Oracle 11g Imaging and Process Management makes a 3-horse race

  • 25-Mar-2010

When Oracle acquired Stellent in 2006 I thought the best piece of technology they got their hands on was the imaging tools that Stellent had themselves previously acquired from Optika. Yet somehow this got lost at Oracle, who responded with a limited BPEL license to encourage buyers to move away from the Optika workflow -- albeit never really pushed very hard.

But, four years on, we see the reborn Optika product set re-emerge as Oracle Image and Process Management 11g (IPM) - part of a fairly major upgrade to the Oracle ECM range.  We'll be sharing a detailed evaluation with our ECM stream research customers.  But meanwhile, the vendor's initial benchmark efforts tell us that Oracle has positioned it to compete head on with IBM and EMC at the highest end of the market.

A few broad observations can be made straight out of the gate, the new repository is UCM, and considering the workflow functionality was previously swapped out in favor of BPEL... well to put it another way, there's not much left of the Optika product. I guess the biggest thing for many buyers (both as a pro and a con) is that IPM will now be delivered as a fully integrated, and co-dependent element in the Oracle stack.

The high end of the market is dominated by IBM and EMC, almost to the exclusion of everyone else - so one more vendor to fatten up your shortlist is no bad thing.  It's in stark contrast to the  mid-market, where buyers have a profusion of imaging choices from Laserfiche through Hyland to Westbrook, and beyond.  Yet very large deployments have little choice, and worryingly we have seen in the past some disastrous decisions being made solely on the basis that EMC or IBM was an incumbent vendor, rather than on a rigorous and competitive RFP process.

The document management market has always been somewhat phoenix-like. Old products go away and then emerge with new colors at some later, and often quite unexpected moment. There is little true innovation these days in this sector, though its nice to see some new approaches emerge and vendors having the confidence to try new models and structures. Some notable examples we have researched in the past few years would include SpringCM, Fabasoft, Nuxeo and Alfresco - all pushing the boundaries a bit in their different ways. 

Yet, a lack of innovation is not always a bad thing. Very high volume, transactional document management depends on rock-solid underpinnings, on computing platforms that have been tried and tested to the nth degree. Wild and wacky approaches have no place here. 

Time will tell how well Oracle delivers on the 11g promise. As always, there's one big loser here: existing Optika customers who stayed with the older over the years.  11g isn't an upgrade; it's a replacement.  Sometimes when one vendor acquires another, the customer pain is immediate.  In other cases, it's like a delayed-fuse bomb -- even if they had fair warning.

Meanwhile, the high end of the Imaging market has a new entrant, and with luck this should start to stimulate some healthy development initiatives among a few worthy competitors, rather than the incumbent two-horse race we currently have.

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