ING, Fidelity bank on Oracle middleware

SAN FRANCISCO — Oracle this week is outlining a roadmap at its user conference that shows how it will “fuse” together product lines from its recent acquisitions, including PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards and Siebel Systems.

The goal of Project Fusion is to build out a single suite of applications over time, using “best of breed” technologies. Oracle Fusion Middleware will provide a foundation for the Fusion architecture, which will tie together enterprise applications, middleware and grid technologies, executives told the OpenWorld conference.

The next-generation of computing will revolve around service-oriented architecture (SOA) applications, Oracle’s co-president Charles Phillips said in his keynote speech Monday. “We’re going to take those applications and break them down into components.”

While some critics have been skeptical about whether Oracle is serious about middleware, Tod Nielsen, senior vice-president of technology product marketing for Oracle Corp., said at a middleware panel that customers are already using Fusion middleware to integrate SOA-based applications.

ING Lease Belgium, part of the ING Group – one of the world’s largest financial services firms – was faced with tough competition in a consolidating market, and needed to differentiate itself through better service offerings. It had also acquired a number of companies and needed to tie together disparate legacy systems – a challenge for an IT shop of about 10 people.

“We need IT agility to be able to face competitors,” said Jean-Simon Cornelis, CIO of ING Lease Belgium. The firm was also looking to increase the number of contracts it sold every year.

In six months, the firm built a leasing automation solution on top of Oracle BPEL Process Manager, a component of Oracle Fusion Middleware. This has helped bring process execution time down from days to hours, said Cornelus, and higher contract volumes are managed within existing resources. The firm now has a real-time graphical view of the business and its processes.

“We had an interesting integration challenge ourselves,” said Mike Rotella, senior vice-president with Fidelity Information Systems‘ Leveraged Product Development Integration Solutions. The Internet service provider had 40 core processing systems, eight middleware applications and a large spectrum of clients. Last year, the ISP moved toward a service-oriented architecture using Fusion middleware to automate its business processes and provide “hot-plugability” between applications.

“Plugability is a requirement right out of the gate,” said Rotella. “We can’t dictate what stack customers should use… we require flexibility at an application level.”

Fusion will integrate PeopleSoft and JD Edwards applications into a common portal, providing single sign-on across different modules. “All of this is possible using middleware,” said Thomas Kurian, senior vice-president of Oracle Fusion Middleware Development. “Siebel will also fit into this architecture quite cleanly,” he added.

Oracle recently announced it would acquire Siebel for its customer relationship management (CRM) software – as well as its 4,000 customers and 3.4 million CRM users. The acquisition is expected to be complete in early 2006. The plan is that Fusion will incorporate Siebel CRM with Oracle ERP, Oracle Fusion Middleware and Oracle’s 10g database.

For Siebel customers, Oracle plans to roll out products that will synchronize Oracle and Siebel applications before a fully integrated version is available. This is aimed to help customers like Neustar Inc., a provider of clearinghouse services to the communications industry, to tie its CRM application into the rest of its Oracle infrastructure. Neustar, which uses Oracle’s application server, has a billing application from PeopleSoft and customer care application from Siebel. “We need tools to make change management easier,” said Mike Peterson, senior director of enterprise architecture with Neustar.

Fusion middleware will interoperate with middleware and business applications from other software vendors, including IBM, Microsoft and SAP.

Oracle and IBM announced yesterday they would team up to certify IBM’s WebSphere for Fusion applications, and Oracle said it will continue to support DB2 while it evaluates its role in Project Fusion.

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Vawn Himmelsbach
Vawn Himmelsbach
Is a Toronto-based journalist and regular contributor to IT World Canada's publications.

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