Oracle advanced its identity management capabilities with two acquisitions last week, but admitted another project has taken a back seat to more urgent work on its SOA stack.
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|Oracle is pressing ahead with a grand plan to integrate its SOA stack, even while adding more acquisitions:|
- Two new acquisitions added provisioning and virtual directory
- Oracle aims to combine identity and web services management
- Its Fusion middleware includes many other SOA components
- Work to service-enable access management has slowed
- Oracle's primary focus is to build a soup-to-nuts SOA infrastructure
Glossary terms: services management, digital identity, directory services, middleware, BPEL, lookup tool
The software giant announced the purchases of Thor Technologies, a provisioning software vendor, and OctetString, which specializes in virtual directory software. The moves fill key tactical gaps in its identity portfolio, and come hot on the heels of its acquisition of identity and web services management specialist Oblix in March.
The Oblix web services products have become Oracle Web Services Management (OWSM), which the company is currently weaving together with its identity management capabilities to form a combined component, designed to provide security and compliance capability for its Fusion middleware. Meanwhile, further partnerships and acquisition have expanded other parts of the Fusion Middleware portfolio. Its BPEL engine, based on technology purchased in the acquisition of Collaxa, has already been integrated with the OWSM server, and it recently struck an OEM deal to include a limited version of Systinet Registry into its application server. The middleware stack also includes Oracle's Business Activity Monitoring technology and its Enterprise Service Bus (the product formerly known as Oracle Interconnect). Oracle has doubled the size of its web services team following the Oblix acquisition.
A forthcoming release of Oracle Fusion Middleware, scheduled for the first half of 2006, is expected to show early evidence of its integration efforts, although users will have to wait for the next major release if they want a comprehensive SOA platform for their business applications, with all new acquisitions fully integrated.
In the meantime, Oracle is focusing hard on its identity management capability. The acquisition of Thor Technologies gives it cross-platform provisioning, providing companies with a central application for managing user access across multiple systems. OctetString, meanwhile, provides virtual directory technology that allows companies to consolidate multiple directories and integrate passwords, making it easier to connect multiple user information sources.
Like the systems management giants, Oracle sees identity management as a close cousin to web services management, and OWSM uses either Oracle or third party products for authentication and authorization. Other development priorities, however, mean that Oracle has delayed steps to tighten integration between the technologies it inherited from Oblix. Prior to the takeover, Oblix had planned to service-enable its core access management product this year, which would allow users to manage both identity and services from a single console. Minoo Gupta, director of development for web services management, confirmed that following the acquisition this program is now being delivered in phases, and will not be completed this year. Meanwhile, Oracle is channeling resources in the short-term into its more pervasive development strategy at the business process level, with BPEL playing a major role.
Challenge and opportunity
Oracle's strategy of embedding OWSM within the Oracle SOA stack presents both challenges and opportunities for the standalone SOA management specialists, which have seen their space invaded by a succession of industry giants over the last two years. Oracle's suite contains the basic functionality offered by other management products, providing centralized management capability during the deployment cycle to intercept SOAP messages, apply policies, generate performance metrics, send alerts and so forth. But it will not compete in the short-term on functionality with the best-of-breed players, even though OSWM will be available as a standalone component.
According to Gupta, Oracle currently has no plans to build in more advanced functionality such as visualization tools, which are available in some specialist SOA management packages, although enhancements are expected in the next major release. Rather, its current strategy is to deliver an integrated SOA platform, arguing that this is what its customers are looking for today. For example, says Gupta, a specialist might build workflow capability into its SOA management suite, whereas Oracle's aim is to leverage its BPEL engine to orchestrate business processes at a deeper, more pervasive level across the infrastructure.
Oracle's approach echoes the stance taken by the leading systems management vendors. Computer Associates, for example, provides both a standalone and integrated web services management capability, while IBM is both developing its own capability and partnering with specialists through its Global Services arm. HP, which also acquired a best-of-breed specialist in 2003, has integrated the technology into its OpenView suite.
This approach leaves the SOA management players in what is now a familiar position. On the one hand, they can offer richer functionality today: on the other, as Oracle integrates its components over time, it will be able to offer a far broader SOA solution that comes with the backing of one of the world's largest IT companies. Users looking for management capability today may well choose the former, but the view from Oracle's Redwood Shores headquarters is that they're not numerous enough to be a major concern. "Demand [for web services management] is growing, but we haven't seen thousands of web services deployed where they need management of that caliber," says Gupta, who, as a former Oblix executive, has sat on both sides of the fence. "It's more experimental than in deployment today."
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An overview of Oracle's SOA offerings from the vendor's website.
Vendor press release announcing acquisitions