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Oracle OpenWorld: Fusion apps ready within months for 'brave' Oracle customers

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20th Sep 2010
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Oracle's next generation Fusion applications have been a long time coming, but "particularly brave" customers will be able to purchase them early next year.

“Next year” -  that was the loose delivery time scale set down by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison at the 2009 OpenWorld conference when he talked delegates through details of the next generation Fusion applications.

Such vagueness could be forgiven: Fusion was originally supposed to ship back in the 2007/8 time frame, but various delays – technological and personnel-related  – caused  delivery to slip several times.
But 12 months on from Ellison’s closing keynote at the 2009, he was back on stage to open the 2010 event – once Hewlett Packard’s Ann Livermore had done her annual run down of 'things you can buy from HP!' - with the triumphant delivery of the applications – and potshots galore in the direction of competitors efforts to keep up. "Five years on, we’re finally there," he declared. "We will start to deliver these applications to real customers at the end of this year with general availability in the first quarter of next year."
Fusion has been a tortuous beast to come to terms with over the years. It started life as an attempt to tie together the various code bases of the main applications products that Oracle had gobbled up in the acquistion spending spree of recent years, such as Siebel and PeopleSoft. Fusion was to be the next generation future towards which all these products would evolve, even while Oracle guaranteed that no customer would be made to migrate away from their current products.
With Fusion's release now imminent, Ellison was keen to emphasise the 'next generation' nature of the products.  "These are not process automation applications," he said. "Business intelligence is the centre of the next generation of applications. It’s not about efficiently automating the process of requesting a purchase order for a vendor; it’s a question of working out who are our best vendors. Automating a process is very different to having an insight into who I should buy from. Information, not automation, is the main benefit. That’s where the payback is.
"An extension of this thinking is the need to ensure that business people are not dependent on the techies to get the most out of business applications. If you’re going to be a SaaS application, then you need to make sure that all of your functionality is accessible by business user as well as technicians," said Ellison. "When you have on-premise applications, it’s get blurred and you have too many things that are done by technicians that should be done by business professionals. With Fusion, everything is accessible by business professionals. Intelligence drives the whole thing."
A different approach
Fusion has been an enormous engineering effort ("I hope we never do it again!") and required some technology mind shifts as well. Oracle had, for example, two groups working on middleware: one for internal use by its own application developers, one to develop middleware to ship to customers.
"This is the first time that an ERP package has been built on industry standard middleware," said Ellison. "Siebel had its own middleware. PeopleSoft had its own middleware. The Oracle eBusiness Suite had its own middleware. JD Edwards was the same. SAP has its own middleware. We insisted that Fusion had to be built on the same middleware as we sold to customers. We had to fix that middleware which our application people said was deficient in 75 ways. We had to fix that. Fusion applications run on vanilla Fusion middleware."
With Oracle’s defintion of Cloud Computing set down with the launch of the Exalogic Elastic Cloud machine, Ellison insisted that Fusion shouldn’t be compared to the likes of SAP or indeed with many of the pureplay Cloud firms. "This is modern. Salesforce.com is a 10-year-old application. This does a lot more than that. Or Workday or SuccessFactors or Taleo or any of those SaaS companies," he claimed, although apparently not NetSuite in which he retains a majority holding. 
"All Fusion applications can be implemented on premise or via our public Cloud. When SAP built Business ByDesign they built it to run in the Cloud. But you can’t get traditional SAP in the Cloud, only on-premise and you can’t get BBD on premise – they have totally different code bases. We decided that was a total artificial distinction. You can begin your Fusion implementation on our public Cloud then move it onto your private Cloud and then back to our public Cloud again. It’s the same code base."

So now Fusion is here, presumably pressure will be heaped on users to upgrade ASAP? Not at all, insisted Ellison. "Are we encouraging all customers to immediately convert to Fusion? No!" he said. "Unless there’s a reason for you to be an early adopter of Fusion or you’re a particularly brave customer, no. We think there will be around 100 customers next year.

"For most customers the right thing to do will be to watch how the early adopters do. We have done more testing than we have ever done before. We are going to release gradually. If you are really anxious to use Fusion, then God bless you, we will support you. But you can move to Fusion at a time of your choosing. We think at some point over the next five years you will think it’s the right time to move to Fusion, but every company will have their own priorities.”"
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