Analysis: Oracle buys its way backinto BPM

13 July 2004 Software giant Oracle has been neither the most vociferous nor the most highly regarded supplier of services oriented architecture (SOA) and business process management (BPM) technology, but its latest acquisition may be about to change that. At end of June Oracle, anxious not to be left behind by rivals platform rivals BEA and SAP, simultaneously announced the purchase of BPM specialist Collaxa and the instant rebranding of Collaxa’s flagship product as its own.


The move plugs an important hole in Oracle’s business process management product line. Collaxa’s business process execution language (BPEL) Server – now rebranded Oracle BPEL Process Manager – enables enterprises to use web services for more than just simple transactions. In addition to giving Oracle new workflow capabilities, it coordinates web services and helps to managers to create and execute of automated business processes, as well as providing monitoring tools to report on their progress.

“Oracle can now offer one of the most comprehensive platforms available, with functions ranging from database through BPM, and can challenge BEA, IBM Sap and other enterprise application vendors,” said the Gartner Group.

Not all analysts are as impressed as Gartner, however. Some have questioned how the software, an automated workflow that collects data from different applications to complete a specific business process, would fit in with its existing CRM and ERP applications.

Gartner itself also points out that Oracle still has considerable work to do to bring all its different products in this area together – a challenge that IBM, SAP and Tibco also face.

Oracle already had some BPM and web services capabilities in its Application Server 10g product, but these are not robust or flexible enough for most serious BPM applications. With the addition of BPEL Process Manager, Oracle users will be able to achieve true business process automation using a native implementation of the open Business Process Execution Language standard, rather than the proprietary formats used by rival systems.

Although BPEL Process Manager will run on any J2EE-compliant application server, Oracle’s pricing model is clearly designed to push customers towards its own software: BPEL Process Manager costs $10,000 with Application Server 10g, $30,000 by itself.

Many things can go wrong with technology acquisitions, not the least of which are staff conflicts and an inability to integrate products successfully. But the integration is good enough already to merit a 1.0 release, and both sides seem happy with the match.

Collaxa says it is impressed with Oracle’s application server team and glad there is no “pig with lipstick to fight with”, citing Sun’s killing of three application servers through internal politics as a suitable cautionary tale.

For its part, Oracle says the acquisition has enabled it to complete its service oriented architecture and integration technology stack. With SOA and integration high on most IT decision makers’ lists of priorities, Oracle has a significant technological lead that should be giving its rivals cause for concern.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed but a Collaxa spokesperson said the company had decided to sell up “to effectively convert our technology leadership into market share leadership” as IBM and Microsoft loom on the BPEL horizon.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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