Oracle Embraces Web 2.0 Technologies

The software vendor looks to wikis, social networking and tagging in its application development.

SAN FRANCISCO—Oracle officials are wrapping their applications strategy around three themes.

The companys customer choice message comes as no surprise to anyone thats followed Oracles acquisition strategy since it bought PeopleSoft in 2005. It was then that Oracle offered unlimited support for its acquired applications.

Likewise, Oracles applications roadmap delineation is nothing new. The company has committed to the next versions of all its suites in the next 12 to 24 months, and Ed Abbo, senior vice president of Oracle Application Development, confirmed during an address here at the Oracle OpenWorld conference Nov. 14 that Fusion Applications, Oracles next-generation application suite, will be available in 2008.

However, what is a surprise is how much Enterprise 2.0 technology—namely social networking, application tagging and wikis—has taken hold in Oracles development strategy. During his address, Abbo demonstrated two new application concepts Oracle has developed. The first is the creation of a Web 2.0 native application that consumes enterprise services and supports unstructured processes.


To read more about Oracle adding Enterprise 2.0 features to Fusion, click here.

"We wanted to build an application that would provide a similar service like, but for salespeople," he said. "So we built an application that mashes up orders with territories and accesses information from the Internet that finds relationships between companies and other companies."

Abbo demonstrated an application that leverages Oracles entire installed base to make predictions about a companys potential purchasing power, in a way that evaluates one opportunity against another. For example, the application looks at who customers are, what products a company should be selling to them and what references they should use to drive sales.

The second demonstration centered around something Abbo referred to as Social CRM [customer relationship management] through the use of Google Gadgets, which let users customize the way they see information on the Internet. What Abbo showed is the ability to take portlets from CRM On Demand and make them operational in Google Gadgets.

"We [took] the collaborative sticky notebook concept and really added it directly into CRM, doing opportunities, leads, accounts—bringing information on the Internet to applications," he said. "Its an OpenSocial API relationship with Google Gadgets—social networking that provides an opportunity to really change CRM."

Vic Gundotra, head of Googles developer program, said Google has some fairly unconventional internal development practices. For example, Google allows its developers to follow their passions and spend 20 percent of their time working on development projects they choose without management approval. A Google engineer fanatical about mapping might hook up with another engineer and, off the cuff, come up with a concept like Google Maps.

"We believe that kind of ad hoc group often happens now outside the business boundaries," said Gundotra. "Thats why weve worked with lots of partners—Oracle is a founding member—to find standardized ways to write social applications. The tools really are about business being social."


Read more here about weaving Web 2.0 into the enterprise.

As was rumored in the days leading up to OpenWorld, Abbos keynote also brought the first "live" demo of a Fusion Application, with the key development tenant embedded with business intelligence capabilities.

"What we mean by embedded is not an after-the-fact business dashboard, but the right information in context of transactions," said Abbo.

Steve Miranda, senior vice president of Fusion Application development, joined Abbo to demo a Fusion Application that lets a person in accounting determine appropriate bonuses through decision analysis. By entering different bonus scenarios, the person is able to determine whether the business is going over budget, under budget, or can hire another person, according to Miranda.

"Fusion Applications all run in the context of Web Center," he said. "The key concepts are role-based access and role-based security [that allow] someone in accounting, where invoicing and payables would be, to allocate bonuses."

In one section of the demo, Miranda tried to drag and drop functionality from one application component to another. After four unsuccessful tries, he moved on.

While the demo misstep might have been chalked up to Murphys Law, questions from industry watchers regarding Fusion Applications—and their viability in the face of Oracles Application Integration Architecture, which integrates Oracles applications on the backend—are still swirling. During a press session following Abbos keynote, a reporter asked whether the introduction of Oracles Application Integration Framework that integrates application components renders Fusion Applications less relevant and less attractive for customers to migrate to.

"Our job is simple. We need to support our customers with the products they have, and along the way build what we think is the next generation of our products," said Chuck Rozwat, executive vice president of development at Oracle. "As for when customers move, really its up to the customer. Our job isnt to tell them what to move to, or when, but to continue to develop the best applications today and bring them forward to be the best next-generation applications."


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