After nearly 30 years of meticulously collecting all the disparate software and hardware pieces needed for a world-class enterprise computing stack, Oracle now has an IT management software suite that it says will help companies configure, update and troubleshoot all these moving pieces from one dashboard.
Enterprise Manager 11g's release marks the next logical step in Oracle's (NASDAQ: ORCL) evolution from a mere database software vendor to an all-encompassing systems provider, bringing a backend management tool set for automating, configuring and updating software and hardware throughout the enterprise.
"Management was built as an afterthought in the past," Oracle president Charles Phillips said during a Webcast introducing Enterprise Manager 11g. "It used to be all about getting features out as fast as possible. The problem is that once all that technology came to your site, managing disparate products from different vendors was a whole different challenge."
Chief among those challenges was the ever-frustrating and time-consuming hassle of resolving alerts and application failures derived from change management. In other words, when one department or business unit would, for example, upgrade an enterprise resource planning (ERP) application suite, it would often have the cascading effect of disrupting other software or hardware elements that were either incompatible with the new application or required additional configuration or plug-ins to keep the entire IT ecosystem humming along.
Now, thanks to a seemingly endless stream of acquisitions, most notably its $7.4 billion purchase of Sun Microsystems, the entire stack from storage and servers to middleware, database and business applications is now under the Oracle umbrella.
With Enterprise Manager 11g, the idea is to take full advantage of this Costco-like spread of hardware and software by installing management tools that have been designed and optimized to service this complete stack.
"It's actually kind of the beginning of the next generation of computing," Phillips said. "To get control of this complex thing called IT, Enterprise Manager 11g will let you manage the entire stack differently than you have in the past."
Phillips said about 77 percent of Oracle's customers are already running earlier editions of Enterprise Manager, and the management software suite is currently used to monitor some 1.5 million servers in the enterprise.
Oracle officials said Enterprise Manager 11g will mainly benefit customers who want to monitor what's happening in their IT stacks and then map it to specific business events.
When there's an issue with a server, perhaps a series of failures or extremely high traffic for an e-tailer during a peak shopping season, the management software will give IT administrators a 32,000-foot view not only of what needs to be done to resolve the problem with the servers but how correcting those problems -- maybe offloading more apps and data to virtualized servers -- will impact other applications and hardware in the data center.
Connecting these pieces through Enterprise Manager 11g will give users the tools they need to measure usage statistics and diagnostics for separate software components like its E-Business Suite or Siebel CRM. Individual transactions and their impact on the rest of the business operations can also be extracted in detailed reports.
"The vast majority of our support calls came when someone changed something and upgraded a third-party application," Phillips said. "We get a call and triage to find out what you're running."
"When there are three other vendors involved, it gets complicated," he added. "Everyone's pointing fingers. With this common stack, we know what you're running."
Enterprise Manager 11g also accomplishes the obvious: integrating all your core applications, particularly Oracle's flagship Fusion middleware suite, with any number of on-premises or cloud-based apps used for everything from ERP and CRM to governance and human resources.
Unsaid of course, is the reality that by embracing Oracle's soup-to-nuts approach to enterprise computing and, now, enterprise management software, a customer is essentially locked into one vendor.
On the bright side, however, customers will have only one throat to choke when something goes wrong. The days of vendors blaming one another or maybe a third-party system integrator when the bottom falls out are over in Oracle's "next generation of computing."
Larry Barrett is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.