Oracle clears Fusion confusion

Oracle President Charles Phillips on Wednesday led off a two-and-a-half hour deep dive into the technology behind Fusion, hoping to put to rest continuing confusion over its project.

Phillips’ talk — to an audience of approximately 1,000 customers, partners and press — centered on dispelling what he called the “myths” surrounding Fusion.

Myth 1, he said, was that Fusion will merge code with Oracle e-business suite, PeopleSoft Enterprise and J. D. Edwards World applications.

“We are not merging code,” Phillips said.

Phillips said customers should think of Fusion as a new product consisting of enterprise applications to which they can upgrade from their current applications.

The Fusion enterprise application suite will take best practices from all of its current major acquisitions and create a single enterprise suite. However, to get to that point, Oracle created the Fusion Middleware development platform, available now.

The goal of the middleware is to create a single development environment, using one set of tools so that if PeopleSoft or J.D. Edwards customers want to “upgrade” to Fusion, they can do so using the same technology.

Both PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards applications have been certified to work on the middleware platform.

In the meantime, because there is now a single middleware platform all three enterprise suites can share data and to some extent interoperate, as on-stage presentations demonstrated.

Myth 2, Phillips said, was the idea that Oracle is starting with a blank sheet of paper, or rewriting all of the applications.

“E-business suite is the data model supporting the application suite,” Phillips said. “And we are extending that with functionality.”

However, John Wookey, senior vice president for application development, seemed to contradict Phillips comments on rewriting the applications.

In explaining how Oracle intends to integrate business processes with business intelligence insights, he said, “We are rewriting large portions of our applications to do this.”

The goal, Wookey said, is to create a BI service and event-enabled application that will allow management to make changes to business processes in real-time.

A logistics example was given in which a manufacturer would use BI to determine which shipper to use based on timeliness, cost, and breakage.

Whether starting with a blank sheet of paper or substantially rewriting applications, the real message of the evening was that Oracle is building the next version of its suite on an SOA architecture and designing the applications as modular business services. Not dissimilar to what SAP is doing with NetWeaver, most analysts at the event noted.

The other stated goal of the presentation was to get the word out, especially to customers and press, that Oracle is “halfway” to completion of Fusion. While the claim to be meeting the deadline seems correct, one analyst was still skeptical.

“For Phillips to say they are halfway to Fusion is over the top,” said Josh Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting.

Greenbaum said the Fusion middleware component does appear to be on target but Oracle has a way to go to build a services-oriented environment with Web services that can be created in a model driven, service-centric way.

“They have some of this composite application work done and it looks good. But there is a tremendous amount of work yet to be done,” said Greenbaum.

Also missing from the evenings presentations was any mention of the Siebel acquisition and a timeframe for the incorporation of Siebel applications.

The Oracle application road map includes a major release of J.D. Edwards World suite in 2007.

All work on the Fusion suite will be complete by 2008, at which time J.D. Edwards and PeopleSoft customers will be able to upgrade to Fusion.

However, Oracle executives did add a cautionary note, explaining that as companies upgrade to Fusion, IT should look closely at customization work they might have done on their older applications.

To that end, Oracle will include a tool to inventory and track customizations before an upgrade is undertaken.

“Look hard to extensions and customizations,” Wookey said. “Those features may be in the standard functionality built into the [Fusion] product.”

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