NEWTON, Mass.—Oracle Corp. will gradually roll out the first deliverables of its Project Fusion plan to unite its various business applications families in stages starting in 2007 as the company seeks to assuage customer concerns of a costly, problematic upgrade.
Project Fusion will unite Oracles current E-Business Suite with the three product lines it acquired from PeopleSoft Inc. late last year on a Java-based SOA (service-oriented architecture). But the new application suite that emerges from the effort will be released over a period of several years.
“This is not some big atomic event thats going to happen in four or five years,” said Oracle President Charles Phillips, speaking to a gathering of Oracle customers, many of them acquired from PeopleSoft Inc., here on Wednesday. “Its more evolutionary, more about embracing standards, more about delivering things that look like information applications. Project Fusion is a project over time.”
The evolution could begin as early as 2007, on the heels of next years release of the next version of Oracles application server, which will be designed to support the next-generation application architecture. Specific industry solutions, such as for health care and pharmaceuticals, would then be built on top of the new app server, according to John Wookey, Oracles senior vice president of applications.
“Over time everything will be moved over, everything will be supported as an SOA deployment model,” Wookey said.
Oracles current plans call for that migration to happen business process by business process. For example, Oracle could build a compensation management workbench module as a Web services component within the Oracle E-Business Suite and then make that component available to the PeopleSoft Enterprise Human Capital Management system without changing anything else in the PeopleSoft suite, Wookey explained.
“If you embrace Web services and component architectures, you do it incrementally,” Wookey said. “Once you identify specific processes or services, they can be componentized across all applications.”
“This is evolutionary,” added Phillips. “Its a process, not a big bang. As were building out the software, different and more pieces of these information-age applications will show up in each release.”
Jim Whalen, CIO of Boston Properties Inc., said he still has to manage a major upgrade to J.D. Edwards EnterpriseOne 8.10 this year and plans to move on to the 8.11 and 8.12 releases to take advantage of new real-estate-specific functionality planned for those releases. Any move to Project Fusion is still a ways off, he said.
“Im not concerned,” Whalen said in Boston. “I have questions and I know theyre all not being answered today, but this is a process. Ive got a comfort level with how its being played out.”
John Matelski, chief security officer and deputy CIO for the city of Orlando, Fla., also a J.D. Edwards EnterpriseOne customer, said he was confident that Oracle had the intellectual and financial wherewithal to pull off Project Fusion, even as the jury remains out on the details and execution.
“My confidence is bolstered in knowing that, based on Oracles current commitment, my current implementation will be supported through 2013, so the city of Orlando does not need to rush into a hasty decision,” Matelski said.
Oracle is taking steps to make any migration process easier for users. The company has adopted PeopleSofts Total Ownership Experience initiative—rechristened the Superior Ownership Experience—an effort to develop best practices for reducing upgrade and installation headaches, and add system-monitoring capabilities.
“We cant support 20 versions of the same applications,” Phillips said. “Everybody wins if we make it easier to evolve to [Project Fusion].”
Pain points may be inevitable for some customers though. For at least the past five years, Oracle has strongly discouraged customization of its applications. Meanwhile, PeopleSoft made its advanced customization capabilities a competitive differentiator through its PeopleTools tool kit, leaving many PeopleSoft customers with heavily customized applications today. Those customers will have a more difficult time migrating, Wookey conceded.
“If your customization is unique, chances are youll have to do it again,” Wookey said. “If you did it because of the immaturity of your application at the time, then its a matter of mapping of data models and business processes, [and] thats something we think we can help with.”
Matelski said he still expected Oracle to allow some form of customization post-Project Fusion, even if its not with PeopleTools.
“What Oracle will need to do is apprise customers as to what product release they need to be on for World, EnterpriseOne, Enterprise, and E-Business Suite that will ensure the cleanest migration to the new product suite,” he said. “Once that baseline for migration has been established, then Oracle developers can do what they need to do to ensure that all customizations supported in those versions are brought across to the new product.”
Phillips and Wookey reiterated plans to support all PeopleSoft/J.D. Edwards applications until at least 2013 and said it was likely support would continue beyond then. In addition, they announced that Oracle had extended support for J.D. Edwards Enterprise One Xe through February 2007 and for EnterpriseOne 8.0 through June 2007.
The Boston-area event Wednesday drew an overflow crowd and was one of several customer events Oracle is holding at various sites around the country.
Matelski praised Oracle for reaching out to customers.
“To me, this shows not only Oracles commitment to getting a consistent message out, [but also] their desire to get as much direct customer feedback as possible,” he said.
Oracle also is winning high praise for its relations with the various independent user groups it inherited when it bought PeopleSoft, and it is supporting collaboration and joint conferences among those user groups, Matelski said. Matelski is executive vice president of the Quest International Users Group, made up of users of J.D. Edwards technology. Whalen is president of the PeopleSoft International Customer Advisory Board.
“Theyve been very embracing of advisory boards and user groups,” Whalen said. “Theyve used the merger as a catalyst for making those relationships very positive.”