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Enterprise IT’s summer of love

Technology vendors come together to make clouds, not war. But where does that leave customers?

Shaking hands

Inside the Enterprise: Perhaps it's the Glastonbury spirit, but over the last few days, peace has broken out across the enterprise IT landscape.

And the chief peacemaker seems to be Oracle, once the most acquisitive, if not belligerent, player in technology. The firm that has done much to drive consolidation of the industry, by buying Peoplesoft, JD Edwards, Siebel and Sun, to name just a few, has been rushing out to sign new alliances.

Oracle has signed agreements with NetSuite, Salesforce.com and, most significantly, Microsoft. And the driver appears to be cloud computing.

Oracle has, to date, been slightly lukewarm about the cloud, preferring to promote a "hybrid" or even locally-hosted solutions; this is perhaps unsurprising, given the company's ownership of Sun.

A recent Gartner report on cloud computing vendors pointed out that Oracle's strategy was to buy into cloud services, but also to focus on "enabling technologies", such as Java, Exadata or Solaris, rather than on offering full cloud services, or software as a service, to CIOs.

In that respect, Oracle's recent moves make a lot of sense. Under the deal with Microsoft, Oracle will now support technologies such as its database, and Java, on Microsoft's Azure platform-as-a-service offering. It will also benefit Microsoft by opening up Azure to a wider range of non-Microsoft technologies.

The deal between Oracle and Salesforce is being presented by the companies as a "partnership", and the agreement is to last for nine years. The deal will see Salesforce use a range of Oracle technologies, including the vendor's distribution of Linux and the Oracle database as well as Exadata.

In return, Oracle will integrate Salesforce's offerings with its Fusion HCM (human resources) and Financial Cloud products, with Salesforce using the two applications internally.

A similar deal will see NetSuite connect Oracle's HCM applications into its cloud-based enterprise resource planning software, with the systems integration arm of Deloitte on hand to help implement the joint systems.

Oracle, though, is by no means the only company to be driving new alliances. Capgemini, the systems integrator and consulting firm, recently announced Skysight, a service it calls "cloud orchestration". This will allow businesses to use Microsoft technologies, such as Windows Server 2012, but with cloud services such as billing, metering and security from Capgemini. This, the consultant claims, will allow companies to set up enterprise application stores, and use more of their IT on a "pay as you go" basis.

But the number of cloud deals being done and there are doubtless more to come from other vendors reveals two things about the current state of the IT industry.

Recently HP said it would be building its cloud computing infrastructure on OpenStack, a technology developed originally by Rackspace and Nasa another example of the partnership trend.

The first is that cloud computing continues to appeal to IT departments and especially boards even if, as Capgemini suggests, the main motivator is cost reduction. Cloud, then, is not going to go away.

The second is that cloud computing is actually quite hard to do well, and especially, to do well at scale. Even the largest vendors, such as Microsoft and Oracle, need to partner to deliver the cloud services customers want.

But the main benefit, to customers should be better integration, an area where so far, the cloud has fallen short.

As Larry Ellison, Oracle CEO, said at the time of the Salesforce announcement, "Customers expect application integrations to work right out of the box even when the applications are from different vendors". And that is the part the industry now needs to get right.

Stephen Pritchard is a contributing editor at IT Pro.

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