Is Oracle AIA Business Process Management by Another Name? And Vendor Lock-in by Another Route?

Dennis Byron

I've been meaning to catch up with Oracle to get an update on its AIA because the concept was upgraded to version 2.5 at Oracle OpenWorld in October. But the task kept falling down my to-do list. None of you are interested in enterprise application integration (EAI) anymore, I figured.


But a November post here on IT Business Edge by Mike Vizard (see Composite Applications to Define Enterprise Software) got this blind guy to walk around to the front of the elephant and take another feel. Mike looked at Oracle AIA and I believe what Mike is calling the post-enterprise-application era is what I call business process management (BPM). As in "<strong>BPM is the next big thing in ERP</strong>?"


BPM is all about tying business process sets together efficiently and effectively, and most business process sets are currently automated by disparate packaged and inhouse-developed software. You can tie them together in two ways:


  1. Swap out all of your disparate software for one software supplier's homogenous packaged software product that integrates user interface, logic and data management or reprogram all your business processes from scratch to replace the disparate software.
  2. Use some software tool to integrate all the disparate software in place.


Clearly, years ago you in IT decided you would take the second option and that led to EAI. But EAI is cumbersome to use, highly point-to-point in orientation, and expensive to implement and reimplement when business processes change, as they always do (mostly because of the first two characteristics in this list). BPM takes EAI up a level of abstraction, hopefully reducing costs because it puts more of the implementation and reimplementation work on the users of the software and less on IT to handle change. I am not going to go down the BPEL/workflow/system-to-system rathole here. I don't pretend that the ideal BPM package exists yet. But it's all BPM to me. And should be to you.


Which is why AIA is so interesting. Oracle is the perfect test bed to see if the ideal BPM package can be built. No one has more disparate packaged software in one company than Oracle with its dozens of acquisitions over the last 10 years. But it leads to the recurring question: Do I want to get my EAI/BPM from the same vendor from which I get my enterprise applications? Or is it better to look at a standalone BPM supplier (there are only a few left) to avoid vendor lock in? It's the old stack guys vs. pureplay discussion except looking from the top of the stack instead of from the middle or the bottom.


(As an aside, I disagree with Mike Vizard's concern that enterprise application modules or components or process sets are becoming commoditized and therefore not adding any competitive value to your enterprise. That's what you want because it holds down costs. What's the competitive value in how you process the payroll on Thursdays? But I can save that disagreement for another blog post.)

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Nov 27, 2009 11:03 AM Brian Reale Brian Reale  says:

I also disagree with Mike Vizard's concern that enterprise application modules or components or process sets are becoming commoditized and therefore not adding any competitive value to your enterprise.   A commodity is something that everyone already understands and commodities look the same no matter where you buy them.  Word Processing is a commodity.  Rice is a commodity.  BPM is still a major novelty for most organizations, and as a result there is a lot of competitive room for vendors to innovate and stand out.   Also, when an application gets commoditized it is easy to tell - at that point there will only be a few big vendors left and they will dominate the market.  We are far from that.  There is probably no single BPM vendor with more than 8-10% of the market today.  If we add both enterprise and mid level market together, there is probably no vendor with more than 5%.

So, we have a few years and a number of important innovations to go before commoditization occurs.

- Brian Reale

Open Source Workflow & BPM

Nov 28, 2009 4:08 AM Dennis Byron Dennis Byron  says:

Brian and Business Data (and Mike if you see this)

The post script to my post above where I wrote that I disagreed with Mike Vizzard was worded poorly.  My point is that I disagree that components becoming commodities is a bad thing.  I do agree they are becoming commodities.

So maybe this subject is worth a separate debate since I count four points of view on this simple aside on my part:

1. Those that think business processes sets are becoming commoditized and that's bad

2. Those that think business process sets are becoming commoditzied and that's OK

3. Those that think business process sets are not becoming commoditzed and that's OK

4. Those that think business process sets are not becoming commodtized but that they should

-- Dennis Byron

Nov 28, 2009 11:12 AM Business Data Business Data  says:

I agree with Mike Vizard. I think his view point is right.


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