Monday, February 15, 2010

Analysis of Oracle's strategy for Sun's Middleware

Oracle has done an admirable job of quickly communicating strategy and plans for how they will integrate, support, and invest in Sun's products and lines of business.  See their Transforming the IT Industry event and the Product Strategy Webcast Series for what they are saying publicly.  But their presentations only go so deep and there are many details left to interpretation.

So, we have analysis and opinions expressed by analysts like Coté and Stephen O'Grady at RedMonk and John Rymer from Forrester.  But a host of others have voiced their opinions and concerns and folks from Oracle have responded to some (see end of this post for a sampling) so I figured I'd weigh in with my view of what will happen, specifically to Sun's middleware products.  As I really like the Q&A format that @sogrady uses, I'll use it here too.

Q: Before we begin, anything to disclose?
A: Yes, while at Sun, at different times I ran Product Management for the SOA and Application Platform product lines as well as middleware and MySQL strategy.  I am no longer with Sun or Oracle now, and thus, everything written below is just my opinion and does not reflect any official position or statement from either company.

Q: For those that missed it, what happened with Oracle and Sun in the past few weeks?
A: The long awaited closing of Oracle's acquisition of Sun closed on January 27th, the same day as Oracle's high-level strategy event.  They subsequently released more detailed strategy webcasts on each of the acquired product areas.

Q: Cool, that's great that they did this, but can you summarize what is going to happen with Sun's middleware portfolio, starting with GlassFish fitting in with WebLogic?
A: Both Thomas Kurian and Hasan Rizvi clearly stated that WebLogic would be Oracle's strategic application server targeting enterprise deployments.  They also clearly said that GlassFish would continue as the Java EE Reference Implementation and an open-source project.

Q: Ok, that's great, but there is a lot of grey area in between.  Were any other details provided?
A: Yes, Hasan's webcast identified that GlassFish would continue to be support and sold as a standalone offering, but would also be added to all WebLogic offerings.

Q: So that's good for GlassFish then, right?
A: Mostly yes.  There was a mention that GlassFish would be targeted to departmental applications which would seem to indicate that they would maintain differentiation between GlassFish and WebLogic and push WebLogic for enterprise deployments.  However, in a response to a blog entry on the subject, Mike Lehmann (Oracle Product Management) hinted that some clustering and HA features that exist in GlassFish v2.1 would ultimately get into v3, so this appears to not be part of the gap.  There is still plenty to offer as differentiation beyond clustering and HA though.

The reason to have differentiation would be to not cannibalize WebLogic revenue.  They are already addressing this somewhat by including GlassFish in WebLogic offerings, but if it is available standalone they can't have a low priced GlassFish (pricing from Sun was a fraction of a WebLogic license) selling instead of WebLogic.  An alternative to having a lot of differentiation would be to raise the price of GlassFish to a level such that the lost revenue is small, or (and this is probably what they'd prefer, that a customer chooses to just pay a little more and get a WebLogic offering that now includes GlassFish.  It is this latter scenario that I expect to happen.  Of course, Oracle could choose to raise prices for WebLogic as well since it now includes GlassFish.

Q: Well, do they have to raise prices on GlassFish?
A: Not necessarily.  There was also mention during the webcasts particularly by Larry during his section that Sales was going to be comped on selling high margin items.  Thus, they might not raise GlassFish prices to WebLogic levels, but the margin on GlassFish would be lower so Sales would have less incentive to sell it.

Q: So is this good for app server customers?
A: It depends on the customer.  If they are an existing GlassFish customer, yes.  There is a commitment to continue developing and supporting the product for a long time.  Note that the development will likely stop short of providing features making it fully competitive with WebLogic though.  And at some point, renewals or maintenance will cost more than they do today.

If they are an existing or future WebLogic customer, yes.  WebLogic remains the strategic app server and should benefit through cross pollination with GlassFish as well as perhaps have Java EE 6 support accelerated.  Depending on how Oracle interprets existing WebLogic licenses, these customers may also get GlassFish for free since it is now part of WebLogic offerings.

If they are a future GlassFish customer, perhaps no.  I say that, not because GlassFish will suffer feature debt (although there will be some of that to maintain differentiation), rather it is because the price they will pay for GlassFish will almost certainly be significantly higher than it would have been from Sun.  Also, as noted above for existing GlassFish customers, some features that might have been desired may never make it and be reserved for WebLogic.

Q: Ok, enough about GlassFish, what about the rest of the Application Platform portfolio?
A: The Sun Web Server, likely rebranded/renamed to avoid confusion with the Oracle HTTP Server, will continue to be supported and sold perhaps as a peer to Oracle HTTP Server.  I expect that the Sun Web Stack will not be invested in and just existing customers supported.

Existing Sun Portal and Sun Web Space Server customers will be supported, but neither product will be invested in as Web Center is the strategic portal offering.

GlassFish MQ (OpenMQ) will stick around as part of GlassFish but won't be promoted on its own.

Q: Whew, that wasn't as simple as I'd hoped.  Is it simpler for SOA?
A: Generally yes.  Oracle did not identify any of Sun's SOA portfolio as strategic, but did pledge to support existing customers for a long period of time.  Further, they said that they would create bridge technology to allow collaboration between Java CAPS and Oracle SOA Suite, although this should effectively already exist through JMS and Web Services support today, so I'm interested to see what is added.  They also mentioned credits for customers wanting to convert from Java CAPS to Oracle SOA Suite.

There is less clarity or certainty around GlassFish ESB (and its open-source OpenESB project) as the statement simply said it would continue as an open-source project.  If the rumors on the community mailing list are true though, a large portion of the SOA staff were not kept which raises the question of who will be continuing the project?  Perhaps an opportunity for the community to step forward.

Oracle also said that the NHIN CONNECT open-source project would be supported.  Since portions of this was originally based on OpenESB, it is unclear how this will be accomplish though with a potentially short staffed group of engineers.  There is also some discussion on some mailing lists that NHIN CONNECT is really just using EJBs in GlassFish and not (that much of) GlassFish ESB.

Q: Didn't Sun have some cool MDM technology that came from SeeBeyond?
A: Yes, you do know this space don't you!  The roots of the technology are in healthcare and it is the Healthcare and Life Sciences vertical at Oracle that will be integrating this technology into their offerings according to that groups strategy webcast.

Q: Ok, how about identity and access management products?
A: The short answer is that Sun's Directory Server Enterprise Edition (DSEE) continues as a peer to Oracle's Internet Directory, both being strategic, Sun's Role Manager will be strategic, but the strategic products for the rest of the portfolio will be Oracle's existing products.

As far as OpenSSO goes, we get the amorphous statement about the open-source project continuing, but it was also clearly stated that tools would be built to help OpenSSO Enterprise customers move to Oracle's strategic products so don't count on OpenSSO being enhanced.

I did find it interesting that in order to provide clear naming, they are bringing back Waveset to the name for Sun's Identity Manager.  Waveset was the name of the company that Sun acquired around 6 years ago that had the product that became Sun Identity Manager.

Q: Last, a lot of Sun's middleware had integrated tooling in NetBeans.  What will happen to NetBeans and that tooling?
A: Yes, Java CAPS and GlassFish ESB bundled NetBeans and provided plugins for doing all SOA and ESB development.  Similarly, NetBeans 6.8 delivered full Java EE 6 support and integrated GlassFish in its downloads to provide a great developer offering.  Oracle clearly stated that JDeveloper is the strategic IDE for Fusion Middleware, they also have Eclipse based tooling (ironically just announcing a new release), and thus having a third full blown IDE in NetBeans probably isn't in the offing.  The comments seem to indicate that while NetBeans will be continued, its focus will be as a lightweight Java and scripting IDE.

Q: Didn't Sun have some Eclipse tooling too?
A: Yes, the GlassFish Tools Bundle for Eclipse provided a bundle with Eclipse, GlassFish, and plugins for Eclipse providing GlassFish, and in its most recent edition, some Java EE 6 support.  I'd say there is a good chance this gets rolled in to the Eclipse based tooling mentioned above as a way to accelerate getting Java EE 6 support in the offering.

Q: So what is the net-net for customers of Sun's products?
A: The good news is Oracle has promised to support the products for a long period of time, thus the investment is safe in that regard.  Oracle has a strong history of supporting acquired products and that should continue in this case.

The bad news for most of the products is that they are not likely to be significantly enhanced and getting important new capabilities will likely require migrating to Oracle's equivalent products.  The other bad news is that when it comes time to renew or do that migration, prices could very well be higher, either due to price increases or because Oracle may be more particular about counting servers/CPUs used and perhaps even perform audits.

Q: Anything else?
A: As noted above, these are just my opinions.  I might be wrong on some points, and Oracle can and will adjust their plans based on customer and community feedback, so I could end up being way off in the end.  If you want to prove me wrong and are a customer, let Oracle know what you think to get them to adjust their plans.  For other opinions, see some of the links below.

Sampling of other's opinions:

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