General Software

Systems Integrators Take the Field at Oracle Open World 2008

25 Sep, 2008 By: Kenneth Wong

'Coopetition' puts emphasis on integrating disparate enterprise systems.

On Sunday, September 21, San Francisco took on the colors of database giant Oracle. Around Moscone Convention Center, red banners and billboards hailed Oracle Open World 2008 in every direction. Though you couldn’t spot Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s face in the oversize signs, you could hear his voice in their unanimous tagline, urging IT warriors everywhere to “Connect, Collaborate, Learn.” p>

It’s a fitting battle cry for the age of global business. Scalable, open architecture -- software and hardware platforms capable of communicating with third-party products -- is part of many cost-conscious CTOs’ strategies. In the enterprise software business, vendors are catching on. A few might still try to take the field by brute force, with good old-fashioned competition, but many have adopted strategic partnerships with rivals, known as coopetition, to win the day with a lot less bloodshed. Perhaps that’s the reason systems integrators have become the new mercenaries, an essential part of any corporate cavalry charge. 

The Principle of Coopetition
In the Moscone West pavilion, a few yards from the Oracle Game Room, a 30’ x 40’ area stocked with pinball machines and basketball hoops, SAP occupied a booth of the exact same dimensions. Considering the fierce rivalry between SAP and Oracle for enterprise resource planning (ERP) market share, SAP’s presence at Oracle Open World was the equivalent of SolidWorks at Autodesk University or Siemens PLM at the Dassault devotees’ COE conference. But in ERP, integration trumps competition. Hence, SAP’s participation in the Oracle love fest.

While SAP wooed new business prospects at Oracle’s show, Oracle was returning the favor in the technical sessions. On Monday September 22, John Hite and Jens Kaminski, both from Oracle, were scheduled to share tips on “Getting the Most Out of Your SAP Investment with Oracle Business Intelligence and Enterprise Performance Management.” The day before, Andreas Becker and Kamal Tbeileh, also from Oracle, were scheduled to offer “detailed information on the installation and configuration of Oracle Database Vault for the SAP environment” in a session called “Oracle Database Vault for SAP.”

Coexistence of multiple applications is not only the order of the day but also a thriving business. Many of the exhibitors are systems integrators specializing in teaching ERP, product lifecycle management (PLM), and customer relationship management (CRM) systems from different suppliers to talk to one another. Computationally speaking, these integrators are multilingual, and they’re at your service -- for a fee.

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot
Agile, the PLM vendor Oracle acquired in 2007, didn’t have a conspicuous display area, but its presence was felt all around, in talks of Agile integration projects referenced by the exhibitors. One of them, Satyam, cites “Agile competency” that goes all the way back to 2002. “The team [comprising 100+ consultants] has successfully completed over 20 projects in the Agile PLM space,” it announces on its Web site.

“An Agile implementation could be anything from business consulting to the development of an SDK [software developers’ kit] to a process extension,” explained Sudhir Apsingi, Satyam’s business development lead PLM. “We do a lot of customization work as well, along with the core configuration work.

Satyam is headquartered in Hyderabad, India, with sales offices worldwide. As of June 2008, it has nearly 52,000 consultants at its disposal, ready to roll up their sleeves and join you “Onsite, Offsite, Offshore, and Near-shore,” as the company puts it.

Another exhibitor, Sierra Atlantic, claims expertise in Agile, Oracle, PeopleSoft, and Siebel. “We offer complete lifecycle application management solutions, with excellence in business application implementation, integration, upgrade, and support, providing superior value with our global delivery model,” it announced.

“The larger part of our business is IT services, making up about 70% of our business,” explained Suresh Babu, Sierra Atlantic’s vice-president of sales. “[Software] product development is around 30%.”

It wasn’t always like that. The 15-year-old company began life as a developer, Babu revealed. “But it grew into a services company,” he added. The privately held company is headquartered in Fremont, California, with multiple delivery centers around the world.

In 2004, the Oracle Partner Network named a Sierra Atlantic product “Solution of the Year, Industry.” According to the announcement, “Sierra built a composite analytics application that helps companies in the discrete manufacturing sector determine the supply chain impact of engineering change orders.” 

Babu claimed Sierra Atlantic also played a part in developing the Agile product itself. “Since we helped them development their product, we started offering services around that,” he explained. “So we have a tight relationship with Agile.”

Midsize Redefined
Post-acquisition Agile was known as an affordable PLM solution for small and midsize customers. But because of Oracle’s size and focus, some Agile customers wondered whether the database giant would accommodate them under the Oracle brand.

Sierra Atlantic’s Babu observed, “I don’t think the SMEs [small and midsize enterprises] need to worry about that. I think Oracle is an organization that understands how to make its products work for small as well as large customers. At the end of the day, it’s about making money. And the SME segment is where the money is. But you’d also begin to see the proliferation of Agile among larger customers.”

But Oracle might define midsize differently from Agile. As a stand-alone vendor, Agile considered those with annual revenues $250 million or under as small and midsize customers (see “PLM Strategies -- The SMB Serenade,” November 2005). According to Oracle’s portal for midsize customers, Karachi Stock Exchange Ltd. (annual revenue $15-20 million, 300 employees), City of Kent (annual budget $156 million, 815 employees), Rochester Institute of Technology (annual revenue $360 million, 2,750 employees), and Energy Solutions (annual revenue $101-500 million, 2,000-4,999 employees) are all in this category. For more, read “The Fate of Agile Advantage,” February 28, 2008.

“Is [PLM adoption] happening at the brisk pace the analysts have predicted? Probably not,” observed Satyam’s Apsingi. “In a weakened economy, customers tend to be more conservative. More importantly, PLM, in my view, has not yet received the recognition ERP has. People often look at it as an add-on to ERP, not as the backbone.”

Still, PLM implementation must be a viable source of income. Satyam recently reported reaching $2 billion in revenue in 2008.

Editor's note: To learn how exhibitors used a mix of creative methods to attract attendees to their booths, visit Kenneth Wong’s blog.