5 Years Later, Oracle's Fusion Apps Finally Near Release

SAN FRANCISCO They say good things come to those who wait  and wait is what attendees did on Sunday evening here at the start of this year's Oracle OpenWorld conference. Eventually, however, Larry Ellison, the company's cofounder and chief executive officer, introduced Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud, a "cloud in a box," that brings together Oracle hardware and software at an extremely fast performance rate.

[Editors' Note: CRM's compendium of relevant links and coverage from Oracle OpenWorld 2010 can be found here.]

Despite Ellison's passionate talk about "hardware and software engineered to work together" — echoing the theme of OpenWorld 2010 — a bland infomercial-type presentation from Hewlett-Packard Executive Vice President Ann Livermore left many conference attendees with a sour impression of the kick-off event. One industry analyst commented on Twitter that it was the "worst keynote" he had seen in 10 years. 

Forty minutes after the event's scheduled end time, those who had waited patiently through HP's stage time and the Oracle CEO's long-winded speech about Exalogic and Oracle's Exadata server, finally heard Ellison describe the topic dearest to most CRM-focused attendees' hearts: Oracle Fusion Applications. Five years in development, and first demonstrated at 2009's OpenWorld, Oracle Fusion Apps are built on standards-based middleware designed to facilitate easy integration. The long-awaited software has been Oracle's stated plan for unifying the solutions acquired over the last seven years from companies such as Siebel Systems and PeopleSoft (which itself had acquired JD Edwards before agreeing to be bought by Oracle).

"We have taken the best of Siebel, Oracle, PeopleSoft, and JD Edwards and re-implemented them on top of a modern middleware platform," Ellison explained on Sunday.

Fusion Apps will have collaboration and social networking capabilities baked in, Ellison added. Analytics are embedded in every application as well, each with modern interfaces. Oracle Fusion Apps also promise to bridge product families and industries, and can be delivered either as a complete suite or separately, to coexist with other Oracle applications. Ellison also noted that the Fusion Apps now include more than 100 modules, including new areas such as talent management.

Ellison is expected to shed more light on the Fusion family during his second keynote address on Wednesday. Screen shots of the release, set for the first quarter of 2011, can be found here and an official Oracle release here.

Finishing what Ellison started on Sunday, newly crowned Oracle President Mark Hurd took the stage on Monday morning to further outline Oracle's Exalogic Elastic Cloud strategy. Appearing at home on the Oracle stage, Hurd neglected to mention his former work at HP or acknowledge the previous evening's keynote by Livermore. Hurd, did however, deliver some impressive statistics about the Oracle enterprise.

Oracle has more than 104,000 employees, Hurd told the crowd, tens of thousands of whom are engineers. Beyond the company itself, there are nearly 10 million developers utilizing Oracle and the Java programming language acquired with Sun Microsystems. Oracle is now investing more than $4 million on research and development, Hurd said.

"I'm thrilled you're here," Hurd said, "And I'm thrilled to be here." Along with detail on the newest release of Oracle Exadata, he also provided a four-part context for the product:

  • Enterprises use lots of data.
  • People accumulate tons of data.
  • People expect lots of access to data.
  • Users ask really hard questions about the data that people have and they want answers to their questions really fast.

"When those four things come together, systems fall apart," Hurd said. "That's the historic evolution of the industry." Undoubtedly, Oracle thinks that the new edition of Exadata -- the full name of which is Exadata Database Machine x2-9 -- will mark a new kind of evolution, with its 128 Intel CPU cores and 2 terabytes of memory.

Both the Sunday and Monday keynotes touched upon Oracle's definition of cloud computing -- particularly as compared to the definition put forth by software-as-a-service rival Salesforce.com. Ellison repeatedly argued that Salesforce.com's offering isn't a true cloud-computing platform, but rather a mere cloud-computing application running over a browser. A better example of a true cloud platform, Ellison insisted, is the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud offered by online retailer Amazon.com. One thing is for sure: Marc Benioff, cofounder, chairman, and CEO of Salesforce.com, is going to have a heyday with Oracle's version of the cloud during his Wednesday presentation at OpenWorld.

"In the Oracle conception, the pioneering bookseller is on the leading edge of advanced technology while the trailblazing Salesforce.com is merely 10 years old and destined for history's ash heap," remarks Beagle Research Managing Principal Denis Pombriant in a blogpost. "This definition is gaining altitude but only in the way that any other flat-earth theory repeated often enough sounds credible."

Oracle's "cloud-in-a-box" message may have impressed attendees with its large-scale message of being able to host the entire Facebook operation on two racks. However, as one industry analyst noted, it was odd to spend so much time detailing a product that only a small percentage of attendees will use.

In other words, bring on the Fusion Apps.

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine.

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