Oracle Enters BPM Arena With ARIS Deal

You gotta love the press release: "Oracle?s BPM product portfolio, which now includes IDS Scheer?s ARIS Platform, will support..." Before today's announcement that it was OEMing parts of ARIS, Oracle to my knowledge did not offer a BPM product portfolio. Sure, they had an SOA Suite that included BPEL Process Manager and BPEL Designer - both excellent products - but the company never mustered the courage to say, "We understand what BPM is and we have a BPM suite." A few months ago I tried to convince Edwin K and other BPEL honchos at Oracle to officially declare themselves in the BPMS battle, but they either felt they weren't ready or had bigger fish to fry with SOA. The missing piece was on the analytical modeling side. Now that piece is no longer missing. And it looks like they're in.

Here is my understanding of the deal, which was announced today. Oracle will OEM key parts of the ARIS platform and has acquired a license to develop internal reference models for Oracle Applications, similar to those ARIS supports for SAP. The components will offered as the Oracle Business Process Analysis Suite. The deal does not include BAM, which Oracle already has. The surprising part, obviously, is IDS Scheer's teaming with SAP's arch competitor, given IDS Scheer's close 15-year relationship with SAP, including joint development of SAP supply chain management, CRM, intellectual property management, and PP-PI modules, ARIS for NetWeaver, and collaboration on SAP xApps.

IDS Scheer, however, admits to no favorites. "A company can store its process knowledge and manage the process lifecycle in ARIS," the company's Dr. Mathias Kirchmer told me recently, "and then load the model into any execution engine of choice, such as NetWeaver, Lombardi, or [now] Oracle."

From a BPM standpoint, the interesting technical tidbit in the press release is support for BPEL round-tripping, a subject we've talked about frequently on BPMS Watch: Together, ARIS and BPEL Process Manager "will enable closed-loop process automation and optimization via shared metadata and unified repository so changes made at the Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) layer will be reflected back at the process design and modeling layer and vice versa."

While they now have the components to do it, I still doubt Oracle will push into the mainstream BPMS market in the manner of, say, IBM or BEA. I think Oracle still sees BPM (and SOA, too) as just the latest evolution of the enterprise applications battle, which is basically a two-horse race. The middleware is there to support the packaged applications, make them more flexible, integrate better with the outside world, etc. Ultimately, this deal may impact Oracle's Fusion Applications far more than Oracle's position in the BPMS magic quadrant.