Oracle launched a product called Enterprise Manager 11g with great fanfare, and for good reason. The system management software platform is key to its goal of being a true one-stop IT shop for customers, now that it has entered the hardware business by acquiring Sun Microsystems.
"It's about trying to finally get control of this complex thing called IT. We're just getting to the point in the industry and in Oracle's strategy where that's now possible," Oracle President Charles Phillips said during a webcast event.
Now, with the "full-stack" management capabilities in EM 11g, Oracle is poised to mitigate "the complexity that you've all been struggling with for years," Phillips said. "You don't need a separate management tool for each layer." Enterprise Manager competes with families of management products from the so-called "Big Four" vendors: IBM, Hewlett-Packard, CA and BMC.
Oracle is trying to broaden EM's appeal among non-Oracle shops and position it as adaptable for heterogeneous environments.
As part of the launch, it announced that partners had built additional plug-ins for EM, including for HP, IBM and NEC storage products, bringing the total number of plug-ins and connectors to more than 45. But an executive made no effort to downplay the fact that EM, while open to other vendors' products, works best when it's managing Oracle's own products.
Competing management platforms are "really focused around this generic framework message... Our message is more if you're using our stack, we're going to give you the best experience," said Richard Sarwal, senior vice president, in an interview.
Oracle frames EM 11g as an all-seeing eye that closely monitors customers' IT infrastructure and enables them to make corrective changes quickly. It is organising the platform's capabilities into three categories: "business-driven application management," "integrated application-to-disk management" and "integrated systems management and support."
The first refers to features like the ability to track and analyse how well applications are working for end-users, to scrutinise individual transactions and to monitor business "services," such as shipping processes.
The second group provides management of Oracle's technology stack, including Fusion Middleware, application servers, databases, Oracle VM, and Solaris and Linux operating systems and hardware. In particular, the Fusion Middleware support helps with the creation and management of private clouds, Oracle said.
A third component of EM 11g is an integration with Oracle's support services portal, which will help customers resolve problems faster and keep their systems running better in general. But it's one thing to lay out such a vision and another to convince customers to help fulfill it, analysts say.
Oracle's pitch "makes for elegant and compelling slideware, but it is likely to encounter significant grassroots resistance in the marketplace," IDC analyst Mary Turner wrote in a recent report. It "represents a radical reintegration of functions and tools that have been highly fragmented and distributed for the last 25 years," Turner said.
Still, Oracle is hoping that "combined with the tight economy and pressures to do more with less, CIOs and CEOs will mandate full-stack integration as the cost-effective way to deliver business services," she added.
It could be difficult for Oracle to make headway in the market for generalized IT management platforms, given the foothold the Big Four already have. But with its soup-to-nuts proposition, Oracle takes on the challenge from a different angle, said Redmonk analyst Michael Cote. "It's basically hard to go against the Big Four on their own terms, so you have to change the rules of the game," he said.
Still, the spectre of additional lock-in may cause customers to shy away. "I'm not really sure if enterprise buyers are into this full stack thing as much as the vendors might be," Cote said.