Enterprise Applications and the topic of Oracle eventually had to come up.
In itself, Oracle is not all that interesting technologically - good database, owner of BEA and SUN. In fact, it is Oracle's single minded pursuit of the enterprise application market - from Siebel, JD Edwards, PeopleSoft, etc. fascinates me (as you might expect).
I typically compare Oracle e-Business against SAP and Microsoft Dynamics - each a study in contrast in their philosophies in delivering value to businesses. In this regard, my opinions are too strident (an understatement). If you are interested I would be happy to rant and rave one-on-one!
I actually think IBM versus Oracle makes a particularly interesting case study. With the purchase of SUN & BEA and their respective embraces of Linux, you could say that these two giants are pursuing the same markets in the same way. But standing the two companies side by side, the seemingly obvious differentiator is the Oracle e-Business suite. IBM does not really have one.
You could almost infer IBM is just not interested in selling large business applications. IBM and Oracle could have divvied up the enterprise market easily but IBM never stood up to the mark. What a mistake!? Nope. I think they knew exactly what they were doing. If anything, IBM understands product life cycles and IBM has consistently purchased business automation enablers that tend to have significantly longer shelf lives.
Oracle has invested in products that leverage the Oracle database - especially those products that have automated particular business models using the wonders of RDBMS. But unlike the database itself, these products age relatively quickly. Consider PeopleSoft as university text book where Oracle is the publisher. Consider the Rational suite as the infrastructure that supports Wiki's. IBM has tended to sell DB3 in situations where "textbooks" are not appropriate - where "adaptive / enabled" solutions are.
Oracle has recently embraced SOA with Fusion/BEA, but looking at their slide-ware (search for "OpenWorld Presentations Available for Download" in Google) I would say that the business logic in their core remains sacrosanct. Exposing e-Business logic as services is not much more than publishing Milton Friedman in a PDF. I think Oracle will have to embrace enablement a la IBM, but refactoring applications where business logic is encoded in the RDBMS and where they are forced to spend more and more each year just to keep this logic (100 of millions of lines of code) relevant to current business practices is a task that will suck the money right out of Larry's sails. And if it's not his money - guess whose it will be?
Now, can IBM rest on their laurels as Oracle sinks into its own morass? It depends on IBM Global Services and IBM's SI partners exploiting IBM's enablement technology. Most CIO's still need to buy automated business logic - they don't have the business analyst talent to do it themselves. IBM needs to deliver open business logic that competes with Oracle's black boxes. Deliver more value with pithy "Wiki's", leaving Oracle to its exhaustive "tomes".
My advice to IBM - step back - keep thinking hard what enterprise automation really is - and redefine the market in your terms. As for Oracle "aunque se viste de seda…". (Finally - I am not ignoring HP, SAP and Microsoft - there is a lot to be said there as well … but not today).