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Archive for October 16th, 2007

Wookey Leaves, Where Does That Leave Oracle Fusion?

Posted by Bob Warfield on October 16, 2007

John Wookey, who headed up Oracle’s Fusion project, has moved on.  I have good news and bad news on that for Fusion fans.  The good news is that I doubt it changes much with respect to Fusion.  The bad news is it is an admission that Fusion is badly off track.  I’ve been talking with various Oracle folks at various levels for some time, and this news has been obvious for quite a while. 

It takes a very long time to rearchitect enterprise software.  SAP’s ByDesign was in the labs for five or six years, it is only recently available to “early customers“, and the target profile it is suited to is businesses smaller than SAP’s current power alley due to various limitations such as 4x slower performance.  Fusion has a slightly easier job as it “only” amounts to an SOA integration of all the components in their suite.  The rewrites, at least, need not be all the way to core.  Nevertheless, they are chasing a moving target in the form of an ongoing acquisition strategy.  They’re also having to retrofit a variety of different architectures with this capability, and they have to do that in the wake of having scaled back the various acquired entities to enhance profitability.  Can you guess what the pecking order is between financial results, customer satisfaction, and a new technical SOA architecture?  If you’re like me, you’ll see that Fusion is likely dead last in that pecking order.  What this means is that Wookey may have moved on from a nearly impossible job.

As Vinnie Marchandani put it when he broke the story, Fusion in 2008 was always a moonshot.  He says 2009 earliest, and I would not be surprised to see 2010.  Oracle has a difficult set of numbers to keep going with, ongoing merger digestion, and frankly, great difficulty investing and mobilizing around software innovations of the kind Fusion represents.  They traded in their innovation hats when they brought in a couple of M&A experts in the form of Chuck Phillipps from Morgan Stanley and Safra Catz to run the place under Larry Ellison.

Anyone who has worked at Oracle, as I have, will know that projects often proceed with considerable investment all the way to beta test and then get shunted into a new direction or cancelled entirely.  I’m not suggesting that Fusion will be cancelled, rather, I’m suggesting there is a lot going on below the water level on the Oracle iceberg that’s completely invisible.  Folks I talked to suggest that Fusion is isolated, at least until pretty recently, and that part of the problem is all the other products are moving on without it.  If that’s true, and it’s not out of character for the culture, Oracle can demo Fusion all they like, but the lion’s share of the work will be below the surface getting these apps properly configured to talk to it.  That’s a huge undertaking.  To make matters worse, they’re targeting BEA now, which is theoretically a competitor to Fusion.  Rationalizing that against work already done on Fusion is apt to set the schedule back further and could even prompt a restart.  And, all that effort can’t start until BEA is acquired, a fate they seem to be resisting, at least for the moment.

This is not the best news for Oracle.  SAP has their new toy out on the table.  SaaS and Open Source are coming up from below.  If the mission continues to be growth through acquisition, as it seems it must, Oracle will have to keep stepping up the pace there too.  Meanwhile customers are going to see some reasons to wonder about buying anything new from Oracle.  They’ll likely pay their maintenance and finish ongoing projects, but why add modules with such an uncertain future?  At the least they should look out in the market and wonder whether a better module from a competitor today won’t wind up in Oracle’s stable tomorrow.

If the financial markets see a hint that Oracle’s installed base and businesses are cooling, it will not be a happy time for Oracle shareholders or management.  Fortunately, that has yet to happen.  Still, it makes me nervous when a software company ceases to be a software company and becomes an M&A aggregator.  Those games eventually come to an end.  We’ve seen it before several times in the industry with players like CA.

Posted in business, enterprise software, saas, strategy | Leave a Comment »

Amazon Beefs Up EC2 With New Options

Posted by Bob Warfield on October 16, 2007

I’ve been a big fan of Amazon’s Web Services for quite a while and attended their Startup Project, which is an afternoon seeing what it can do and hearing from entrepreneurs who’ve built on this utility computing fabric.  Read my writeup on the Startup Project for more.  Amazon has been steadily rolling out improvements, such as the addition of SLA’s for the S3 storage service.  Today, there is big news in the Amazon EC2 camp:

Amazon has just announced two new instance types for their EC2 utility computing service.  The original type will continue to be available as the “small” type.  The “large” type has four times the CPU, RAM, and Disk Storage, while the “extra large” has eight times the CPU, RAM, and Disk.  The large and extra large also sport 64 bit cpus.  Supersize your EC2!

Why do this?  Because the original small instance was a tad lightweight for database activity with just 1.7GB of RAM while the extra large at 15GB is about right.  Imagine a cluster of the extra large instances running memcached and you can see how this going to dramatically improve the possibilities for hosting large sites.

One of the neat things about this new announcement is pricing.  They’ve basically linearly scaled pricing.  Whereas a small instance costs 10 cents per instance hour, the extra large has 8x the capacity and costs 8×10 cents or 80 cents per hour.

What’s next?  These new instances open a lot of possibilities, but Amazon still doesn’t have painless persistence for databases like mySQL.  If you are running mySQL on an extra large instance and the server goes down for whatever reason, all the data on it is lost and you have to rebuild a new machine around some form of hot backup or failover.  That exercise has been left to the user.  It’s doable: you have to solve the problem in any data center of what you plan to do if the disk totally crashes and no data can be recovered.  However, folks have been vocally requesting a better solution from Amazon where the data doesn’t go away and the machine can be rebooted intact.  I was told by the EC2 folks at the Startup Project to expect 3 announcements before the end of the year that were related.  I’m guessing this is the first such announcement and two more will follow. 

There’s tremendous excitement right now around these kinds of offerings.  They virtualize the data center to reduce the cost and complexity of setting up the infrastructure to do web software.  They allow you to flex capacity up or down and pay as you go.  Amazon is not the only such option.  I’ll be reporting on some others shortly.  It’s hard to see how it makes sense to build your own data center without the aid of one of these services any more. 

Posted in amazon, ec2, grid, multicore, platforms, saas, software development, Web 2.0 | 2 Comments »