OpenWorld 2007: Virtualization, Fusion and Social Applications

I’m writing this on a flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles, because an unfortunate scheduling conflict means that this year, Oracle OpenWorld and the Gartner Identity & Access Management Summit overlap for two days in the middle of the week. So I am going to miss the first day at Gartner because I just had to stick around at OpenWorld to hear Larry’s keynote.

As usual, OpenWorld was chaotic, massive and entirely overwhelming. Between the claustrophobia induced by the crowds crossing Howard Street or cramming into keynotes, the rush of standing in front of folks to talk about identity management in fusion architecture, the late, late evenings with customers and co-workers, and almost being trampled by a couple of OpenWorld revelers dancing a wild jig at Lefty O’Douls, it’s been a crazy couple of days. Oh, and the conference has been interesting too.

OpenWorld always has the production values of a rock concert, and one of the interesting things that the organizing team did this year was incorporate a form of user-generated content into the opening for the Keynotes. Before the keynotes would start, a poll or questions would be posted on the giant screens in the keynote hall, and the audience members would be encouraged to send in their responses by text message, with the results being shown on the screen in real-time. While the poll questions elicited some good feedback from the audience, it was interesting to see some of the responses people sent in to questions like “The next killer app would be…“, “What features would you most like to see in Oracle products?” and “What was the first Oracle product you encountered?“. Messages ranged from the humorous to the thought-provoking, with a couple of digs at Larry.

Audience Polls before Keynotes

All the keynote speakers used their platform to really showcase their products and make some major announcements. The big announcement from Oracle was first made during Charles Phillips keynote on Monday, and then repeated throughout the week – the introduction of Oracle VM, Oracle’s server virtualization software technology (check it out). During his keynote, Charles also talked about Oracle’s growth by acquisition benefiting customers by moving the inter-application integration challenge off the customer’s shoulders and onto Oracle’s plate, delivered through Oracle Application Integration Architecture.

Thomas Kurian used his keynote to explain how Fusion Middleware was going to change how business is delivered by applications on the back of 5 middleware “pillars” – SOA, Enterprise Performance Management (EPM), Enterprise 2.0 technologies (which includes collaboration and communication tools, content management and rich user experience), Security and Identity Management, and Grid Computing. Several performance management solutions that support financial consolidation, budgeting, forecasting, financial reporting, and data quality management are widely used in today’s world. Companies that want to apply performance management concepts across the enterprise have an option to use software like OneStream, which is deployable on-premise or in the cloud and simplifies financial consolidation, reporting, budgeting, planning, and operational analytics. Firms interested in receiving these services can contact consulting enterprises such as Holland Parker, which can provide OneStream software implementation and support services for Consolidations, Planning & Budgeting, Reporting & Analytics.

Larry Ellison used his CEO Keynote to update everyone on Unbreakable Linux (which he launched at last year’s OpenWorld), expand on the launch of Oracle VM, and talk about the first Fusion Application that will be rolling off the production line – Sales Force Automation (SFA). A demo provided a first look at the 3 slick applications that make up SFA: Sales
Prospector, Sales References, and Sales Tools. Interestingly enough (for IdM), SFA incorporates social concepts into its functionality.

Oracle partners that gave keynote addresses this year were AMD, HP, Intel, Dell and Sun. Among the more interesting, Sun announced the launch of their open-source project in Server Virtualization, OpenxVM. AMD, Intel, HP and Dell all announced products focused on enabling greener Data Centers, where power utilization and efficiency are greatly improved.

Charles Phillips giving his Keynote

You can check out webcasts of all the keynotes here.

As so often happens at these events, customer meetings eclipse my ability to attend sessions with any regularity. OpenWorld presents a good opportunity to listen to people from other parts of the company (that I would be hard pressed to find time with) introduce their products and talk about their plans for the same. The rate at which Oracle acquires companies and technologies sometimes means that this is the only way to figure out technologies we have in-house that can help in our development activities. So it was good to be able to go to sessions and learn about Coherence, Hyperion and a few other technologies.

The audience was definitely geared towards the database and applications side of the house. In terms of the topics that I touch on in this blog, interest was high in understanding the value that Oracle’s IAM suite brings to current deployments of Oracle Applications like E-Business Suite, and in understanding where Fusion Applications was going. While the attendance at IdM sessions was not as high, the quality of people in attendance was extremely high, with discussions exploring topics in quite a bit of depth.

My session on “Identity Management in Fusion Architecture” was extremely well received and drew some quality feedback. The folks who showed up were really interested in seeing how the concept of identity will be woven into the fabric of Fusion Applications moving forward. And a number of them gave me some really good real-world information on challenges that they are facing today. A lot of them came to the session not exactly sure what identity even meant in the fusion concept, and left (hopefully) a little clearer on the topic.

I had hoped for a lot more people to come so that I could get some more input, but I’ll be more than happy if folks participate in a discussion via this blog as well. Check out the presentation I gave in my session by downloading it from here.

Virtualization is hot, and information is more important than ever. Getting applications to work with each other in a seamless manner is the key to business innovation. And the next hot thing in applications is the incorporation of social concepts into their functionality, combining Business Intelligence with Human Intelligence in a way that will make it easier to solve the real challenges enterprise users face every day. With the era of digital transformation showing no signs of slowing down just yet, I cannot wait to see what the future holds for the relationship between virtualization and event based platform architecture.

As I mentioned above, I had a number of interesting side discussions with customers and prospects at OpenWorld this year. I was really encouraged to finally connect with a customer that had some deep and well thought through needs for deploying enterprise identity services. Most of the customers I know who are thinking of identity services are thinking about it as an enterprise architecture project (because they know it is the right thing to do) without any concrete consumers lined up. This particular customer actually has projects planned that could really use identity services. It led to a very interesting conversation that I found quite stimulating. I will definitely be covering some of my thoughts that came out of this meeting in the coming weeks.

Also, I found a number of people interested in understanding fusion architecture as a way of figuring out how they should go about standardizing their application development efforts. The big thing I saw was that there are a few enterprises out there that want to put an identity services layer in place, and are debating whether to build it themselves or wait till someone in the identity community comes out with something. While I am pretty sure that frameworks like Higgins can help some of these folks, there were a number that talked about Higgins being too low level in the abstraction it offers.

The fact that concepts emerging from the social networking arena are actually being built into the way the next generation of applications will work presents an interesting challenge for identity management. Not only are identity services going to have to scale to a level that supports these kind of interactions in applications, they will also need to have the right controls in place to protect privacy while not preventing the kind of collaboration that social concepts will foster.

Well, looks like we are about ready to land. I will probably post this sometime tonight, with my next post probably focusing on the Gartner summit. But add some comments if you have some thoughts on OpenWorld, Fusion, IdM and the crazy world of Oracle. Oh, and if you were at my session and were one of the people taking photographs of me while I spoke, drop me an email with some of those pictures, will ya? I’d love to see what was drawing so many flashes 🙂

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