New Oracle Collaboration Suite Takes Aim At Microsoft SharePoint - InformationWeek
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8/22/2005
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New Oracle Collaboration Suite Takes Aim At Microsoft SharePoint

The software includes content management for beginning and advanced users, instant messaging, and is designed to be enterprise-scalable. SharePoint is designed for workgroups, and has scalability problems.

Oracle on Monday shipped its long-promised collaboration suite update. The company also outlined new positioning for the suite, which it said will take on Microsoft Sharepoint directly. Traditionally, OCS has been compared to Microsoft Exchange Server and IBM e-mail offerings.

The new 10g suite includes enhanced content management capability targeted not just at experts, but rank-and-file users, said Bob Shimp, vice president of technology marketing for Oracle, Redwood Shores, Calif.

That module, called Content Services 10g, is the successor to the existing Oracle Files subsystem, and is now scalable to "hundreds of thousands" of users, Shimp said.

Also included are promised instant-messaging/presence awareness capabilities, based on Jabber technology but significantly enhanced for secure, archivable, enterprise use. Oracle had promised IM/presence capabilities for the current release, but pulled them back.

Oracle Workspaces, a universal user interface for all the collaboration services, is also new. It provides a consistent point of access and GUI to content management, threaded discussions, instant messaging, Web conferencing and contact/calendar management, he said.

Users can buy the whole schmear for $60 per named user perpetual license or each component for $45 per named user per module, Shimp said. The suite includes runtimes to all the Oracle database, middleware and management tools needed, showing that Oracle hopes to win new customers and not just cater to existing Oracle database shops. Maintenance and support will cost the usual 22 percent of software license cost per year.

Shimp said the combination of Workspaces and Content Services will enable Oracle to attack Microsoft SharePoint, installations of which Shimp acknowledges have "sprung up like weeds."

While popular for ad hoc work groups within firewalls, SharePoint "was never designed for enterprise content management and caused huge headaches for customers who want to get rid of fragmented data," Shimp said. Even Microsoft partisans admit that SharePoint implementations across firewalls and geographies are problematic to deploy and maintain. Many point to that being the main reason behind Microsoft's decision to buy Groove Networks last year.

At its partner conference last month, a Microsoft executive finally conceded publicly that the company is moving to integrate SharePoint Portal Server and Content Management Server capabilities to address developer and user concerns.

The new content management services include some of the technology Oracle bought from Context Media earlier this month. "That content integration technology will enable us to tie in well with high-end content management systems from Documentum and others as well as offer an excellent migration path," Shimp said.

Shimp acknowledged that the suite has been delayed. Last December, Oracle co-president Charles Phillips promised the already-delayed product by March of 2005. Shimp said the company held things up for a large beta program and to add features and ensure quality.

Oracle partner Scott Jenkins, CEO of The EBS Group, Lenexa, Kan., said the combination of secure features and low cost is winning first looks and even some early migrations from both IBM Notes/Domino and Microsoft Exchange Server.

EBS is helping move Dallas-Fort Worth Airport from Exchange Server to the Oracle offering, for example. "For Lotus it's close to $80 per user per year for e-mail and calendaring from Lotus, and Oracle at the end of the day is cheaper than Exchange given per seat charges, CALs and other considerations," Jenkins said. He said the airport was not a large Oracle database shop, but was trying to rein in various data silos that had proliferated.

The DFW staff will use Oracle's IM, presence and real-time conferencing to hold meetings without having to drive all over the airport, which Jenkins characterized as "a city onto itself."

Jenkins, who has been working with the beta for some time, said it also features the enterprise search capability that Oracle previewed—without much information on deliverables—at Oracle Openworld late last year. "That's a great feature. It searches your IM threads, your E-mail, discussion group threads, files and pulls it all together," he said.

With its aggressive pricing, Oracle is countering its image as a high-cost software supplier, observers said. "When you're late to market you have to be very compelling," said another Oracle partner requesting anonymity.

IBM/Lotus is pitching its Workplace Messaging as an inexpensive mail and calendaring offering at $29 per user per month. In three-year deals serving 1,000 users or more, the cost can fall to $1 per user per month.

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