Oracle: 'We're Halfway To Fusion'

Addressing a packed house at San Francisco City Hall Wednesday night, Charles Phillips, co-president of Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle, said the work to incorporate elements of applications from PeopleSoft and JD Edwards has reached the midway point.

“Oracle is halfway to Fusion, and that&'s the toughest half,” Phillips said, noting that the work has progressed to the point where Oracle will no longer refer to Fusion as a “project.” Oracle plans to deliver Fusion components beginning this year on current releases.

The plan is to move users--as painlessly as possible--from brand-specific tools like PeopleTools and Oracle Forms to a converged set of tools and middleware that will cover all the applications. Oracle has promised that the road to Fusion will be incremental rather than disruptive. But many observers say it's tough to have it both ways, since big changes to code bases tend to be disruptive.

"Oracle's biggest difficulty is integrating all this stuff together, and that's the vision behind Fusion middleware," said Dan Mori, vice president of FusionStorm, a San Francisco-based Oracle partner.

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Mick Gallagher, CEO of LS Technologies, a Fallbrook, Calif., solution provider, said Fusion creates a great opportunity for Oracle partners in terms of the service they can present to customers. Through Fusion middleware, Oracle is now providing a way to set an application standard and bring systems together seamlessly, he said.

"That's huge, especially for JD Edwards, PeopleSoft and Siebel customers that have any reservations about transitioning," Gallagher said.

Still, one Oracle integration partner, who requested anonymity, said that although the vendor&'s vision is sound, so far he's seen little more than vision. "It's vapor," he said.

Madhu Madhavan, managing director of Premier Consulting Group, a PeopleSoft integrator in Secaucus, N.J., was more upbeat. "I think there is some truth to [Oracle&'s] claim [of progress], but they still don't have their act all the way together." On the plus side, Mabhavan said Oracle's decision six months ago to extend support--virtually indefinitely--for old applications has been well-received by customers.

Oracle's attention to PeopleSoft partners, products and customers has surprised Chris Rapp, vice president of business development at Apex Consulting, a PeopleSoft integrator based in Minneapolis. But the product integration has been a very slow process, he said.

"The next release of Oracle E-business Suite and PeopleSoft will include these new services, so they're moving the current products [forward],” Rapp said. “But as they build brand-new things, they'll integrate with existing products. It's not seamless, but nothing is."

At the event, Thomas Kurian, senior vice president of server technologies development at Oracle, cited progress made in defining the Fusion architecture, which he characterized as a "blueprint for service-oriented architecture-based enterprise solutions." Key aspects of the Fusion framework are SOA, information-driven architecture and grid computing architecture, which he said has to do with the ability to scale the network using low-cost hardware.

The application framework for the project is Fusion Middleware, a standards-based development toolset announced in April 2005 that's accessible through an enterprise portal. Fusion Middleware is a strong tool for developing integrated enterprise applications with desktop tools like Microsoft Office, and identity management is incorporated into all of the applications, Kurian said. Fusion Middleware's declarative and metadata-driven development toolset eases customization, he said, adding that the ability to write applications declaratively, or without writing code, within a single design tool was adapted from PeopleSoft applications.

The product is on its seventh major release, and the latest version--10g Release 2--has 367 new features, according to Kurian. More than 625 customers in various industries now use Fusion Middleware, and 72 percent of SAP customers use it, he said.

John Wookey, senior vice president of applications development at Oracle, gave a glimpse of what Fusion applications will look like. Now that the technology platform has been delivered, the software requirements set and the architecture defined, he said the first use of Fusion technology will be delivered in 2006 on current releases.

Fusion applications incorporate the best of PeopleSoft, JD Edwards and Oracle software and will be developed on a standards-based, commercially available development platform, Wookey said.

This year, Oracle plans three key application releases that will incorporate Fusion: JD Edwards 8.12, which will comprise business intelligence tools and an integrated services repository; PeopleSoft Enterprise 9.0; and Oracle E-Business Suite 12.0. Additional development for Java-based applications is also part of the 2006 road map, according to Wookey. The first features will include Fusion reporting, the publication of a Web services repository and business process flows, including business process management for Siebel as well as other industry solutions, he said.

Oracle remains on track with its previously stated goal of delivering Fusion applications in 2008, Wookey said. “The vast majority of customers will be able to upgrade their current products with Fusion apps in 2008," he said, adding that the delivery of the Fusion Suite is also slated for 2008.

“We want to help customers compete more effectively, and we believe a next-generation architecture is necessary to allow that,” Wookey said. “We have a sound foundation and a great toolset to start building applications, and we&'re going to build core applications on the same toolset. So our partners and ISVs can use the same toolset.”

By providing lifetime support for Fusion products, Oracle will not push its customers to upgrade, Wookey added. "We believe customers should be able to move to the next-generation architecture when there is a business benefit to doing so," he said.

Oracle is trying to position Fusion as an evolutionary upgrade, not a rip-and-replace upgrade. For example, Fusion Reporting will supplant separate reporting tools like Oracle Forms and analogous modules for PeopleSoft and JD Edwards. In mid-2006, Oracle plans to deliver forms libraries for reports for the applications, although it will also continue to deliver PeopleSoft's SQR reports in PeopleSoft apps, Wookey said.

"We will make incremental--not disruptive--changes," he said.