Oracle 'Project Fusion' To Converge Current Oracle, PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards Functions

Oracle's CEO Tuesday promised not only to continue separate and parallel development on PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards and Oracle business applications well into the future, but also a "merged" suite he referred to as "Project Fusion."

Even as Oracle is cutting 5,000 of the combined Oracle, PeopleSoft/J.D. Edwards workforce, he maintained on a conference call Tuesday morning that the remaining 50,000 employees will have resources to complete this prodigious task.

"I will try to persuade you that we can do both. We're a very large company and have the financial wherewithal to do this. We can continue to develop all three lines while simultaneously developing a successor merged suite of products," Ellison told customers and analysts.

He also promised a next-generation standards-based app development toolset that he thinks can steal a march on enterprise applications behemoth SAP, which utilizes the proprietary ABAP language and toolset.

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Ellison did his best to patch up bad feelings remaining over his initially hostile acquisition attempt of PeopleSoft 19 months ago. At that time, the wording of Oracle's statement made it easy for PeopleSoft CEO Craig Conway to say Oracle was trying to buy PeopleSoft's customer base, but gut its applications.

Since that time, Ellison along with co-president Charles Phillips, has tried to assuage customer concerns on that front.

"Our intention is to finish development and deployment on PeopleSoft 8.9 and once that's completed, start on an all-new version of PeopleSoft using PeopleSoft technology, PeopleTools, the HTML user interface on 9.0, and 9.1 and 9.2," Ellison said. "If you're a J.D. Edwards customer, we'll finish development of JDE 8.11 and deployment and when that's finished we'll use existing technologies to develop JDE 8.12."

He also re-pledged a decade of support for those lineups. "I'll give you the de-support date right now for those of you concerned. Circle 2013 on your calendar. At that point we'll talk about de-supporting."

In another product roadmap announcement, Ellison said the company would also develop and deploy a suite of tools, completely based on industry standards, that would support both its own, and other vendors' applications. This new suite of Java-based tools promises a highly productive environment, he said.

"We think we can put together forms objects and report objects and portal objects that will enable our developers to be productive building our applications and your developers productive customizing those apps," Ellison said. The tools would leverage the best of DHTML (dynamic HTML) as well, to incorporate nifty graphical functions, like drag and drop, that were lost in the transition from the client-server to Web world, he said.

Oracle also tried to defuse concern that it will force PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards users off IBM DB2 or Microsoft SQL Server databases, onto its own RDBMS. Ellison said that will not happen. Oracle will continue to support customers on those platforms, just as it will support customers on BEA Weblogic and on Tuxedo, he said.

There is much skepticism. Solution providers raised a flag on this issue months ago and many believe Oracle will inevitably try to shift customers to its own database and middleware.

Applications vendors are equally anxious. Microsoft Business Solutions, which fields mid-market ERP applications, even sent reporters a list of suggested questions to ask on today's call.

The combined software giant has huge issues to resolve above and beyond product roadmaps. For one thing, neither Oracle nor PeopleSoft are known for championing their channel partners. If the merged company is sincere in its attempt to wage war in the midmarket, it has to get a lot smarter about partnering, Oracle and PeopleSoft partners alike say.

One Oracle partner, who did not want his name used, said in the field, some of the changes are going well. In his region, the merged company appears to be cherry-picking the best field talent, regardless of whether they were from PeopleSoft or Oracle. "They are evaluating the players in each area and picking the best person to run the business. That will truly strengthen the company. And integrating development means they see value in the functionality PeopleSoft brings to the table.

He said the acquisition, despite early fears, shows Oracle knows there are areas where PeopleSoft applications excelled. "The sum of the whole in this case is stronger than the parts, and more cost effective," he said.

A PeopleSoft partner, also requesting anonymity, said he is withholding judgment till he sees how things shakeout, but said his initial thought on the merger is that it would benefit SAP, and perhaps Microsoft, to the detriment of the combined Oracle/PeopleSoft.

Much depends on how much of the Peoplesoft, J.D. Edwards development team Oracle can retain, several sources said. The company said it is extending offers of employment to fully 90 percent of the engineering and development teams. And on the call, John Wookey, the Oracle senior vice president now in charge of all applications, made a plea for those developers to sign their offers and come aboard.