SAP, Oracle Boost Business Apps Portfolios

Oracle E-Business Suite 12.1 allows enterprise users to adopt the whole platform or deploy certain modules as stand-alone platforms. At the same time, SAP is making its Business Suite 7 generally available to customers worldwide. As companies struggle to keep their IT budgets under control in the face of a global recession, modularity and SAAS approaches hold massive appeal as cost-cutting solutions.

Even as enterprises look to cut IT costs and streamline processes, Oracle and SAP have introduced updates to their business-applications portfolios designed to simplify day-to-day business operations.

Oracle released Oracle E-Business Suite 12.1 on May 4, with added functionality for business fields such as Wholesale Distribution, Public Sector, High Technology, Engineering and Construction, and Professional Services.

According to Oracle, the new release complements existing Oracle E-Business Suite 11i and Release 12 environments.

"There's functionality in ways that can be used by an Oracle E-Business Suite 11.i user without doing a full upgrade," Cliff Godwin, senior vice president of applications development at Oracle, said in an interview. "Many of the analytics capabilities, planning applications and some other modules can be deployed as stand-alone systems."

Stand-alone solutions available with E-Business Suite 12.1 include value chain planning products for Supply Chain Management, Oracle Sourcing On Demand, Oracle Incentive Compensation and Oracle Warehouse Management. The suite also includes integrated analytics from Oracle Business Intelligence Applications, and a talent management application with enhancements to recruiting, succession planning, and performance and learning management.

It has been an exceptionally busy period for the company. On April 20, Oracle announced plans to purchase Sun Microsystems as part of a deal worth about $7.4 billion, potentially creating a sizable market-share threat to IBM, Hewlett-Packard and other IT giants. IBM had previously been in talks with Sun about a possible acquisition, although that deal fell through for still-undisclosed reasons.

Oracle also has been taking steps to increase the depth of its portfolio and update its suite of tools for the enterprise. On May 4, the company announced the inclusion of new features in its Oracle Beehive enterprise collaboration platform, a standards-based platform that delivers e-mail, calendar functions, team workspaces and instant messaging.

Oracle rival SAP has also been active. Originally announced in February 2009, SAP Business Suite 7 became generally available to customers worldwide as of May 5.

SAP Business Suite 7 is designed to provide more efficient and flexible business processes via a modular software library that includes SAP ERP, SAP Customer Relationship Management, SAP Supplier Relationship Management, SAP Supply Chain Management and SAP Product Lifecycle Management.

Other capabilities include enhancement packages that, as with Oracle's product, allow customers to deploy certain functionality modules without upgrading their entire platform. Also featured are value scenarios, which suggest how business problems with end-to-end processes can be solved in "stepwise" fashion, an expanded industry-specific footprint that "addresses critical business requirements" and harmonized user interfaces.

In all, SAP Business Suite 7 includes 2,800 enterprise services for enabling "the flexible, modular development of differentiating one's own practices," according to a company statement. A built-in solution manager allows administrators to implement content changes to Business Suite applications, cutting downtime and possibly leading to cost reductions.