It seems Oracle made quite an impression last week with the release of its BPM 11g, in part because of its social-networking capabilities.
Here at IT Business Edge, Mike Vizard focused on this cool addition, while Ann All noted it's part of a bigger, collaborative trend in the software world.
The social networking is certainly intriguing, but as I read through most of the coverage on Oracle's announcement, I noticed that what Oracle really focused on is BPM 11g's integration features.
Oracle's made no secret that it wants to solve your integration problems, and its solution is simple: standardize on Oracle. BPM 11g might be a small step for BPM, but it's a giant leap for Oracle, both in terms of fulfilling its customers' need for BPM and in terms of tighter integration with the company's Fusion Middleware and other applications.
Most of the articles written about the announcement discussed its integration aspects to some extent, but for my money, Network World Asia's version of the story did the best job. It points out that the suite "is a package of a number of different and recently updated Oracle products, including Oracle BPEL Process Manager, Oracle Business Activity Monitoring, Oracle Business Rules, the Oracle WebCenter Suite and Oracle Universal Content Management."
To provide a little context, this isn't just a new release. This is a release two years in the making, and one that customers have been anticipating since Oracle acquired BEA in January 2008, according to Forrester's Clay Richardson. It was one of a slew of consolidations among BPM vendors at the time, as InformationWeek pointed out.
And given how often "integration" came up in the news coverage of the release, I think it's reasonable to assume the delay might have been to ensure that Oracle got that part right. Certainly, Oracle's leaders sound pretty smug about it, and perhaps rightfully so. Network World Asia quotes Oracle Senior VP of Product Development Hasan Rizvi, saying:
We've worked and invested a fair amount in the last couple of years to make sure we have a unified product architecture, both in terms of how we integrate with the Fusion middleware, but also in terms of how we've integrated the BPM environment.
InformationWeek noted that:
Oracle executives are eager to compare their new suite with the less-integrated portfolio now offered by IBM, which includes systems-integration-centric WebSphere technologies, content-centric BPM acquired from FileNet, and the recently acquired Lombardi suite, which is aimed, roughly, at human-centric processes. Some analysts have praised Oracle's consolidation efforts while criticizing overlaps in IBM's portfolio.
The question is: Does the integration do what IT shops need it to do? Time will tell for sure, but TechTarget did interview one enterprise software architect about his experience with BPM 11g. Mike Rokitka of Benderson Development Co. liked that Oracle included support for both BPEL and BPMN, but he said he'd like to see more support for external integration - an interesting remark, considering BPM expert Sandy Kemsley told Ann All in February that while vendors are using BPM to provide more visibility into their ERP systems, they're also providing more lightweight integration with external sources.
Of course, Oracle begged to disagree, noting there are good extension points and APIs exposed if you need external integration.
Ultimately, it might not matter all that much, according to Information Week, which noted that BPM 11g's success was more likely to be tied to the success of Oracle's Fusion Middleware than vice versa:
As has been said of that product, it doesn't have to be the best BPM suite; it just has to be the best option for extending processes around SAP applications. Similarly, if Oracle BPM Suite 11g is the best process-management option for the thousands of companies likely to upgrade legacy Oracle, PeopleSoft, Siebel and JD Edwards applications, then the product is sure to be a success.