Oracle Java plans fused in project

As part of the Fusion Middleware family of products, last month Oracle Corp. launched its Oracle Application Server Standard Edition One targeting the mid-market. The recently announced Oracle Fusion Middleware brand consolidates the company’s middleware offerings including Oracle Application Server 10g, Oracle Data Hubs and Oracle Collaboration Suite into a single family of infrastructure software.

Oracle will also be incorporating some features of Oracle Fusion Middleware into its applications, as part of its larger Project Fusion initiative. Project Fusion is Oracle’s vision for applications. Ultimately Oracle will develop one suite of applications, combining technology from Oracle, PeopleSoft and JD Edwards applications.

In the meantime, Oracle will be building Project Fusion capabilities into future releases of each individual suite. For example, the vendor will be incorporating more mature business process management (BPM) tools into the applications, capabilities which are already in Oracle Application Server.

Rick Schultz, vice-president, applications server marketing, told ComputerWorld Canada that the Fusion initiative is intended to bring together all the best-of-breed products from its Peoplesoft, J.D. Edwards, Retek and Oracle e-business lines. “It’s also about basing that on a standards-based middleware platform,” Schultz said.

With the acquisition in January of one-time rival PeopleSoft Inc. and its more recent buyout of retail software maker Retek Inc., the company has also inherited a handful of licensing schemes it intends to streamline. The new branding includes the application server, integration, identity management and collaboration technologies, he added.

Project Fusion applications will follow in 2007, with the entire suite to be ready by 2008.For now, Oracle will continue to support the individual product lines, Schultz said. Oracle has said that Fusion will be an evolutionary process with no forced-march migrations — the applications Oracle inherited from PeopleSoft (including Enterprise, J.D. Edwards and World) will be supported as promised through at least 2013. For example, this includes support for PeopleSoft Enterprise 8.9 this year and PeopleSoft Enterprise 9 and EnterpriseOne 8.12 in 2006.

But how do users feel about Fusion middleware and Project Fusion? According to Craig Read, president for the Toronto Oracle Users Group (TOUG) it’s a bit premature to determine the impact of Oracle’s Fusion strategy. Most end users, Read said, are likely still coping with their (Oracle Application Server) 10g implementations.

“The Fusions are built off of 10g so the natural path is 10g first, Project Fusion[s] later,” Read said. “As for licensing, I would guess that (Fusion) will not change the license fees in 2007 or 08 as the technology is tested. Maybe in rollouts during 2008-09 we might see a pricing strategy emerge.”

But overall, the Fusion initiative makes sense, Read said. Oracle will create a services oriented architecture (SOA) that will make combining Oracle modules from different apps easier. “They will provide a framework that will make integrating business processes across apps easier…2007 or probably later there should be some beta releases,” Read said.

For its part, Oracle has worked to reassure its installed base. “The sky is definitely not falling,” said Jacqueline Woods, vice-president of global practices at Oracle. Whatever existing licensing deals customers have will remain in place indefinitely; users need only convert to the Oracle model if they are expanding their license footprint, she said.

In the long run, to simplify pricing, Oracle is eyeing a variety of polices, including one that charges by a specific workflow that might run over several applications, such as order to cash, or by transaction volumes, Woods said.

Despite corporate assurances, “as it relates to pricing, most customers that I have spoken with are still unclear as to the current and evolving strategy,” said John Matelski, deputy CIO for the city of Orlando, a PeopleSoft Enterprise ship. Matelski sits on the board of the Lexington, Ky.-based Quest International Users Group, which is made up of J.D. Edwards customers.

If Oracle keeps its current maintenance pricing schemes, users will be satisfied, Matelski said. “Having said that, there is fear that changes will be made, and this is what’s driving concerns in the global user community,” he said. Matelski also said customers want to know a firm date when Fusion pricing will take effect.

There isn’t one yet, said Woods. “Fusion is an evolutionary process, and as we evolve, we will have a licensing model that supports the Fusion product set,” she said. Woods said that a company could use both concurrent and named-user pricing schemes, noting that the latter model is the cheaper of the two.

For now, Oracle is looking to ensure stable recurring revenue and probably won’t be doing much tinkering with pricing, said Paul Hamerman, analyst at Boston-based Forrester Research Inc. He predicted that the company will discount heavily against rival and market leader SAP AG and ultimately turn to a subscription pricing scheme.

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— with files from IDG News service

Related links:

Oracle offers more on Fusion

Oracle maps its future middleware route