Oracle Buys FatWire, Now What?


If you missed it, Oracle bought FatWire yesterday. Whether or not this was a shock depends on who you ask. In fact, I suspect that the tension of the sale has been rippling though events for several months.

This acquisition raises several questions, such as, does anyone care, that is, outside of the FatWire install base and those competing against FatWire? I think it matters. Not because of the actual purchase, but because of what Oracle does with FatWire. That will show us volumes about their long-term Content Management strategy.

Before proceeding into my world of hypotheticals, you should read Real Story Group’s collection of thoughts on the deal.

ECM or Expansion?

The first thought is trying to determine the purpose behind the acquisition. Well, there are two basic options. The first is the more boring option and the second seems too rational to be likely.

  • We don’t have a good enough Web * Management option anymore, so we need to acquire a solution to claim a complete ECM story. This basically mean assimilation is the future of FatWire, which means an end to innovation.
  • We need a Web Experience Management solution in order to more broadly serve all our customers information needs.  This means integration and a chance that it will be allowed to evolve independently.

Billy Cripe, formerly of Oracle, offered this observation in support of the first option. [He has since published his thoughts on the acquisition and commented below]

I see Hasan Rizvi quoted in the press release. He’s SVP of FMW (where ecm, webcenter & soa live) My guess: folded in

Meaning….FatWire is doomed. Regardless of the plan, how can you innovate in the web space when you release every 3 years? Want proof?

Remember Stellent?

A long time ago, about a decade ago, Stellent was one of the leading Web Content Management vendors. They slowly expanded their functionality for an Enterprise Content Management play. They did well enough to convince Oracle to buy them.

Over the years, Oracle has maintained its lead over the other ECM players in the WCM space, at least in people’s minds. Meanwhile, specialized W*M products arose and took the market lead.

The same thing will happen to FatWire. Why? Simple rules of the industry. 2-3 year product cycles cannot compete in the web marketplace. That was the foundation of my critique of EMC’s Web Publisher.

Speaking of EMC…

Looking Back on SDL

I wrote a short little article for CMSWire about why EMC partnered with SDL Tridion in addition to FatWire a few months ago. It basically said that it was about offering choice to the EMC community. I still think that is true.

That said, let’s speculate and deal with rumors for a  bit…

It is probably also true that EMC didn’t want to put all their eggs in one basket. When the Fatwire partnership was announced, their wasn’t much public speculation about an acquisition down the road, but there was some discussion. That acquisition didn’t happen, obviously. When it didn’t, EMC likely knew that FatWire likely wanted to be acquired. EMC then found a new partner that was bigger (less likely to need a buyer) and happy to just be themselves.

This knowing that the relationship was going to end with one side marrying another vendor probably stressed the partnership. That stress may have been part of the source of the multitude of rumors that I heard over the past 6 months.

Of course, Oracle could have bought FatWire to both improve their offering and damage EMC. Wild speculation, but entirely possible.

It is also entirely possible that EMC may want to acquire SDL one day, but part of me views that as unlikely. Of course, all it would take is a rumor that IBM was going to acquire a W*M vendor and things could change quickly.

In the meantime, if Oracle subsumes FatWire, how long until they need to buy a new vendor to purchase all the innovation that they won’t be able to build themselves? EMC has given-up trying to innovate in the web space (rightly so). It remains to be seen which strategy will win out.

17 thoughts on “Oracle Buys FatWire, Now What?

  1. Laurence,
    At some point I was going to write a blog post about this myself, but realising I don’t have the time, I’ll use your blog as a notepad and post some thoughts.
    I thnik you’re absolutely right, by the way, that even if it wasn’t the primary motivation, there was an element of spiting EMC in this acquisition. But I also think that by the time they acquired Stellent, it was already behind the times as a WCM.
    Oracle’s web strategy seemed to me to be highly premised on SOA. They ended up with at least 4 different portals after they acquired BEA and they invested a lot of effort in trying to get Stellent’s WCM integrating nicely with this.
    But then I think 2 things will have dawned on them slowly:
    1. That Stellent wasn’t as Java-based as the company let on, that Idol was still intrinsic to the product (which perhaps suggests an unlikely lack of due diligence?); and that
    2. Customers didn’t really want full SOA to integrate their applications and deliver them through a browser.
    For public websites in particular, but also for intranets / extranets, what was really beginning to matter was good personalisation and better analytics; in short, engagement. Stellent was way behind its competitors on this front and unlikely to catch up. Oracle only had the skills of those Stellent developers who were still left in the company…
    Oracle looked at FatWire and thought; hey, here’s a product that actually gives us what people are asking for, and better yet, because it’s Java-based and requires a relatively high amount of services effort to get up and running, we can build up our professional services on this in a skill that developers actually want to acquire.
    It’s an acquisition that makes sense for Oracle, but as you imply from your post, it’s not great for FatWire’s customers: they can kiss goodbye to innovation and keeping up with the smaller suppliers in WCM. What a pity.

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  2. Dave Martin says:

    I hate to be that guy… but I usually am so here it goes…

    What about SharePoint? Oracle and Microsoft are violent competitors and Microsoft has made it known that they have significant intentions in the WEM/WCM market with SharePoint 2010. As Microsoft moves to steal more DB footprint from Oracle it would seem logical to me that Oracle wouldn’t mind a slap back by targeting WEM/WCM.

    This could be a slap… whether Oracle demolishes another product through acquisition or not.

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    • SharePoint is not really a viable competitor in the WCM/WEM space. What they did for SP2010 in that space was meager from a technology perspective, though their marketing get better. For more information on that, check a previous post on a session on using SP for the Web from the SharePoint Symposium.

      Don’t get me wrong, I have no inside information, but I can’t imagine that this was driven by concerns of Microsoft. They may have concerns, but this isn’t the area they would have likely tackled.

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  3. Got to disagree with the doom and gloom here Pie. For a full view of my thoughts see my blog post on the Oracle – FatWire topic here: http://bloomthink.com/2011/06/21/oracles-fatwire-acquisition-round-up/

    I think that the WEM and widget capabilities of FatWire complement (read: fill the gaps) the in the ECM / WebCenter stack. Oracle’s story around how to do that natively was much more about building with the stack. While possible, it wasn’t necessarily quick or easy. Combined with other R&D priorities like combining BEA with WebCenter with Stellent with IPM with Apps and you’ve got an overloaded product management team with too many competing “good and necessary” priorities to fill in-house. The alternatives are to look to partners to build necessary add-ons (take a look at their OVI program to see how they’re leveraging this model) and look for other technology to acquire – enter ATG, Fatwire, and undoubtedly others.

    Look at Oracle’s trajectory – ECM continues to move into the background as a SOA enabled rich content store. But they recognize that they need to keep up with WEM not just by allowing coders to code but also to build in or fold in capabilities that meet the needs right away. Thus Fatwire.

    Disclaimer: I’ve got absolutely no insider info on this and it is pure conjecture. Educated conjecture, but conjecture nonetheless.

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    • Thanks for the “disagreement” and the link. My only issue is that I don’t think you said anything that I disagree with, just adding insight.

      My doom-and-gloom is really about the ability for the FatWire offering to maintain its lead. Everything you have said seems to indicate that this is a badly needed functionality fill-out. Excellent. The issue is that if FatWire is rolled into the larger picture, release cycles are going to stretch out. This will make it challenging for the offering to keep pace with the market. The market is growing and shifting quickly and isn’t likely to slow down. As a result, their will likely be all-new gaps in 3 years in Oracle’s web market offering.

      To be fair, this is true of their major competitors, EMC, IBM, and Microsoft. It is a feature of large, enterprise-class, software products. Oracle is taking the approach of buying the solution. They’ll have the same problem in a few years, but they’ll be covered in the short-term. EMC is trying to partner their way through this, but that runs the risk of your partner being bought, as this transaction illustrates.

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  4. “Stellent was one of the leading Web Content Management vendors. They slowly expanded their functionality for an Enterprise Content Management play. They did well enough to convince Oracle to buy them.”

    I’d argue it’s the other way around.

    Stellent started out as pure content management, and expanded their service-based repository into WCM… which was fine for intranet and content-heavy dot-com sites, but not for highly personalized ones. Expanding it further to support FatWire’s “experience management” seems the natural “next step.”

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    • Didn’t Stellent go by “Intranet Solutions” until about 10 years ago? I remember going to AIIM events and they had strong WCM and they seemed to be building their DocMgmt. I’ll defer to people that worked with Stellent back in the day, but that was the perception I had of them back then.

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  5. Anonymous from Northeast US says:

    FatWire was a crappy tainted product before Oracle got its hands on it. I been developing on FatWire and I used numerous CMS’s before and FatWire is the worst to develop on. Alot of work, very little return. The reason that the company was successful was because of its sales team.. They pitch an easy to use interface and nice feature to the execs, who buy into the pretty package. Then when the clients engineers show up at FatWire for training, one of the first things they tell them is to forget what they know, and do it their way. Sort of like the borg. Resistance is Futile since you boss has signed the contract you must now obey

    [Identification information edited. Debated hiding but was related enough to topic and not graphic. If conversation turns south, I will remove all such comments. -Pie]

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  6. dmcontent says:

    From a small insiders perspective,
    some big web publisher clients of EMC chose Tridion over Fatwire, which could have influenced the decision to partner with Tridion rather than the technicalities you mentioned earlier.

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    • I heard that as well. I think that made EMC realize that multiple answers were necessary. I know that they are looking at adding other partners.

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  7. Amumathi says:

    Hi Any-update is fatwire still able to retain its client base, I have pretty nasty support experience with fatwire CMS for a leading multinational, I suppose the doom gloom of fatwire depends upon a viable alternative CMS any idea?

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