Oracle adds ID management on acquisition spree

Oracle on Tuesday said its acquisition of Oblix could move identity management responsibilities from the IT department to human resources professionals.

Financial terms for the

purchase of privately-held, Cupertino, Calif.-based Oblix were not disclosed, but Oracle said it would be retaining the entire sales and engineering team of the 100-employee firm. Oblix software offers single sign-on and other access privileges to corporate networks and data. Last year it made an acquisition of its own, Confluent, to add Web services management capabilities to its product portfolio.

Thomas Kurian, senior vice-president of Oracle server technologies, said in a conference call that the company entered the ID management space two and a half years ago to make sure Oracle products can be secured. Oblix will mean it can offer a solution for heterogeneous, enterprise-wide ID management deployment, for packaged applications, databases, app servers and other systems from other companies and vendors.

Since it won a contentious hostile takeover battle for PeopleSoft earlier this year, Kurian said, Oracle’s installed base represents a considerable portion of HR departments within large corporate enterprises. This is where the Oblix acquisition could bring some advantages, he said.

“You provision employees in the HR systems, and automatically you have the facility to synchronize HR with ID management,” he said. “It’s security at a much lower cost.”

Andrew Baunberg, a senior information security analyst with research firm Current Analysis, said provisioning has been a huge issue in many organizations, and Oracle’s idea of empowering HR is a compelling one. He noted, however, that Oracle is only the latest business applications firm to acquire its way into the identity management space. Earlier this year, for example, Computer Associates said it would acquire Netgrity, while Sun and BMC have also made purchases in this area. 

“Is it a huge differentiator? No, they’re playing catch-up here,” he said. “ Is it a value-add to the Oracle installed base? Definitely.”

Oracle has been moving quickly since the PeopleSoft integration began. Just last week it won a bidding war for retail software provider Retek, which had previously been sought after by German rival SAP. IDC analyst Stephen Elliot said it’s no surprise Oracle remains hungry to add to its assets. 

“To me it’s just another day,” he said. “Single sign-on, ID management, all these areas, are just an extension of what a lot of IT organizations need to execute.”

ID management includes not only provisioning but federation and access management components, according to Kurian. Oracle’s software will be able to work with legacy applications or even new ones that weren’t built with a service-oriented architecture (SOA) in mind, he said. If companies have used SOA standards, however, including WS-Federation, plugging in ID management will be somewhat easier.

Oblix’s Web management tools allow users to express security policies on various service-oriented applications, Kurian added, and then monitor the compliance of those applications. “You can bridge the world of managing services and managing the security for those services using these tools,” he said.

Braunberg said the Oblix deal will mean companies can consolidate and provision to Oracle databases. “That for Oracle is a huge issue,” he said. “The provisioning there to multiple database is a really interesting application.”

Kurian said Oblix more than 200 customers include Boeing, British Airways and Coca-Cola.

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