Oracle enters the BPM zone

Middleware strategy gains clarity and momentum with licensing of Aris suite

Oracle’s Fusion middleware platform, like the early solar system, has resembled a gaseous cloud, with chunks slowly solidifying into recognizable shapes. A large object from another orbit just joined the party last week, which sheds new light on Fusion -- which will one day provide a unified environment for JD Edwards, Oracle eBusiness, PeopleSoft, and customer-created apps -- and how it will evolve.

Oracle licensed IDS Scheer’s Aris Platform, a monster BPM (business process management) suite that this fall will be licensed to customers under the name Oracle BPA (Business Process Analysis) Suite.

“When BPA’s capabilities are combined with the Oracle BPEL Process Manager, we’ll have a complete process management solution,” said Rick Schultz, vice president of Fusion Middleware Product Marketing.

Schultz thinks the solution is vital for agility. He said customers will use BPA to design, publish, and simulate business processes, which can be saved out as BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) code that can be consumed by BPEL Process Manager and orchestrated into applications.

Schultz said he believes that the rich library of processes and visual design environment provided by BPA will help deliver BPM capabilities to a wide audience, including business analysts and enterprise architects. The BPEL Process Manager will even import BPA’s proprietary workflow extensions, helping to bridge the gap between BPM and actual Fusion applications created from workflows. Finalizing those apps, Schultz said, will still generally require developers armed with BPEL Process Manager and/or Oracle’s JDeveloper IDE.

“I think Oracle has got its eyes squarely fixed on SAP,” said Bruce Silver, an independent consultant and analyst. “They’re really not trying to be primarily a middleware provider. They’re providing the necessary middleware to protect their enterprise application business.”

The relationship between Oracle’s eBusiness suite and Fusion is similar to the relationship between SAP R3 and its NetWeaver Platform, said Forrester analyst Ken Vollmer. Not coincidentally, SAP and IDS Scheer jointly announced Aris for SAP NetWeaver two years ago.

Gravitation toward such BPM solutions is often seen as part of the long-running breakup of huge monolithic enterprise applications into more flexible, reconfigurable business processes.