Oracle Prepping Broad-based Social-networking Suite

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Oracle is developing an enterprise social-networking suite that employs technologies initially developed for internal use by the Oracle Asia Research and Development Center, according to a pair of official company documents.

The technology, titled Oracle Social Suite, has apparently not been formally announced by Oracle. It combines a wide range of social-networking features, according to an internal case study produced in September.

They range from the basics -- such as a blog system that uses Movable Type as a front end; bookmarking; tagging; and aggregated information feeds -- to more conceptual ideas, like Oracle Social Graph, which provides a visual map of the connections between users and content.

The suite also includes OpenSocial Container, which enables users to plug in applets that meet Google's OpenSocial standard.

An architectural rendering of the suite depicts it as a layer that sits on top of Oracle's database, middleware and search technologies, culminating in a top layer of "social-enabled" enterprise applications.

Oracle has already moved in this direction through its Social CRM (customer relationship management) applications, but the company is apparently hoping to make social technologies more pervasive.

The Social Suite project dates back several years at OARDC, according to the documents.

OARDC is a distributed division, with hundreds of employees working in nine cities and seven countries, across multiple time zones. Growing frustrated with sprawling e-mail volumes, repetitive meetings and high travel expenses, OARDC began adopting social tools, according to the documents.

The effort eventually became a beta project code-named "Shiji." Over time, the technology was pushed out to other Oracle business units, the documents state.

It is not clear when or if the Social Suite will become a commercially available product. Neither document provides a release date, although one states that Oracle is "actively recruiting" proof-of-concept customers in Japan.

Oracle may be wise to test the commercial waters slowly, given the saturation level in the social-networking market. Scores of companies are selling platforms for enterprise and outward-facing use, and not all are making it. An Intel-backed product called SuiteTwo, announced in 2006 to great fanfare, is being phased out.

Oracle's suite may have the most appeal for Oracle-centric shops, since it is built on top of many Oracle products.

Social Suite will also have to find a comfortable role alongside technologies like Beehive, Oracle's secure messaging and collaboration platform.

An Oracle spokeswoman could not immediately provide additional comment.

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