SAN DIEGO — Throughout the economic roller coaster ride in the tech industry, Oracle increased its developer base and continued to invest in technology.

That was the message from the company’s executive vice-president and CFO, Jeff Henley, during a speech to 10,000 delegates at AppsWorld earlier

this month.

The biggest announcement from the enterprise software company so far has been an upgrade to its 11i e-business suite.

Henley highlighted Oracle’s efforts to embrace outsourcing services and, along with several Oracle executives, spoke of the merits of supporting the Linux platform.

“”We’re big on that for both our application customers and our technology customers. We think the majority of our applications customers will move to an outsourced model with us,”” he said. “”Linux is probably the hottest platform out in the market place right now.””

Henley said Oracle sees the most important issues for its enterprise clients as the total cost of ownership (TCO) of software and hardware, and dealing with the complexity and cost of implementation.

One customer has given Oracle a nod for helping to reduce its IT operating budget. According to Jean-Pierre Beau-lieu, director of IT for Sico Industrial Coatings Inc. in Longueuil, Qué., his company’s operational IT budget decreased by 30 per cent following the implementation of Oracle’s 11i e-business suite in June 2001.

“”The reason we went to 11i was because it is an enabler for future projects,”” he said. “”We want to replace all the in-house systems we have and migrate them to one of the Oracle modules.””

Beaulieu said pursuing an array of software and attempting to mould it all together into one solid ERP system is a cumbersome task rife with hurdles.

“”What our people like about the (Oracle) system is it has the same interface in every module. The training is much easier, and it’s much easier for the user. I don’t need to have a whole army of people for each technology. I now have one Oracle DBA (database administrator), whereas I used to have three.””

Sico, a Canadian paint manufacturer with sales of approximately $250 million a year, has been using Oracle’s financials and process manufacturing software since 1994. With the implementation of 11i, Beaulieu said Sico has moved from a heterogeneous environment using a multitude of forms and reporting tools to a standard user interface for all applications.

Beaulieu said future projects for Sico include the implementation of many Oracle modules, including order management, advanced pricing, purchasing, advanced planning and scheduling, warehouse management system, iPortal, iProcurement and business intelligence.

“”Right now we have two databases for customers, two for products, and we have interfaces between them to ensure they look alike,”” he continued. “”The first benefit is going to be the customer data and the product data is going to be contained in one database . . . and we’ll be able to use the other CRM modules from Oracle such as the iStore.””

Mark Jarvis, Oracle’s chief marketing officer, told conference delegates an estimated three-quarters of its enterprise clients are either running or upgrading to Oracle’s 11i suite, compared to only 11 per cent from the previous year.

“”A year ago, (Oracle CEO) Larry (Ellison) said it was too early to be running our applications on Linux. Today, Oracle supports Linux,”” he said. “”We have a partnership in place with Red Hat and we believe Linux is ready for use for our database and our applications customers.””

Jarvis said much of the thrust behind Oracle’s Linux embrace is the potential to lower an enterprise user’s TCO for hardware and software.

Upon completion of an implementation of 11i, he said, lowering the maintenance cost of the system is key. Thus, Oracle outsourcing can streamline processes, he added.

“”In a survey conducted by Gartner it found that about 79 per cent of your current budget is not spent on new systems, it’s spent on maintaining the existing systems that you have,”” Jarvis said. “”Our goal is to take that 79 per cent and dramatically lower the cost.””

Jarvis said Oracle now boasts 300 companies outsourcing Oracle’s e-business suite. “”Typically, we’re seeing a 40 per cent increase in performance of their applications,”” he said. “”Our outsourcing customers have also seen a dramatic reduction in the time it takes to solve a problem . . . (they’ve) seen a 50 per cent improvement in the time taken for problem detection to problem resolution.””

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