Friday, October 12, 2007

Oracle/SAP Battlelines for the Future Enterprise

The big news in the enterprise over the past week has of course been SAP's aquisition of Business Objects. While this definitely marks another major milestone in the consolidation of the BI industry, there's some questioning on just how important this will prove to be in the long term.

My personal feeling is that in a few years we may look back and realise that all the BI news obscured the real story of the day ... James Governor's post on Mashing up SAP may appear to be an innocent conference write-up, but could be seen as one of the early shots fired in the ultimate battle between SAP and Oracle for the enterprise developer (dressed up as "Enterprise Mashups" or "Enterprise 2.0" if you wish).

I'm expecting this to be a key battleground over the next couple of years. By 2009, we'll begin to see full convergence of the *2.0/RIA trend along with the componentisation/service-enablement of the ERP suites (call it SOA or SCA). This will herald a new era of enterprise development, where customers will expect to buy and configure standard software components from Oracle/SAP, but then deploy for use within highly tailored and personalised "user-interaction environments" (web pages or portals in today's terminology, but on steroids).

If this is the future, then the application back-end risks commoditisation and the vendor that owns the hearts and minds of the enterprise development community will take the crown. And SIs who make their bacon implementing enterprise applications have had their warning: one day soon you will wake up and the world will have changed. Not ready? Sorry, you're out of business.

In this context, Web 2.0 has just been a warm-up lap for taking on the enterprise.

We can see the battle lines being drawn. I think the Adobe-SAP partnership, which has been getting a lot of positive press of late, may go down in history as way more significant than BO. Events like RedMonk's enterprise mashup track at the upcoming SAP TechEd in Munich continue to highlight their embrace of the rich internet application development community.

I like their theme ... "driving accidental awesomeness" ... the future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed (William Gibson).

Of course, Oracle has not been silent. One could even argue that just like the Hyperion acquisition prompted SAP to move on BO, it was Oracle's vision for Fusion Applications got the ball rolling in the first place. As I've blogged before though, Oracle appears to be a little slow to embrace the implications for enterprise developers ... that is, until Oracle AppsLab hit the scene.

Oracle has done a great deal to attract diverse developer audiences (from PHP to .NET to an interesting category of "non-PHP scripting languages"), but this is generally not applications-related. Of course it's own application development strategy currently remains firmly committed to Java and ADF in particular. What will be most interesting is how we see Oracle incorporate the needs of (non-ADF) "mashup" developers as Fusion Applications become concrete.

So in one sense it appears Oracle and SAP are pursuing diametrically opposed strategies - SAP hunting for communities to "adopt" and build (like Adobe), whereas the Oracle approach is perhaps a bit more like "build it well, and they will come". It will be interesting to watch this one play out ...

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