Relieving the very real forced-migration fears of its acquired customer base—particularly PeopleSoft and JD Edwards software users—Oracle announced April 25 it will continue to develop its individual lines of software indefinitely. More important, Oracle has said it will add substantive upgrades beyond the release of Fusion, its next-generation suite of applications, due about 2008.
At the combined Oracle Applications User Group and Quest (PeopleSoft and JDE) user conference here, Charles Phillips, co-president of Oracle, outlined the Applications Unlimited program that provides ongoing development and dedicated development teams for the Oracle E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, JDE and Siebel applications.
"Were committed to additional features," said Phillips during his April 25 keynote address. "The concept is [to deliver] the next release, but its unlimited. It goes on in parallel [to Fusion]. Its different train tracks. You can ride on the one you want and jump on the next track when youre ready. Its all going together in parallel. All were doing is adding another track with Fusion. You can jump on when you want to."
With the Applications Unlimited announcement, Phillips said Oracle is also providing more "visibility" into product road maps—critical functionality information the company has been short on to date. Its also boning up on customer support, an area where Oracle once garnered a notorious reputation but is striving to change moving forward.
The Applications Unlimited announcement is a huge step forward for Oracle. When the company last year initially unveiled its vision for Fusion Applications—a superset of applications that would combine the best of capabilities from Oracle, PeopleSoft and JDE—it said it would support the suites until 2013. (Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said he would kill off PeopleSoft and JDE applications altogether back in 2004, when Oracle first announced the PeopleSoft takeover.)
The prevailing thought among customers has been that the Fusion applications—which are based on Oracle Fusion Middleware and Oracle Fusion Architecture—would represent a forced migration to the new platform, despite an elongated support date.
"The concern [for customers] really has been that if I have to make a choice by 2008 or 2009 and [Oracle] is pushing me in that direction, I may actually move away from Oracle," said John Matelsji, chief security officer and deputy CIO for the city of Orlando, Fla., and Quest president. "This gives us time."
Quest members biggest fears have been twofold, according to Matelsji: one, that they would be on a dead-end product once Fusion is released, and, two, that Oracle would not support alternative infrastructure—databases and application servers—with Fusion applications. With the Applications Unlimited announcement, the dead-end-product worries have been assuaged, according to Matelsji. But that still leaves the infrastructure question unresolved.
"There are some assumptions here, but lets assume Oracle doesnt do any alternative stuff. … Its really going to make the customer take a closer look at the whole stack, including Oracle middleware," said Matelsji. "Quite frankly, if its a huge infrastructure cost to migrate from IBM, those types of customers are going to have many more pain points than customers already running Oracle."
JDE user Keith Hill agreed.
"[Unlimited Applications] is great for us. It means we dont have to do another implementation, which Ill die if I have to do," joked Hill, director of IT at Cardinal Glass Industries, in Eden Prairie, Minn. "The [underlying JDE] hardware [from IBM] is so sturdy, why would you want to move off that?"
At the same time, now that there is continued support for Oracles separate suites, which will be built with Fusion-esque capabilities and certified on Fusion Middleware—or will be shortly, in the case of Siebel applications—what is the incentive for users to upgrade to Fusion?
Jesper Andersen, senior vice president of application strategy at Oracle, in Redwood Shores, Calif., said early adopters enthusiasm for Fusion, along with its underlying dependence on standards, will be the "tipping point" for other customers to move to Fusion.
"We believe customers will ultimately want to move to the next generation, but on their own time," said Andersen. "Even leveraging Fusion Middleware, PeopleSoft and JDE do not have a fully automated way of doing business process management. Thats where standards and BPEL [Business Process Execution Language] come in."
In addition, Fusion Applications will have much better business intelligence capabilities built in, along with a more modern, more effective user interface, according to Andersen.