Oracle makes progress on development of Fusion applications

Oracle Corp. has overcome the most challenging parts of an effort to integrate its collection of business software applications and plan its next-generation architecture, called Fusion, company president Chuck Phillips told customers this week.

In a Webcast Wednesday evening, Phillips was joined by senior vice-president of middleware development Thomas Kurian and other colleagues for a two-hour in-depth technical briefing on Oracle’s progress. He said the company’s development teams have successfully defined the requirements for Fusion, built some of the first toolsets and created a blueprint for future work.

Oracle uses Fusion as a brand name for middleware software it released last year as well as its forthcoming application suite combining the best of PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards and eventually Siebel, among other acquisitions.

“It’s half-way there, and it’s the tough half,” he said, adding that the name Project Fusion would be dropped in favour of Fusion Applications. “We’ve come so far, we have so much we can show you. To say ‘project’ sounds exploratory, like we’re going to the moon or something.”

Although it doesn’t necessarily expect customers to upgrade to Fusion right away, Phillips said Oracle wants to ensure 80 per cent of is customer base will be prepared to do so with the first release.

Phillips also used the Webcast to clear up what he said were a number of myths about Fusion that had been created by customers, analysts and the media. Oracle was not starting from a blank slate, Phillips said, but simply taking what it has learned from its older applications and delivering its next set of products – a common process in the vendor community. Approximately 60 per cent of Oracle’s E-Business Suite, for example, has already been written in Java, Phillips said. Oracle can repurpose some of those class libraries for Fusion.

“We’re not merging code,” he said. Phillips, a former U.S. Marine, likened the Fusion development work to his role in automating the Marine’s supply chains and embarkation systems. “It takes years just to figure out how to do that, to figure out the problem,” he said.

Contrary to rumour, Fusion will not present a large or unanticipated cost for customers, Phillips insisted. Oracle has created advisory councils and CIO boards to get input on its plans.

Warren McCall, principal of Oracle consultant DBM Solutions Inc. in Victoria, B.C., said Oracle has done a good job of making information about Fusion available, and that he is prepared to explore what it will mean for his customer base.

“I’ve always said .0 releases are not to be avoided but not necessarily implemented from the outset,” he said. “Everyone’s interested in how these different technologies are coming together. It’s getting easier and easier all the time. I think that’s the ultimate goal.”

The Fusion Applications suite is due in 2008 and appears to be based to a significant degree on PeopleSoft features. Oracle executives discussed how it would use PeopleSoft data access hierarchies, called Trees, to manage data and generate reports.

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