Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Oracle endorses Adobe strategy with FatWire purchase

The Content Management ecoverse is abuzz today with the news of Oracle's decision to acquire Web Experience Management vendor FatWire (for an undisclosed sum). While I suspect Oracle didn't have to spend much more than $200 million to acquire the Mineola, NY-based FatWire, it would not surprise me if cash-flush Larry & Co. dumped as much as $400 million (in stock and cash) into the acquisition. Recall that back in 2006 (when the U.S. dollar was actually worth something) Oracle cheerfully coughed up $440 million for Stellent.

What does the FatWire acquisition say about Oracle's previous foray into WCM (via Stellent)? What does it say about the current marketplace?

The second question is easier. Oracle has clearly bought into the Customer Experience Management Weltanschauung. Oracle's Kumar Vora says: "As more companies rely on their web sites as their most important channel for communication, marketing, customer engagement and commerce, they realize that optimizing the online experience requires best-in-class capabilities delivered on an integrated platform with complete back-office and data integration." This is exactly the message of Adobe with respect to CEM, and I (for one) find it only slightly ironic (and not at all coincidental) that the FatWire acquisition announcement follows Adobe's announcement of its new Digital Enterprise Platform by only a day.

Bottom line, it's clear from Oracle's own rhetoric surrounding the purchase of FatWire that the FatWire acquisition is nothing if not a hand-over-fist endorsement of the Adobe CEM vision.

Does this mean Oracle will be able to compete effectively against Adobe in the CEM-platform space? For insight on this, perhaps we should return to the question I posed earlier about FatWire vs. Stellent. With Stellent, Oracle acquired a capable Web CMS of modest complexity that offered good value for the money. They folded it into the Universal Content Management suite, did a little rearchitecting (but without ditching the proprietary Idoc Script language), and came up with an ECM-flavored document-management suite that could also do WCM. Meanwhile, Oracle invested relatively little R&D in personalization, optimization, campaign management, social collaboration, multi-device output, or any of the other disciplines that companies like Day Software (now Adobe) and FatWire continued to innovate in. In short, Oracle chose not to innovate (at a pace that would ensure continued relevance for UCM). As a result, it is today having to buy (rather than build) its way into the WEM/CEM space.

It's expected to take another 6 to 9 months for the FatWire deal to close (during which time the two companies, and their respective WCM offerings, will operate separately). After the deal closes, expect another year or so for any meaningful product integration to occur. (In the meantime, you can expect to hear a lot of happy talk about CMIS being the holy grail of interoperability.) Bottom line, while the well-oiled Oracle sales machine will no doubt have a nice-sounding story in place well before then, I don't think you can expect a credible integration of FatWire technology with the UCM/Fusionware morass in less than 18 months; and by that time, who knows what other technologies Oracle will have to have bought in order to maintain credibility in the WEM/CEM/WCM space?

My hat's off to Yogesh Gupta for doing a fine job of fatting the FatWire calf just in time for slaughter. Had he waited another six months to clinch a buyout deal, things might have looked quite a bit less rosy for the company formerly known as Divine, nee OpenMarket (nee Future Tense).