"Figuring out what stays, what goes, and integrating the remaining pieces is going to be an enormous task that will undoubtedly create consequences for deployed customers," says Andre Duran, CEO of Ping Identity, which develops identity federation software. "This is yet one more reason companies should consider standards-based, loosely coupled approaches, as it insulates them from the potential for single vendor lock-in, which is occurring irrespective of how they are selecting their vendors."
To complicate matters even further, Sun has an aggressive stance on open source that Oracle does not share. Sun is de-emphasizing its Sun Directory Enterprise Edition in favor of putting resources into the OpenDS (Directory Services) platform.
"The directory decision looks like a free-for-all to me," says Don Bowen, who left Sun a little over a year ago to help start UnboundID, whose product is based on OpenDS.
"Both companies have very bright people," Bowen says. "But this is like a very complicated Brady Bunch marriage. It's not just they have three children of their own. These [product groups] are going to have to be competing. They can't keep it all."
Determining what stays will likely come after a long process, given that identity management is not a major tenant of the deal. In fact, Oracle's slide deck that accompanied the announcement of the acquisition does not even include a mention of identity management.
"One of the things you have to keep in mind is that smashing together these product lines is not strategic," says Kevin Cunnigham, president and co-founder of SailPonit, which develops identity management software for compliance and access certification. "Identity is not the main focus of this deal."
Oracle will have other integration areas to distract it, including systems management, where Oracle will improve its chances to win systems management deals from existing enterprise customers by bringing Sun's management technologies such as Ops Center and Management Center into its portfolio.
The advice some are giving to corporate users that have invested in Oracle or Sun identity technology is: Don't panic.
"A good thing is that this closes a period of uncertainty about the Sun portfolio [since the IBM offer]," says Bob Blakley, vice president and research director for the Burton Group's identity and privacy strategies practice. Blakley says as the deal closes, Oracle management likely won't address identity until the more compelling strategies, such as the database, are worked out. "So there will be a period where not much happens and it is business as usual."
Therefore, Blakley says, users should not make any rash decisions.
"This very much reinforces a message we have been giving since HP exited the identity market," Blakley says. "Anybody who is going into any kind of software deal right now, in particular in the identity management space, really has to pay attention to vendor viability issues."
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