Not Getting Stung By Oracle Beehive - InformationWeek

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Commentary
9/22/2008
08:04 PM
Roger Smith
Roger Smith
Commentary
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Not Getting Stung By Oracle Beehive

Since Oracle OpenWorld (OOW) at Moscone Center in San Francisco this week has at least 100 people doing live blogs, I thought it would be a more productive use of my time to focus on what's newsworthy in Oracle's enterprise product releases.

Since Oracle OpenWorld (OOW) at Moscone Center in San Francisco this week has at least 100 people doing live blogs, I thought it would be a more productive use of my time to focus on what's newsworthy in Oracle's enterprise product releases.One product that immediately caught my eye was the next generation of Oracle Collaboration Suite, Oracle Beehive, which is a marriage of Oracle's familiar Database and Application Servers technologies in a new collaboration suite that provides a range of collaboration services including conferencing, instant messaging, e-mail, calendar, and team workspaces that can be deployed either on premises or in the cloud through Oracle On Demand.

Initially introduced on May 8, 2008, the wider Oracle Beehive launch took place the first full day of OpenWorld on Monday, Sept. 22. Response to the earlier spring Beehive product launch has been both cold and hot. Gartner had this to say about Beehive:

"After two unsuccessful forays into the collaboration market, Oracle is back with the next generation of Oracle Collaboration Suite. Gartner believes Beehive is unlikely to be any more successful than past efforts."

On the other hand, Salim Ansari, head of IT support with the European Space Agency, had a much more positive reaction: "Oracle Beehive is about to revolutionize the way in which we collaborate and make a lot of the tasks that we take for granted, yet appear to be cumbersome, a lot easier." Based on those two contradictory responses, I thought I would take a closer look-see by sitting though a few Beehive demos and talking to some Oracle Beehive product managers.

Beehive integration and security were the two main themes in a press briefing given by Greg Crider, Oracle's senior director of product marketing at Oracle, and Mark Brown, senior director of collaboration business strategy. Brown emphasized that "Beehive is a new product, not an e-mail platform that's 10 or 15 years old, which allows broader and deeper collaboration than competing products such as Microsoft's SharePoint. It isn't an upgrade to Oracle Collaboration Suite 10." He said Beehive would be especially useful to companies using other Oracle ERP, Financial, or Telco business apps since users could use high levels of collaboration within their normal workflow. Crider stressed the secure nature of the collaboration within Beehive, which would make it useful for regulatory compliance. He gave the example of Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin, whose e-mail was recently hacked, and said that couldn't happen within Beehive. He said Beehive would be especially useful to do high-level auditing and in specialized applications like call centers that didn't want to replace their e-mail infrastructure but needed Beehive capabilities to do things like secure, real-time instant messaging.

Security is indeed a selling point for Beehive, as I learned from sitting through a product demo with Simon Thorpe, senior solutions consultant, and Andy Peet, Oracle Information Rights Management product manager. Information Rights Management (IRM) is a new form of information security technology that Oracle acquired when it bought SealedMedia and Stellent in 2006. While conventional information management products only manage documents, e-mails, and Web pages while they remain stored within server-side repositories, Oracle Information Rights Management uses encryption to extend the management of information beyond the repository to anywhere and everywhere a copy of that information is stored and used -- on end-user desktops, laptops, and mobile wireless devices, in other repositories, both inside and outside the firewall. Oracle IRM also was demoed earlier in the day at OpenWorld in the Charles Phillips and Chuck Rozwat keynote. The integration with Beehive and IRM, while not fully operational in the current IRM Server 10g, is based on the next generation IRM Server, Oracle's 11g release, that should be available in 2009. When it is, it will be an attractive option for companies that desire both security and integration with other Oracle enterprise apps.

Oracle wants to establish a viable presence in the growing collaboration market, if only to keep Microsoft from becoming the default collaboration standard in most enterprises. Just how fast is the collaboration market growing? Microsoft COO Kevin Turner said recently that SharePoint, its collaboration product, had been the fastest-growing product in the history of Microsoft, faster than Windows and faster than Office, to a billion dollars. Oracle Beehive addresses two unmet needs that the company sees in Microsoft's approach to enterprise collaboration, namely secure collaboration and collaboration within enterprise processes. Based on Beehive's new IRM features, I take issue with Gartner's negative assessment of Beehive, as noted above. Gartner recommends that customers who are currently not Oracle Collaboration Suite users refrain from evaluating Beehive for adoption until it shows signs of sustained market success "to avoid the possibility of being saddled with an orphaned product suite." My recommendation is for companies with compelling security requirements to definitely take a closer look at Oracle Beehive.

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