Oracle's recent monster user conference, the first that united its technology, database and applications customers, was a showcase for the kind of competition SAP can expect when it completes its hostile purchase of PeopleSoft.
The bad news for SAP is that Oracle is finally acknowledging that it has to do more about applications than pay an army of lawyers to litigate on its behalf. The good news for SAP is that once the lawyers are gone, Oracle still has to get its competitive act in place.
The main battleground will be what SAP is now calling the "applistructure," a combination of technology infrastructure and applications functionality that is currently defined by NetWeaver and mySAP Business Suite. In the future, it will be defined by a componentized, process repository-driven, Web services offering sitting atop a significantly beefed-up NetWeaver.
SAP's vision, which will unfold over the next eight years, is based solidly -- and rightly so -- on the service-oriented architectures and modeling environments that will define the future of enterprise software.
Not surprisingly, Oracle has a similar vision. Oracle's technology chops are much deeper than its applications, and its understanding of how software is developed and deployed is steeped in a 20-plus-year tradition of market-leading database and tools technology, fueled by a million or so experienced Oracle developers, DBAs and other fellow travelers.
While their specific offerings differ, Oracle and SAP may share similar views of enterprise software and their respective roles in the marketplace.
The fact that Oracle President Charles Phillips began his keynote talking about applications is significant, and augurs a time when Oracle will have a consistent technology and applications message. And rest assured they will: The Oracle executives I talked with at the conference see this confluence of technology as their birthright, and will fight to maintain at least a modicum of competitiveness against what they see as SAP's Johnny-come-lately conversion to a technology vendor.
Nothing sharpens the mind like the prospect of getting whipped in a competitive sale by an archrival. Now that Oracle owns PeopleSoft, expect the enterprise software market to head up a notch or two. In the end, this competition will be good for everyone, vendors and customers alike. It's been an entertaining 18 months, but now the real work can finally begin.