The Fate of Agile Advantage

27 Feb, 2008 By: Kenneth Wong

Oracle clarifies post-acquisition plans for Agile.

Oracle, Agile's new owner, has spoken, and the company hopes its words will encourage current Agile Advantage customers to move to the Agile 9 platform.

Previously, Agile pitched its PLM (product lifecycle management) modules to the SMB (small and midsize business) crowd through its Agile Advantage program. Soon after the acquisition by Oracle, however, a note on Agile Advantage's Web site stated, "We have migrated our Agile Advantage product family to Web support as of August 20, 2007," raising concerns among Agile Advantage customers.

According to Oracle's recently released "Agile Advantage Customers Frequently Asked Questions," (PDF download), "Agile Advantage customers can continue to use and renew their current Agile Advantage licenses." But the company urges users "to migrate to Agile PLM prior to December 2010." By then, Agile Advantage will be folded into Agile 9, known as Agile PLM.

On Demand Under Oracle
As to the fate of Agile On Demand, the subscription licensing option priced around $100 per user per month, the FAQ only says, "We will provide more information soon on our Agile On Demand plans."

According to Hardeep Gulati, Oracle vice-president of product strategy for PLM, the on-demand option will return under Oracle On Demand, with similar pricing. "The current Agile On Demand users are not going to be left hanging," he assured. "We continue to support them, and we're looking at ways to offer Oracle's Agile PLM on demand."

The Oracle On Demand offerings currently include Siebel CRM, PeopleSoft Enterprise, E-Business Suite, and others, but not Agile PLM.

SMB Discussion
Can Oracle, which prides itself as "the world's largest enterprise software company," make room for the small and medium enterprises?

Someone who's been closely monitoring Agile's progress on this front is Craig Livingston, Agile's former general manager. In January, he was named the new CEO of Arena Solutions, Agile's major competitor in delivering PLM on demand.

"With Oracle's focus on large-enterprise customers, Arena Solutions is now the only on-demand PLM solution serving small to medium-sized manufacturers that does not have a CAD or ERP [enterprise resource planning] agenda for its customers," Livingston said.

Gulati countered, "We're hearing from companies of all sizes that there is uncertainty around making an investment in smaller, niche vendors like Arena. With Oracle, viability is not a question. And we're the only vendor to offer an enterprise PLM solution that provides both CAD integration, as well integration to ERP systems in order to address business challenges such as compliance, product quality, and cost management."

For some PLM buyers, tight integration with ERP may be precisely what they want. Those customers might put their trust in Oracle, the granddaddy of enterprise solutions.

Neither Oracle nor SAP, Oracle's competition in the enterprise software market, has a history in CAD. On the other hand, Dassault Systemes, PTC, and Siemens PLM -- the three PLM vendors with respected CAD products in their portfolios -- cannot claim to possess Oracle's breadth of experience in ERP integration.

Word on the Street
In its publication "PLM Market Landscape: Evolving To Enable Value Chain Excellence," AMR Research writes, "Prior to the Agile acquisition, Oracle's PLM product was not a strong player in the market. The Agile acquisition, however, brought rich PDM [product data management], along with mature portfolio management, supplier management, and analytics on cost and quality."

In its report "Magic Quadrant for Manufacturing Product Life Cycle Management, 4Q07," technology research firm Gartner observes that "Agile Software customers express satisfaction with Agile 9 after a rough transition period from earlier versions of Agile's applications. ... [The] acquisition promises a compelling software evolution path, bridging access to design data and proven workflow support for product development to a broader suite of back-office applications."

Arena's Livingston acknowledged, "The combination of Agile and Oracle will ultimately deliver stronger PLM solutions to large-enterprise customers." But, he added, "Since Oracle does not focus on solutions for small and mid-size customers, it actually helps Arena. ... We don't have a formal strategy to go after Agile customers, although we have received calls from many of Agile's smaller customers who feel left without a viable strategy for the future."

According to Gulati, "Oracle has a long, successful history of delivering integrated applications to mid-size companies, and we'll continue this track record with Oracle's Agile PLM. Companies of any size can benefit from our PLM offerings."

Gulati defines Oracle's target segment for Agile PLM as the mid-market, or businesses with "annual revenues below $500 million in general." But he leaves ample room for negotiation by adding, "It varies by region, and we leverage our global partner ecosystem for companies under $100 million."

Out of the Box
"We're also looking at ways to bring PLM ready for deployment right out of the box," Gulati said. "Of course, there are still industry-specific configuration options available today, say, for medical equipment or electronics, that Agile has been known for."

AMR writes, "Strengths of the Agile product include industry-specific workflows and templates for FDA-regulated industries, like food and beverage and pharmaceuticals, and strong sourcing capability, which has gained traction particularly in high-tech electronics."

Gartner notes, "Agile Software brings strong PLM capabilities and expertise serving high-tech, medical devices, and process manufacturers, particularly process manufacturers in processed food industries. ... Manufacturers invested in Agile will be protected."

However, Gartner did provide this caution: "Although Oracle is responsive to customer requests, Agile customers express concern that service will degrade if Oracle replaces their current contacts with Oracle personnel. ... [Agile] customers are reporting changes in pricing for software, maintenance, and services since the transition."