for Oracle, reported that 43,000 are attending this year's conference, and a seemingly large percentage of that number filed in for the morning keynote. The draw may have been Oracle President Charles Phillips, who was billed as the keynote speaker, or Chuck Rozwat, the company's executive vice president of product development, who joined Phillips onstage to deliver high-level views of strategies and roadmaps. But the appearance of Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps certainly added to the excitement. But before any of that, Phillips welcomed attendees with a look at where Oracle stands: This is the first year, he said, that Oracle has been able to pump about $3 billion dollars into pure research and development—after undertaking 50 acquisitions in the past 44 months, Phillips acknowledged that the enterprise software company has "been a bit busy."  

Before the keynote took place, attendees may have noticed something else buzzing in the air. Buses on the streets of San Francisco were splashed with the image of a giant bee, matched by a mural of the same giant bee spanning the staircase of the convention hall. There were even chocolates in the form of bumblebees resting atop each place setting. The mystery was solved when Oracle employees dressed in bumblebee T-shirts helped Phillips introduce a new Oracle product during the keynote -- aptly named Beehive.  

Beehive, as described in tag-team fashion by Rozwat and Phillips, is collaborative software that emphasizes integration and security. (In a later session focused solely on Beehive, Greg Crider, Oracle's senior director of product marketing, noted that those two aspects have been sorely lacking in existing collaborative offerings.) Beehive's collaboration efforts come in the forms of:

  • team workspaces;
  • shared documents;
  • real-time Web conferencing;
  • group scheduling; and
  • project task lists.

As demonstrated on the big screen during the keynote, Beehive can integrate with common applications including Microsoft Outlook, enabling employees to create, share, and collaborate on documents. In a simple drag-and-drop effort—Phillips referred to it as "drag and share"—users can share content within Beehive or within an accepted integrated application such as Office. (In the later session, Crider noted that integration with Outlook is the most efficient to date. Integration with Lotus Notes, he said, is not yet as robust.)  

Coining perhaps the killer phrase of the conference, Phillips said that Beehive eliminates "collaboration fragmentation," a notion that other Oracle executives hammered home. "Beehive is something we are doing to meet the needs of our customers for secure collaboration and also to be integrated in terms of business processes," Crider said in a Beehive "unplugged" session. "In the overview of all the different lines of business, [Oracle is] a leader in technology applications, but also in horizontal and industry applications. Customers are saying we want collaboration that works within structured business processes -- collaboration that works in the context of users doing processes everyday."

"There are two significant differences [in Beehive] compared to previous Oracle efforts in this space," writes David Mitchell, senior vice president at analyst firm at Ovum, in a published note. "At an architecture level the expected scalability of an Oracle infrastructure is a given, as is the focus on industry standards.... Beehive can [also] be integrated and embedded into many different elements of a corporate architecture, rather than being a standalone collaboration ‘software island’. This architectural element will be one of the most important aspects of collaboration in the future, as collaboration becomes an inherent element of other applications. The user interaction model involves treating collaboration as an integral element of other work and tasks, rather than having a separate interaction model."

Key components of Beehive include:

  • Integration: Beehive is one integrated product. Applications that once required hundreds of severs are brought down to a few. Beehive is integrated with all the Oracle products, starting with the database.
  • Security: The product provides one place for all of the user roles and allows for centralized policy management.
  • Openness: Developers have looked at user-integrated stacks and have opened Beehive to the user's choice of client.

In addition to the launch of Beehive, Oracle announced many other updates, enhancements, and new releases.

  • Application Integration Architecture (AIA): The product creates an entire architecture for integration. It's built on standard middleware so that instead of customers integrating themselves or hiring out consultants, they are able to build on top of AIA. AIA will be offered in packaged integrations with standards done on middleware.
  • Oracle WebLogic Application Grid: The new version allows users to pool together set of computers and storage and deploy different apps together to get the cost of power from a resource point of view. According to Oracle, the more computers you add, the faster the application runs.
  • My Oracle Support: The new customer support platform integrates MetaLink with Oracle Software Configuration Manager. Together the support platform will be able to recognize the types of configurations a business is likely to be running.
  • Oracle Mobile Sales Assistant and Oracle Mobile Sales Forecast: The two mobile CRM products will be available for the iPhone and free to download from the Apple App Store in November 2008.
  • Oracle Sales Prospector, Sales Campaigns, and Sales Library: These social CRM applications built on the Oracle Social Applications Framework. Sales Prospector, which Oracle previewed at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in June 2008, is now joined by Sales Campaigns (enables the sharing and reusing of campaigns that work) and Sales Library (allows users to rate, review, and consume shared sales presentations).

[Update, 9/23/08: Analyst comments added.]

For more coverage from Oracle OpenWorld 2008, follow our blogpost dispatches at http://www.destinationcrmblog.com/tag/oow/. 
Managing Editor Joshua Weinberger is using Twitter to deliver real-time dispatches from the show: http://www.twitter.com/kitson

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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