Friday, 25 January 2008

The customer view of BEA’s acquisition by Oracle

When the BEA Oracle deal was finally announced last week, my first instinct, like many analysts and journalists I would guess, was to rush to the keyboard and bash something out. But what was there to be said that hadn’t already been covered? After re-reading my previous post on the topic, I didn’t have a great deal more to say at that point.

So, instead of writing a blog post, I composed a little questionnaire and reached out to Oracle and BEA customers through an online survey to capture opinion where the rubber meets the road. In a very short space of time, I gathered nearly 300 responses, including a lot of freeform feedback. I then spent an interesting few hours reading through and categorising people’s views, which is the part of this job I really enjoy. Gathering statistics through tick and bash surveys is one thing, but reading a few hundred comments in which a bunch of smart people tell you what they think in a totally unconstrained manner is a great way to get under the skin of a topic.

In this case, I quickly uncovered a bunch of angles on the BEA acquisition that I hadn’t previously considered. Here is quick summary the themes, both positive and negative, that I managed to pull out (ranked in order of frequency of mention):

Reasons given for why the acquisition is bad news
1. Reduced choice and competition in the market
2. Uncertainties for customers with existing product investments
3. Loss of innovation, Oracle will smother the goodness of BEA
4. Concerns about Oracle as a supplier (style and nature)
5. Increased cost for BEA users (particularly maintenance)
6. Fear of lock-in as Oracle optimises between stack components

Reasons given for why the acquisition is good news
1. A stronger and more mature solution will emerge (eventually)
2. Rescue of good technology from a company that had lost its way
3. Creation of stronger and more credible competition for IBM
4. Better synergy between BEA technology and Oracle RDBMS, tools, etc
5. Reinforcement of distinction between commercial offerings and OSS
6. More integrated approach to customers and account management

Even though a lot of these are pretty obvious, I’m sure most people looking at this list will spot a couple of angles that they hadn’t previously thought of, and if you are a customer trying work out the impact of the acquisition, then this probably isn’t a bad starting point for assessing the balance between risk and opportunity in what is actually quite a complex situation.

Of course we also gathered some stats, and I’ll throw in this chart in here that illustrates the sentiment overall.

Oracle and BEA survey

So, the initial reaction to the acquisition, while mixed, is definitely net negative.

Anyway, if you’re are interested in a drill down on the above chart broken down by customer type (BEA versus Oracle versus joint customers), along with and fuller discussion of the findings, you can check out the more complete analysis I put together here or here.