Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Single Technology Stack. Is it the Answer?

Today with the continued consolidation of technology by a small number of vendors has changed the way we see software and technology. I have been talking to various people over the past few weeks about Oracle and how it now controls the entire technology stack…..or will once (and if) the purchase of Sun is completed. The questions are always the same…..Are people concerned about Oracle controlling everything from hardware to applications? Will innovation be limited as a result? What will happen to 3rd party vendors who are on the outside looking in? How will this impact the customer experience? All of these are valid questions and are concerns we should all be thinking about.

So let me try to take on some of these questions from my perspective. The first is how concerned we should be by a single vendor controlling a technology stack. First off, I don’t think this is something new…..have you ever looked at IBM? They have been working on providing a single stack of technology and tools that can all be bought from them. Seems like it was a problem in the past, but now people are getting concerned because the company following a similar model is Oracle. Oracle can now provide customers with a support model that covers you from the operating system to your applications. This seems like a great opportunity to simplify our lives by now looking to one vendor for full support, whereas before each would blame the other until the actual cause of the issue is found. I don’t see the concept of a complete technology stack from a vendor being bad for an organization.

On the question of innovation; will innovation be limited by consolidation? Again, I don’t think so. Oracle has always been an innovative company. Consider how much the Oracle database has changed over the years; Oracle 6 and Oracle 11g are basically the same database, but it is like calling a Ford Model T and a Toyota Prius the same….after all they are both cars. The newer car and the newer databases include innovations that many can see and some that one cannot. The internals of the database continues to strengthen and Oracle has improved the product through internal improvements and by acquiring complimentary products to support the ultimate vision for the database. I don’t seeing Oracle being less of an innovator, but more so to keep their technology stack as a leading option when considering an organization’s technical direction.

Finally, how will this affect 3rd party vendors and their tools? I would be concerned for some vendors who today compete against the products in the Oracle stack. Oracle will have an advantage to be able to provide solutions with Oracle that would previously had required an additional investment with another vendor. I have seen recently a large telecommunications company that decided to convert all of their data warehouse into a pure Oracle solution. This requires the replacement of their ETL and BI tools. Are these tools better than what they are replacing? Probably not, but the benefit of having the single support structure and the leverage to focus on one technology has made this a choice that many are considering.

So should you fear the “Single-Stack”? I don’t think you should; Oracle has been able to fill in the voids in their offerings through careful acquisitions and as such provide us with solutions that we can be sure will work and a direction which will reduce the overall cost of working with Oracle. At this point, I would say that we embrace consolidation but keep a careful eye on our vendors making sure they continue to innovate and provide solutions that help organization be more successful.

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