Thursday, February 08, 2007

Oracle a systems management vendor?

Oracle announced today the release of a management pack for their Identity Management suite. It's apparently a systems management and monitoring suite for Identity Management environments. It'll obviously work with (I didn't say work well, but it should at least plug into) the Oracle products, but an interesting tidbit is that it's supposed to work with other Identity Management infrastructure too. They could just mean LDAPs and Active Directory rather than the suites from other vendors. In fact, I'd be very surprised if it does work with other vendors' suites without having to do a lot of integration work...which begs the question why not just buy a monitoring/systems management solution from CA, IBM, BMC, HP or even the latest, hyped Open Source alternative in Hyperic if you're not using Oracle's Identity products? Maybe Oracle realise this but have a longer term strategy in mind. More on this later in this post.

That aside, it probably makes sense for an organisation using Oracle Identity Management (IdM) software to use it if "out of the box" monitoring of their IdM environment is desired. The biggest problem Oracle have? They are not a systems management vendor so they'll have a tough time selling into accounts where one of the previously mentioned system vendors' products is the incumbent. I do however, applaud them for this move. It's something customers have been crying out for awhile. No vendor I know of (IBM included) has done a particularly good job of working out how to monitor their Identity Management infrastructure both from a business perspective and a software infrastructure perspective. It's pretty much just been a services engagement that is not exactly easily repeatable because of the very nature of services. I get asked by customers all the time: "so how do you monitor this stuff". It was because of this fact that we made a high level attempt in the IBM redbook I co-authored to address the issue but it was prescriptive rather than a detailed "get your hands dirty" approach. You really need a systems management/monitoring expert to work with an Identity Management expert (in whatever products you happen to be working with) to work out the kinks and the details. With a software solution built exactly for this specific purpose, one could argue you cut that time in half.

The gauntlet has been thrown down by Oracle to the other vendors to address this issue. Identity Management infrastructure is fast becoming core to an organisation's infrastructure and figuring out a nice, easy way to perform systems management activities on this infrastructure is paramount to building out the whole story. It's not like we are all running around acting surprised that customers actually want an easy way to monitor the critical part of the environment they have just been sold and implemented. It's just a matter of prioritising this within the product roadmap and understanding that it's a very important aspect and will help sell the core solution and also serve as a way to cross sell the systems management solutions (and vice versa). Systems management vendors should view this as a way to leverage their strengths and provide a compelling story for customers to make a sizable investment in a vendor's brand of solutions.

Perhaps this is a preview of Oracle's strategy moving forward? Are they going to be buying a systems management company soon? Wouldn't surprise me the least bit. And when they do, watch out CA, IBM, BMC and HP. Could you imagine Oracle coming out saying they can monitor data, identity management, application servers and ERP systems out of the box? CA, BMC and HP had better get their act together or Oracle's going to come out and eat their lunches (even more so that Oracle already is). They'd potentially also have a leg up on IBM simply by rounding out the picture. Of course, IBM has all these pieces except the ERP software...and they've stated they do not want to get into the "applications" game. IBM however, is still well ahead of Oracle in the systems management game. For how long, I don't know. Maybe not much longer.

Oracle should just fork out the cash and buy BMC. Or if they're looking at the bigger picture and want to go head to head with IBM, then they should buy HP.

Note: I know how big HP are, so I'm not even sure if Oracle would have the cash to buy HP. Maybe a merger would be more realistic. Maybe someone should ask Larry Ellison at the next keynote speech he gives.

Update: Vince Padua correctly reminds me with his comment in response to this post that Oracle already took a step towards becoming a systems management vendor. They have their "Oracle Enterprise Manager" offering. Read his comment for a good summation of what it does and go the Oracle's site for more product info if you're interested.


Vince Padua said...

Hi Ian. I believe that Oracle is backing their way into becoming a systems management vendor. Consider their offering behind Oracle Enterprise Manager (

OEM was built to manage and monitor the Oracle stack, but when you look at their "packs" and "plug-ins" you find an ability to manage and monitor IBM and BEA software. Furthermore, they have an ability to monitor - and in some cases - manage host, storage, and network devices. Including the ability to provision resources and take corrective actions.

Oracle's I&A capabilities are growing to become quite powerful. IMO their feature and functionality is on-par with most systems mgmt vendors. To your point, if they are able to integrate I&A into their platform and manage it under one console then I believe they will have a leg up on the incumbent systems mgmt vendors.

Ian said...

Completely forgot about Oracle's Enterprise Manager Vince. Thanks for the reminder. I was actually just reading about the Enterprise Manager a few weeks back. I think I was a little too focused on the Identity and Access stuff and had a "tunnel vision" moment.

Be interesting to see if they keep building these products internally like they've been doing or whether they do the "industry standard" thing and just go the acquisition path. My money would be on the latter. It takes an enormous amount of effort and $$$s to build an end-to-end systems management suite to compete with IBM, CA, HP and BMC.

What I wouldn't give to be a fly on the wall in Oracle Software strategy meetings.