SAN FRANCISCO—Far into the future—or even into the misty reaches of forever—as long as one PeopleSoft customer wheezes over his beloved human resources application, and as long as one J.D. Edwards loyalist frets over a newly discovered flaw, Oracle will be there, President Charles Phillips announced during his opening keynote for Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco on Monday.
The promise is encapsulated in what Oracle Corp. is calling its lifetime support program for all new and existing applications, including the myriad technologies acquired over the past 10 months: PeopleSoft Inc./J.D. Edwards, TimesTen Inc., Retek Inc., i-flex Solutions and, most recently, Siebel Systems Inc.
“As long as someone is using one of our applications, there will be some level of support,” Phillips told a packed room that represented a good chunk of the 35,000 showgoers that have bulked up the city this week.
Phillips gave no details as to what “some level of support” means. But he had on Sunday alluded to a gradual backing-off from product innovation during an address to the Oracle Applications Users Group.
During that talk, Phillips said that after some five years, its likely that only critical product flaws will be addressed.
In a question and answer session with the press following his keynote, Phillips told reporters that over time Oracle will figure out what applications need to retain their usefulness, just as it now does for continued support of products vis-à-vis issues including security and tax updates.
But customers shouldnt expect a lot of change—particularly since they dont particularly want a lot of change, he said. “They dont want to update a lot,” he said. “Thats why theyre going to lifetime support.”
During the Q&A session, Phillips said that the lifetime support program would be available on an annually renewable basis, although pricing details havent been ironed out yet.
In his keynote, Phillips said that the lifetime support program came out of feedback produced since the PeopleSoft acquisition 10 months ago.
Oracle has since talked to over 4,000 customers, surveying them monthly.
According to Oracle surveys, customer support experience has actually improved for both PeopleSoft and other Oracle customers post-merger.
“Theyve been pleasantly surprised,” Phillips said. “Theyve learned that Oracle cares about customers.”
Addressing customer concerns about product viability is, of course, crucial for Oracle, which faced a mountain of suspicion that it was purchasing PeopleSoft mostly to put its rival out of business.
Phillips also announced a program to integrate support for ISVs.
The One Stop Support for ISVs program will be rolled out for select ISVs as a way to improve multivendor support and provide faster problem resolution.
It will build on Oracles existing Services for ISVs program and will aim to eliminate missed hand-offs between Oracle and other ISVs as it tries to help customers figure out problems in their complex, multivendor environments.
Phillips Outlines Project Fusion
Project Fusion was another key theme of Phillips keynote.
Fusion is a massive middleware undertaking in which Oracle is tying together its many technology acquisitions.
Oracle envisions Fusion as the next step in an evolution that started with monolithic applications into which presentation logic, business logic and information stores were all wedged.
From those monoliths technology went to client/server, which parsed presentation to a client and divided business logic between client and server.
Then came the Internet with three-tier applications: presentation, application layer and databases.
The next step in the evolution to modular components is Fusion, which relies on SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) based applications.
At the base of the Fusion stack lies Oracles version of the database grid, where many computers function as one through Real Application Clusters.
Oracle has been hyping this database bedrock since it rolled out its 10g architecture some two years ago, promising that grid would eliminate single points of failure, enable pay-as-you-go computing, provide load balancing, entail no application changes and ensure centralized management.
The next layer above grid in the Fusion architecture, Phillips said, are the applications themselves, including those from Oracle, customized applications and applications from ISVs—essentially, any applications enterprises want to service-enable, Phillips said.
On top of the application layer is the Fusion service registry, where application services are published.
On top of that is the Fusion service bus: the highway for message routing and transformation.
Over that is the business level, where services can be orchestrated into different applications and where business processes can be discovered or changed.
This SOA-based componentization will enable far greater visibility into what, exactly, applications are up to, Phillips said.
“Applications in the past have been rough models of what actual business process was,” he said. “You couldnt see it all. Now you can see it all. We generate BPEL language with Oracle a native BPEL engine so you can improve [services].”
The next layer up is the business benefit layer, or what Oracle is calling the Fusion effect. It includes BI (Business Intelligence) and activity monitoring and will provide real-time analytics and transactions with context.
Finally, on top of everything is the unified portal.
At this point, Fusion Middleware, which Oracle promises is hot-pluggable, is being used by some 26,600 customers, Phillips said.