Hands off my software, says Ellison

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has angered the Oracle integrators by saying he wants users to stop finishing off Oracle's software and...

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has angered the Oracle integrators by saying he wants users to stop finishing off Oracle's software and linking it with third-party software and legacy systems.

Speaking at the Oracle AppsWorld conference in New Orleans, Ellison said he hoped he was not coming across as arrogant. But that is how his words have been viewed.

John Butcher, an Oracle integration specialist, said, "It is precisely because Oracle doesn't finish its software that there is a whole sub-industry employing thousands of developers and database administrators supporting and supplementing their products."

Ellison admitted that Oracle has contributed to these practices. Oracle applications have to be integrated with existing systems - "finished" from the customer's point of view - before they can be used effectively.

But he argued that this is no longer necessary with Oracle 11i applications, and added that the role of systems integrators will have to change to include a larger degree of consultancy.

The need for integration resulted from Oracle's acquisition "binge" in 1998 and 1999, when products from nine companies were rapidly assimilated into the Oracle camp. Many had to be shoehorned into existing systems, providing lucrative revenues for integration specialists.

Ellison insisted that the products are now completely embedded into Oracle's product line and that, despite the apparently low uptake of 11i in the UK, the company will be recommending that customers upgrade using Oracle's in-house integrators.

Butcher said Oracle is ahead of the field but added that he believed arrogance is ingrained in the company. "I believe there is a misguided view that expertise is the sole property of Oracle employees. In fact, as most of us know, the central repository of skills, knowledge and expertise exists with customers and Oracle should be listening to them," he said.

Oracle's argument is that the more modified the software, the harder it is to upgrade in the fast-moving e-business world. According to Oracle, it is better to go live with a solution that can run your business, even though it may only provide 80% of what you need, than wait two years to integrate and implement a 100% solution.

"Get your business online, get it going, get the benefits now," said Ellison. "Lobby us to include the 20% that you want in future versions."

Sharon Ward, director of enterprise business applications at research and consulting firm the Hurwitz Group, backed Ellison's view. She said modifications that are not made "outside the code" form an obvious obstacle to upgrading and can frustrate a company's attempt to take early advantage of new technologies.

"I believe that users can trust and rely on Oracle applications continuing to improve and add needed functionality," Ward said.

"What cannot be guaranteed is the timeframe for that functionality or that the specific desired functionality will ever be added."

Tim Jennings, senior research analyst with the Butler Group, said, "It is a valid message to say 'don't change your applications', because the rate of change in B2B raises the bar for keeping pace. What we need is better integration and looser coupling through technologies such as Soap and XML. This would give integrators plenty of work, in association with management, to make applications useful without the fear of a single-vendor lock-in."

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