Behind Oracle’s ETL Power Grab

Officials were mum (or mostly mum) on planned integration between Sunopsis’ ELT assets and Oracle’s own ETL product, Warehouse Builder.

You can always count on Oracle Corp. to liven up an otherwise slow news cycle. Just this week, for example, the database giant announced still another business intelligence-related acquisition—that of data integration specialist Sunopsis Inc.

Officials spin the acquisition as a coup for Oracle’s Fusion Middleware initiative, outlining plans to broadly incorporate the Sunopsis assets across the Oracle BI Suite, Oracle SOA Suite, and Oracle Data Hubs.

Sunopsis—along with Informatica Corp., Ab Initio Software Corp., and DataMirror Corp. --, is (or was) best known as one of a handful of extant ETL vendors; or extract, load, and transform (ELT), as Sunopsis describes its technology.

But Oracle officials were mum—or mostly mum—on planned integration between Sunopsis’ ELT assets and the database giant’s own ETL product, Warehouse Builder, which received its most ambitious to-date makeover just this summer. “The two products, Oracle Warehouse Builder and Sunopsis, will come together over time,” confirms Rick Schultz, vice-president of Fusion Middleware with Oracle. “We’ll be looking at integrating the two products together, [although] we can’t provide a detailed road map for this at this time. We’ll be getting to a single data integration platform at some point in the future.”

Given the amount of overlap between OWB and the Sunopsis assets, TDWI senior manager of research and services Philip Russom says he’s perplexed by Oracle’s move. “Oracle’s acquisition of Sunopsis is puzzling, because Oracle already has an enterprise-class tool for ETL in OWB,” Russom points out. “The considerable overlap in functionality between the two tools will be hard for Oracle representatives to explain. Both tools run in the Java Virtual Machine [JVM] of a server. Both are commonly collocated on the same server as the target database. Both are used for ETL and ELT.”

Schultz, for his part, claims the two solutions “complement” one another and emphasizes Sunopsis’ strengths in the real-time (or “right time”) data integration space, which he says will help strengthen Oracle's “hot-pluggable” SOA push by providing robust support for Oracle and non-Oracle data sources and targets. “This is in response to customers’ requirements for real-time access to information and support for heterogeneous environments. Sunopsis has broad support for a range of data products, including non Oracle [platforms]. So we plan to focus on integrating the Sunopsis products with our products in [the Fusion Middleware] area—Oracle BI Suite, Oracle Data Hub, and our SOA suite,” he comments. “[Sunopsis] … reinforce[s] the Oracle fusion middleware importance of providing hot-pluggable [access].”

It’s in this respect, Russom acknowledges, that the acquisition does make sense.

“One huge difference,” he indicates, “is that OWB is designed for mostly Oracle Data Server sources and targets, whereas Sunopsis is designed to interoperate with a wide variety of application and database brands. The addition of Sunopsis to the Oracle Fusion Middleware product line greatly opens it up to far more data sources and targets.”

There’s a further wrinkle here, too. In spite of Oracle’s ambitions in the enterprise ETL segment—the latest version of OWB is generally regarded as its most enterprise-worthy deliverable to date—Oracle also partners with a number of nominal BI and ETL competitors, including Informatica Corp. What’s more, Sunopsis has strong relationships with several BI and data warehousing competitors, including DW grandee Teradata (a division of NCR Corp.) The addition of the Sunopsis assets to Oracle’s already strong ETL feature set could complicate these and other “coopetitive” relationships.

Schultz stresses that Oracle made the acquisition mostly to flesh out its Fusion Middleware initiative. And—while reconciliation between Sunopsis and OWB must eventually take place—Schultz says coopetition is a fact of life in the BI space. “This [acquisition] actually increases the partnering opportunities,” he argues. “We continue to be extremely committed to all of the partners we have in this space, some of whom are in coopetition with us. We have a very strong relationship with Informatica, for example, and we continue to support their ETL tools. We continue to support Teradata, too. Sunopsis had a very strong relationship with them, as well.”

Schultz points to Oracle’s analytic applications, which explicitly depend on Informatica’s ETL technology: “We have a very specific relationship with someone like Informatica around our analytic applications, and we actually depend on the Informatica ETL tool as our underlying technology; that’s a commitment we recently renewed, too.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.