Oracle Versus SAP: The Gathering SOA Storm
Oracle and SAP will move into closer and closer competition as they continue rolling out their competing SOA application platforms, trying to make their respective standards-Fusion middleware and Business Process Platform (BPP)-the preferred one for the future of business software. Forrester Research's report, "Oracle Versus SAP in Enterprise Applications: Let the Battle of Architectures Begin," explains how the two apps giants are taking different paths to reaching the same goal.
"There are two leaders, both building the next generation of enterprise applications, each taking a different approach," says Ray Wang, Forrester senior analyst for enterprise applications and coauthor of the report. SAP's BPP, the technology underlying mySAP Business Suite 2007, is ahead of Oracle Fusion in terms of release schedule, according to Wang. BPP will build through internal development and partnerships, but is closing off the middleware layer of its platform; SAP's apps will run only on its own middleware.
In contrast, Oracle's Fusion middleware architecture will continue to grow by acquisition, as Oracle continues the trend it set in 2005 of buying the technologies it needs to build out Fusion. Oracle's next-generation enterprise applications will run only on the company's databases, which have been its core business. Suites based on Oracle Fusion are expected to ship in 2008. "Oracle is planning to be the partner on the tools side," Wang says.
SOA projects like BPP and Fusion are a response by vendors to customer demands for agility, interoperability, and business process capabilities in their enterprise systems. Open standards allow rival systems to work together, with the capabilities inherent in the integration platform itself being the selling point. "Conceptually, you'd be able to take business processes from SAP and meld them with warehouse functions from Oracle, for instance-that's where there would be openness," Wang says. "Both companies are trying to replace other vendors at the glue level" that holds disparate functions together.
Despite the situation having all the hallmarks of a heavyweight title fight, Forrester sees little in the way of fireworks. "There's definitely room for both; we see it as more a matter of religion," Wang says. "If you have a heavy investment in Oracle, you will naturally start trying to integrate on Fusion. If you're on SAP applications, you'll probably want to go with NetWeaver and BPP."
It is the enterprises with mixed operating environments that will face tough choices, Wang says. "The time is coming when they will have to make a decision. SAP is stronger at the applications level, and is two or three years ahead in bringing its next-gen platform to market. Oracle has stronger middleware and tools, plus stronger vertical focus." He adds that, with 12 to 18 months integration time typical for projects like this, customers will have enough time to evaluate their options, and "it will be five to seven years before the market is fully comfortable with this."
The time is coming, though, according to Wang. "The last big upgrade cycle came in 1999 to 2001, and they usually happen every seven to 10 years," he says. "We're ready for the next big boom."
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