Oracle focusing on worldwide central access

Oracle Corp. is claiming to have the industry’s first truly global Internet business software.

Oracle Applications Release 11 i, the company’s latest version of its enterprise applications suite, was showcased at the Oracle Applications User Group (OAUG) Conference, held recently in Orlando, Fla.

“These are the world’s first applications to run globally. And I say first very seriously,” said Ron Wohl, Oracle’s senior vice-president of application development.

“Today, talk to any big company and see how they run – they don’t run globally, they run locally. They have separate systems country by country, region by region. But what we are talking about here for the first time is enabling customers to run globally.”

Transforming a traditional business to an e-business is a complex process, Wohl said, because it can involve changes to many core practices. The two most important characteristics of an e-business are its ability to run globally and the ability to quickly change all business practices and customer and supplier relationships by moving from an internal to an external focus, he said. “There’s no way you can run an effective, efficient business if you scatter your information all around the world on multiple servers,” he said.

“How, for example, can you optimize inventory fully, if your inventory information is split across 20, 40 or more servers? It becomes very, very hard to do.”

The traditional approach has been for companies to become resigned to the fact that the data will be spread out, and to reassemble it in a data warehouse, but this can be a complex and limited solution, he explained. But with 11 i, it is possible to log on to a central set of servers from anywhere in the world.

Wohl said 11 i is also the only application suite that runs from a single code base, which includes localizations, currencies, languages and other specialized enhancements. This limits the integration issues between different versions of the applications that other vendor applications require to be run in each geographic location, he said.

“Any languages that you need are supported by unicode for simultaneous operation,” Wohl explained.

Other announcements included extended Internet procurement functionality, new Internet Supply Chain Management products, a new Order Management system, Oracle Exchange business to business on-line marketplace and an enhanced graphical look and feel. Users who are running Oracle 10.7 or 11 can move directly to 11 i via an auto install function.

Brian Smith, a business analyst with the Burnaby, B.C.-based Rapid Transit Project (RTP) 2000 Ltd., who currently uses Version 10.7 of the Oracle Financials module, was particularly interested in the new Report Manager functions that were announced for the 11 i release.

“I can see it helping in a number of ways (such as) consolidating the information into a format we are looking for (and) getting the right information at the right time. Right now, it’s constantly a struggle between getting reams of data and piles of paper, and consistently getting at the detail. And from what I saw there, that looked like a very interesting way – an efficient way – of making that data more readily available,” Smith said.

The 11 i release offers further integration between the company’s ERP and CRM applications, which was an effort to make “the rhetoric of the 360 view of the customer a reality,” according to Mark Barrenechea, senior vice-president of Oracle front office applications.

Oracle Applications Release 11 i includes Oracle 8i, Oracle Application Server and Oracle Developer Server. Release 11 i ERP’s financial, human resource projects and manufacturing applications will be available in Q2, and the new Order Management application, and Oracle Applications Release CRM will be available in Q2 of next year.