In the June issue of Integrated Solutions, I offered my take on Microsoft’s ECM (enterprise content management) strategy. However, I failed to mention the other corporate giant with new interests in the space — Oracle. Shortly after my Microsoft article was published, Oracle made its ECM play clear in a live webcast from its headquarters on June 14. During the event, Oracle unveiled Oracle Content Database and Oracle Records Database, both new options for managing unstructured content based on the Oracle Database 10g Enterprise Edition.
These products are designed to allow enterprises to store, search, and retrieve various document files, including Microsoft Office, PDFs, text files, graphics, and document images. Oracle’s offerings mark a departure from traditional ECM platforms because the content repository is based on a widely deployed relational database rather than a proprietary file format. Where traditional ECM systems may use a database only for metadata storage, the Oracle products use a database as a comprehensive repository for all content, metadata, text indexes, and relational information. This methodology, combined with the fact that both products are built using open standards, allows user-tailored content management to be quickly deployed throughout an enterprise using Web services and SOA (service-oriented architecture). Furthermore, Oracle has integrated its ECM capabilities with familiar Windows and Web user interfaces so that ECM can be intuitive to enterprise workers in many roles rather than just knowledge workers with specialized training on ECM software.
Having built an empire on managing structured content through relational databases, managing unstructured content seems like the next logical step for Oracle. While Microsoft’s ECM strength will be with SMB companies completely new to ECM, Oracle’s strength will be in extending ECM throughout large enterprises, many of which already operate on an Oracle platform. This opportunity is substantial considering Oracle owns approximately 50% of the relational database market. While many of these larger enterprises may already have some ECM capabilities in place, these solutions are likely to be isolated in specific departments. Oracle’s products will allow these companies to leverage existing investments and extend ECM capabilities to the rest of the organization. Also, since database professionals within larger organizations are already familiar with Oracle Database and have built operational procedures around the platform, Oracle will be much better positioned to win content management business with these customers.
So does Oracle’s ECM offering spell doom for traditional players in the space? Not necessarily, but it does alter their value-add. With Oracle’s database-driven model in place, most traditional ECM vendors will be forced to stop selling their proprietary file systems and use a content repository from a relational database vendor. In fact, Oracle is encouraging other ECM software vendors to build richer and deeper applications on top of the Oracle Content Database infrastructure. One veteran ECM vendor that has already begun to design solutions around the Oracle offering is Open Text. Open Text’s Executive Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer Tom Jenkins closed the June 14 webcast with his company’s plans to build functional extensions to the Oracle Content Database for working with PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards, as well as specific vertical market applications. However, not every ECM company will be able to hitch themselves to the Oracle wagon. Those that can’t will likely try to reinvent themselves by becoming more heavily focused on BPM (business process management) or developing content-centric business applications. Not all will reinvent themselves successfully. Although good for consumers, I believe Oracle’s emergence in the space will lead to further vendor consolidation and accelerate the reduction of the overall number of players in the ECM industry.