Oracle and users play nicely at conference

There is little evidence of last spring’s public feud between Oracle Corp. and its users group as the two sides mix and mingle in Toronto this week.

Instead, a senior Oracle executive told the Oracle Applications Users Group’s (OAUG) Spring 2002 conference for North America that the company continues to make organizational changes to track down the root causes of errors in its applications.

The company’s 11i E-Business Suite is so broad that quality control procedures used for earlier releases don’t really work well, and users are rightfully concerned that they have had to apply too many patches, said Cliff Godwin, Oracle’s Calif.-based senior vice-president of applications technology.

In his Tuesday morning address, Godwin announced a number of fixes designed to both reduce mistakes by Oracle coders, and common customer errors resulting from the complexity of implementing 11i.

New tactics to reduce the rate of errors include an automated performance analyzer that looks at all the SQL statements extracted from a database and checks that customizations will not reduce performance automatically generated of database drivers to replace hand-coded ones, and a standard compliance checker, said Godwin.

With E-Business 11i.7 now in 100-plus countries, and 30 languages, Godwin said application integration is always going to be an expensive, painful necessity, but added Oracle is focussed on ending the “customization treadmill” by finding ways to extend the system without invasive customer modifications.

“We help you not modify the code we shipped so it’s easy and cost-effective for you to use our upgrades … why not use our 5,000 developers instead of having your own,” he said.

Noting that the two main problems in IT implementation are incomplete automation and fragmentation of information, Godwin said that Oracle is now pursuing an information architecture that leads to a single complete data model. Consolidating information as much as possible allows Oracle’s portal technology to “deliver daily pages that support different business roles you might have supported in your e-business suite,” he said.

“The other vendors – PeopleSoft, Siebel and SAP – are advocating a fragmented architecture. Why would you do that if you can get the benefit of business intelligence out of having it [information] all in one,” Godwin said.

In a later interview, Godwin told IT World Canada that most users he hears from are happy with the latest releases of 11i, and that, generally, those who had problem with earlier versions have now sorted them out. The push to develop new quality control infrastructures, he said, came in response to users who wanted to know that Oracle has addressed quality issues.

“We’ve made progress but there are always things we can do better,” he said. “With the scale of companies (implementing 11i) that stakes are very high, so we need to do this almost perfectly.”

Oracle and the OAUG first split over the control of applications-related conferences in spring 2001, when the user group rejected a proposal to fold its two annual North American events into a single one that would be sponsored by the company. The OAUG said doing that would compromise the openness of its conferences and turn them more into marketing events for Oracle.

Shortly afterward, Oracle announced plans for its own AppsWorld conference. The company hosted the first two AppsWorld events earlier in 2001 in Paris and New Orleans, while diverting resources and personnel from the OAUG’s conferences – a change that caused considerable friction between the two sides.

However, a new OAUG president and board members elected in March 2002 vowed to mend fences while still retaining an independent voice for users, and in Toronto the air seems to have cleared. In fact, on Tuesday’s conference floor, delegates seemed much more interested in talking about total cost of ownership, return on investment, integration, implementation and ice hockey rather than past tensions between the company and its users.

Oracle Canada in Mississauga, Ont., is at

The Oracle Applications User Group is at

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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