After what seemed an interminable development period, Oracle has finally released its Fusion Applications. But what does the announcement mean for customers?
After acquiring numerous rival ERP, CRM, HR and middleware platforms over the years, Oracle is finally linking together its enterprise software portfolio, under Fusion, a service-oriented architecture which could rewrite the rulebook on how enterprise software is acquired and pulled together.
Fusion Applications, which took six years to develop, constitutes Oracle's JD Edwards, E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft and Siebel systems, including functions such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), and human resource systems. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said more than 100 products are now available on the platform.
During the launch, Ellison also announced a public cloud to host its Fusion Applications, Fusion Middleware and Oracle Database, but subscription pricing information has not yet been released. This slew of announcements has given customers much to digest.
Debra Lilley, head of the Oracle UK User Group (UKOUG), said the feedback among early adopters of Fusion has so far been positive. "There have been rumblings about whether it is going to be expensive, but people are starting to listen to messages that this is how upgrades work," she said.
Oracle has never hidden the fact that to implement the Fusion suite customers will need to build the platform themselves, with Oracle providing the script for the migration, said Lilley, but most people are going to adopt a coexistence approach.
"I'm no more scared of Fusion than any other implementation - it's not going to be any more complicated. The technology isn't new, it's been around for a couple of years, but if a company hasn't looked at things like business intelligence (BI) it will be a culture shock."
Angela Eager, research director at TechMarketView, said Fusion offers the promise of a new generation of enterprise software, where users can pick and choose the appropriate components. "There's the ability to put it out bit by bit to fit into a new paradigm of software," she said.
In his speech, Ellison was keen to emphasis the benefits of using Oracle's cloud rather than Salesforce's offering, as it enables customers to choose between multiple cloud suppliers.
"Use the Salesforce cloud if you want it to run your applications forever. It's kind of sticky, the ultimate vendor lock-in. You can check in, but can't check out," he said. "It's the roach hotel of clouds," he said.
But enterprise IT analyst Dennis Howlett said Oracle is behind in its entry into the cloud. "If you want to buy Fusion, you can buy it - the problem is there's only one deployment option available. The cloud has been announced, but Oracle hasn't launched it for customers yet, so you can't realistically deploy in the cloud at the moment," he said.
|What is Fusion Applications?|
A service-oriented architecture - which Oracle claims gives users the ability to uniquely manage functions across a heterogeneous environment.
A role-based user experience - that links exception-based processing, business intelligence, transactions and collaboration.
Embedded business intelligence - which Oracle says allows users to use BI within enterprise applications.
"From a product perspective Fusion looks good, but the business model doesn't stand up. The Salesforce model is much more customer-friendly than Fusion," said Howlett.
TechMarketView's Eager was sceptical about whether ERP software is likely to move to the cloud. "Moving mission-critical operations to the cloud is something the UK is still very cautious about," she said.
"Oracle stands a better chance with its peripheral technology going into to the cloud, such as its CRM software and more collaborative applications."
UKOUG's Lilley said it is too soon to compare Oracle's cloud offering for CRM with Salesforce's. "If it's just functionality a business wants [from a CRM application], then Oracle would win, but a lot of people like the utility pricing that Salesforce offers," she said.
For Lilley, the key impact behind the announcement is that the industry and Oracle users can at last move from speculation around release dates to discussions about bedding in the products.
"I look forward to hearing more from customers and would like now for the industry conversation to be about products rather than release dates. Uptake of new software usually takes a while and the update of replacing all products with Fusion will take some time, but there will be a steady rate of customers migrating across," she said.
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About the author:
Kathleen Hall is correspondent for Computer Weekly. She writes about technology issues in small to medium-sized enterprises, as well as specialising in the retail and services sectors. Previously Kathleen worked as business reporter for Vitesse Media, covering SMEs and enterprise IT.