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10/2/2007
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Oracle Pushes Enterprise 2.0

Oracle believes Enterprise 2.0 technologies can transform the way employees inside a company share information and work together.

Oracle is pushing to establish itself as a legit player in Enterprise 2.0. At a conference Tuesday, the company said that its strategy is to "fuse Enterprise 2.0 capabilities into Oracle's technologies." While it's doubtful that portends a data type for wiki pages in Oracle databases, it does mean more Enterprise 2.0 capabilities in Oracle's middleware and applications.

The company believes Enterprise 2.0 technologies can transform the way companies share information and work together, said Thomas Kurian, Oracle's senior VP of server technologies development. Oracle's strategy is based on the Web and Ajax technologies. It combines the use of tools for search and discovery, links information together to create an ecosystem of content, allows for content authoring and tagging, and lets users know when content is updated via technologies like RSS.

"It's very difficult to allow users within an enterprise, when you create information, to categorize it and share it with other people," Kurian said at the conference, "It's equally difficult for users to find what they need [and] for people to easily work with each other online, rather than in a point-to-point fashion."

Applications like ERP and CRM can push knowledge workers to be productive by automating and digitizing work processes, but people end up spending much of their time on exceptions to the workflow imposed by those systems by ceaselessly sending e-mail and making blind calls to people, Andrew McAfee told the conference via a phone call. McAfee is a professor of technology and operations management at Harvard Business School and often writes and speaks publicly about Enterprise 2.0 technologies. "The things companies are going to want are bridges between their structured and unstructured worlds," he said. "I think that's a huge opportunity for technology companies like Oracle."

Oracle's Enterprise 2.0 strategy rests heavily on its two-part WebCenter Suite, released in February as a component of the company's Oracle Fusion Middleware. The WebCenter Framework is a Java 2 Enterprise Edition development environment to help developers create customizable apps and data mash-ups. "The line between what's a Web site, an enterprise app, and a transaction system is gone, and WebCenter is a standards-based framework through which you can build all three application options," Kurian said.

WebCenter Services, the other major component of WebCenter, lets end users author and view blogs, wiki pages, and discussion posts; publish and retrieve information to and from RSS; categorize information by creating and sharing document descriptions and tags that can then be searched and put into a tag cloud; and communicate presence information. It can integrate with existing e-mail, instant messaging, VoIP, and calendaring systems, and with products from Oracle and others, including for example Siebel CRM (imagine publishing customer updates via RSS, for example).

Oracle pointed to Abercrombie and Fitch, EDS, and other companies using WebCenter for its Enterprise 2.0 capabilities. The next version of Oracle Collaboration Suite also will add some Enterprise 2.0 capabilities, according to Kurian.

Social networks seem to be one of Oracle's current obsessions. For example, the company showed a screen shot of the company's CRM OnDemand application mashed up with LinkedIn's social network to show how a salesperson is connected via LinkedIn to a lead. InformationWeek has learned that Oracle plans to integrate CRM OnDemand with Visible Path's social networking software, which can determine the strength of relationships between two individuals. And Oracle itself has turned its org chart into an internally developed social network called Oracle Connect.

Oracle plans to show demos of some of the new Enterprise 2.0 projects inside the company at a luncheon in a few weeks. Still, there's a long way to go. During his presentation, Kurian pointed toward a URL that he said showcased Oracle's efforts, but it led only to a discussion board about WebCenter, not a page where Oracle aggressively markets its Enterprise 2.0 strategy.

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