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Oracle Stirs Hornet's Nest with Beehive

Oracle doesn't get a lot of virtual ink here at RCPU, but there's no question that Larry Ellison's company is a monster, one of a few dominant firms in the industry along the lines of Microsoft (of course), IBM, Cisco, Google and maybe a couple of others. So, when Oracle does something significant, it matters -- and this week at its OpenWorld show, Oracle did something significant.

Or, at least, it could be significant. The database titan has just stormed into the Notes-Exchange war with what seems at first glance (although we haven't actually seen it) like a nifty new suite of collaboration software.

That's right -- it's not all about Microsoft and IBM slugging it out for IT departments' e-mail and calendaring applications anymore, with Google offering its Web-based stuff just on the edge of the battle and Cisco making noise about unified communications. Oracle has arrived, seriously this time, with its own collaboration suite aimed at -- but ready to work with -- Outlook and Exchange, as well as Notes.

As the Ovum commentary linked above indicates, there's something of a move toward heterogeneity taking place in IT departments' collaboration strategies -- or, at least, there might be soon. We know that many Microsoft partners have been slugging it out with IBM to try -- successfully, in many cases -- to knock Lotus Notes out of customers' environments. Well, Oracle would love to knock out both Notes and Exchange/Outlook...but it also claims to collaborate with Microsoft's wares as well as those of IBM.

And that's a big deal. After all, the biggest challenge any enterprise deployment faces is user acceptance, and as anybody who has gone through the Notes-Outlook transition in either direction can attest, it's not easy getting used to a whole new interface for the most important business application we have today -- e-mail. Never mind all the apps built on top of the collaboration platform and all the back-end mess of keeping the thing running. We don't know exactly how Beehive will work with its rivals' wares, but there's talk of back- and front-end integration, and IT managers and users alike would welcome both.

Of course, the real question is whether -- and, by extension, why -- customers would look at Beehive in the first place. Notes and Exchange/Outlook are very mature products with huge market penetration. They've been hammering each other for years, so Oracle had better step in with something pretty darn appealing (easier to use, to administrate, to manage?) with Beehive.

Will it produce the sticky honey that keeps collaboration systems together and makes users' and IT managers' live sweeter? Or will it simply be a bit player in the ongoing IBM-Microsoft drama? We don't know, but we'll say this -- Larry Ellison rarely does anything halfway, so we have a feeling Beehive will buzz its way into at least a few IT shops. Microsoft partners, take note: You're fighting on (at least) two fronts now.

What's your take on Oracle getting serious about collaboration applications? Will Oracle stake a claim in the IBM-Microsoft war? Tell us at [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on September 24, 2008