Oracle Readies Collaboration Suite Update

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Oracle is set to launch version 2.0 of its collaboration suite with real-time communications features in June, sources said.

Oracle Collaboration Suite 2.0,based on existing e-mail, calendaring, file management, search, voice-mail, fax and wireless components,will feature realtime communications capabilities, including iMeeting Web conferencing, co-browsing and document sharing, said Steven Levine, vice president of collaboration suite marketing at Oracle, during a recent meeting with CRN.

Levine said the iMeeting component will offer full Web conferencing, white-board capabilities for marking up and editing documents, online voice/audio streaming, polling, annotation, recording and playback of meetings, and chat sessions. The upgraded suite is on track to ship by the end of the first half of the year, he said.

Version 2.0 also will offer per-user backup and restore of e-mail, enhanced support for server-side rules and new migration tools for Novell GroupWise and OpenMail users.

The enhanced suite will support external instant-messaging programs, but instant-messaging features from Oracle will be added in future versions, a spokeswoman said. In the next year, Oracle plans to deliver support for Research In Motion's BlackBerry, future releases of Microsoft Outlook, customizable workflows and more granular security controls.

Oracle offers the collaboration suite as a hosted service and for on-premise use through its own consulting services and a small partner network. Its update is expected shortly after Lotus releases Workplace Messaging, expected this month, and just months before Microsoft debuts its Real-Time Communications Server 2003 Standard Edition, due to ship this fall.

Oracle partners claim offering e-mail as a service within an existing database and application infrastructure lowers hardware and administration costs and improves security.

"People are kicking the tires and seeing if it's the real thing, but it's one of the highest-interest products from Oracle we've ever seen," said Richard Niemiec, CEO of Chicago-based solution provider TUSC, referring to the first version of the software.

The realtime communications features and improved installation will make the collaboration suite more appealing to Oracle users, said Sean Brennan, a product manager at FusionStorm, an Oracle business partner in San Francisco.

"Everyone is concerned about cost and security, and this gives customers ROI at a fairly quick rate," Brennan said. "Typically, 70 percent to 80 percent of the user base are [Lotus] Notes- or [Microsoft] Exchange-based. But you have to roll out these servers horizontally as you add users, where Oracle can have 42,000 users on two eight-way boxes so maintenance and number of personnel is significantly cheaper than for Exchange customers."

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