SAN FRANCISCO – During his Nov. 14 keynote address at OpenWorld, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison presented a wide-ranging look at the companys upcoming Fusion Applications, providing more details about the applications makeup than has seen in the past.
But in his presentation, and later during a question and answer session with audience members, Ellison may have left more questions than he answered.
Ellison pointed out the primary characteristics of Fusion Applications: first they are based on industry standards and an SOA (service-oriented architecture). Secondly, the applications are infused with native business intelligence.
"The third really big thing—a design point—is [Fusion Applications] can be delivered either as traditional on premise or software as a service ready," said Ellison. "Weve built in self-service administration tools so that end users can administer the applications."
The question, for customers, may be with Ellisons definition of "SAAS ready." While different software companies have tried to define SAAS in various ways—primarily to suit the needs of their application architecture—the bottom line definition seems to be whether applications are architected to be multi-tenant, which enables users to be upgraded simultaneously through a shared infrastructure.
Oracle seems to be taking the approach that SAP took earlier with its on-demand CRM (customer relationship management) that it was marketed as "hybrid" software, available both on premise and on demand.
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"A lot of customers think they want to uptake the new technology not just on premise," said Ellison. "They might take it on premise, but they want the option. They really want us to run on both modes."
Likewise Ellison skipped around other delineations of Fusion Applications. When an audience member asked what Ellisons projections for bringing out Fusion Applications for PeopleSoft, Ellison said, "Are you asking when we will have general ledger and PeopleSoft human resources, when will Fusion HR be out? We have to know a little more about whether youre a manufacturer or not a manufacturer and other questions about your business. We talked about our delivery date and we have no changes to announce. I need to know what specific applications you are talking about because Fusion Applications come out an application at a time."
When an audience member asked if the first generation or second generation of Fusion Applications would support the Oracle database as well as outside databases, Ellison said he didnt understand what is meant by first and second generation—essentially long-term, industry standard nomenclature for software versions.
"The first generation will come out in 2008. We dont even know when the second generation is," Ellison said. "Let me say that [Fusion Applications] are the most modern apps running on SOA, so I am not sure what you mean by second generation."
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Fusions financial services applications will support Oracles database as well as IBMs DB2, Ellison said. "As far as GL and HR, we have yet to announce a decision," he said. "We will clearly support Oracle but weve asked IBM to put in more security in DB2 and were in the middle of those discussions."
Still another audience member asked whether Oracle plans to "Fusionize" every single application in its portfolio. "We will eventually have a Fusion GL, a Fusion iRecruitment," said Ellison. "Ultimately we rewrite our applications every 15 years; we will have Fusion everything… Starting in 2008 virtually all our new applications that will come out will be Fusion apps."
While the timing of Fusions release has been in question in the past—mainly industry analysts have published various predictions of whether Oracle would release at least a first version of Fusion in 2008—Ellisons keynote left a bigger question: Are Fusion Applications the sum total of the project Oracle started out with—to write a sort of super set of applications based on functionality from Oracle E-Business, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards and Siebel, or is it simply a rewrite of Oracles older applications?
"Fusion is the latest rewrite of our applications," said Ellison. "When we started, our applications ran on dumb terminals, then client/server, then the Internet. Now were on our second approach with an Internet architecture where there are enough standards.
Ellison estimated that the next rewrite of Oracle applications, following Fusion, will be somewhere around 2025. "I wont be here," he said on a lighter note.
Ellison explained that the three applications demonstrated by Anthony Lye, senior vice president of Oracle CRM On Demand—Sales Prospector, Reference and Tools—would not compete with "first generation" sales force automation applications from the likes of Salesforce.com, but would rather build on the SAAS CRM applications already in existence.
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