What is it?
Oracle Applications, now called the Oracle E-Business Suite, competes with SAP and PeopleSoft in the enterprise resource planning market.
According to Oracle, it has nearly doubled the number of its applications developers in the past four years. The company is now engaged in a hostile bid for PeopleSoft and is awaiting the outcome of regulatory decisions about the deal.
Alan Pelz-Sharpe, an analyst with Ovum, said, "If the takeover of PeopleSoft is blocked, Oracle will continue its upward climb with less emphasis on business applications and more on core infrastructure."
In 2000, Oracle stumbled with the release of its 11i suite, about which AMR Research commented that it had been "rushed to market much later than promised, with many gaps and bugs in the code".
AMR added, "Newer applications - namely the service control point and customer relationship management modules - also exhibited poor quality. The company cannot continue to use its installed base as a step in its release testing process."
The bad publicity and user distrust was a setback for Oracle, but now the company has bounced back and announced that applications revenue has increased 27% since last year, "a period in which the company's major applications competitors saw nearly flat or negative revenue growth", Oracle said.
Where did it originate?
Oracle was founded in 1977 and the applications division was set up 10 years later. Oracle Financials appeared in 1990.
What is it for?
The Oracle E-Business Suite is a set of modules including financials, manufacturing, human resources, order processing, internet procurement and project management, with associated business intelligence tools.
What makes it special?
Oracle's approach to data management is to centralise databases, in contrast with IBM and Microsoft, which distribute or "federate" the databases.
Similarly, the E-Business Suite uses a single data model and collects all enterprise data in the same location. Oracle also led the field in adding XML web services to its applications.
How difficult is it to master?
Gaining any enterprise application skill involves weeks of expensive training. Recruitment consultants will advise you not to do this at your own expense, as you will need one to two years' experience before your skills are marketable. Most people concentrate on one application. Oracle database administrators may be able to gain applications experience.
Where is it used?
In almost every kind of business, and also central and local government. Like other enterprise application software suppliers (the enterprise market is saturated), Oracle is targeting small and medium-sized businesses with a special edition of its E-Business Suite.
What systems does it run on?
Windows, Unix and Linux.
What is coming up?
The Customer Data Hub, an integration solution for companies without the full Oracle E-Business Suite, or those with the temerity to be using another supplier's applications alongside Oracle's.
Oracle described it as "an information infrastructure that sits below an enterprise's applications and creates a single definition for critical data to be shared in a heterogeneous IT environment".
For online seminars and certification information, see the Oracle website.
Rates of pay
Oracle Financials is most in demand with employers, and there is a steady requirement for Oracle HR. With practical industry experience you could look for £35,000 to £55,000.
Senior consultants can get £75,000 and upwards, or £700 or more a day on contracts.