Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oracle's Fusion Apps finally come out from behind the OpenWorld curtain

This guest post comes courtesy of Tony Baer’s OnStrategies blog. Tony is a senior analyst at Ovum.

By Tony Baer

Like almost every attendee at just-concluded Oracle OpenWorld, the suspense on when Oracle would finally lift the wraps on Fusion Apps was palpable. Staying cool with minimizing our carbon footprint, we weren’t physically at Moscone, but instead watching the webcasts and monitoring the Twitter stream from our home office.

The level of anticipation over Fusion apps was palpable. But it was hardly suspense as it seemed that a good cross-section of Twitterati were either analysts, reference customers, consultants or other business partners who have had their NDA sneak peaks (we had ours back in June), but had to keep our lips sealed until last night.

There was also plenty of impatience for Oracle to finally get on with a message that was being drowned out by its sudden obsession with hardware. Ellison spent most of his keynote time pumping up its Exadata cache memory database storage appliance and issuing a $10 million challenge to IBM that it can’t match Oracle’s database benchmarks on Sun.

Yup, if the Sun acquisition goes trough, Oracle’s no longer strictly a software company, and although the Twiterati counted its share of big iron groupies, the predominant mood was that hardware was a distraction.

“This conference has been hardware heavy from the start. Odd for a software conference,” tweeted Forrester analyst Paul Hamerman. “90 minutes into the keynote, nothing yet on Fusion apps.”

“Larry clearly stalling with all this compression mumbo jumbo,” “Larry please hurry up and tell the world about Fusion Apps, fed up of saying YES it does exist to your skeptics,” and so on read the Twitter stream.

There was fear that Oracle would simply tease us in a manner akin to Jon Stewart’s we’ll have to leave it there dig at CNN: “I am afraid that Larry soon will tell that as time has run out he will tell about Fusion applications in next OOW.” A 20-minute rousing speech from Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger served as a welcome relief from Ellison’s newly found affection for big iron toys.

Ellison came back after the Governator pleaded with the audience to stick around awhile and drop some change around California as the state is broke. The break gave him the chance to drift over to Oracle Enterprise Manager, which at least got the conversation off hardware.

Ellison described some evolutionary enhancements where Oracle can track your configurations trough Enterprise Manager and automatically manage patching. As we’ve noted previously, Oracle has compelling solutions for all-Oracle environments, among them being a declarative framework for developing apps and specifying what to monitor and auto-patch.

The main topic

But the spiel on Enterprise Manager provided a useful back door to the main topic, as Ellison showed how it could automate management of the next generation of Oracle apps. Ellison got the audience’s attention with the words, “We are code complete for all of this.”

Well almost everything. Oracle has completed work on all modules except manufacturing.

Ellison then gave a demo that was quite similar to one that we saw under NDA back in the summer. While ERP emerged with and was designed for client/server architectures, Fusion has emerged with a full Java EE and SOA architecture; it is built around Oracle Fusion middleware 11g and uses Oracle BPEL Process Manager to run processes as orchestrations of processes exposed from the Fusion Apps or other legacy applications. That makes the architecture of Fusion Apps clean and flexible.

But at this point, Oracle is not being any more specific about rollout other than to say it would happen sometime next year.



It uses SOA to loosely couple, rather than tightly integrate with other Fusion processes or processes exposed by existing back end applications, which should make Fusion apps more pliant and less prone to outage.

That allows workflows in Fusion to be dynamic and flexible. If an order in the supply chain is held up, the process can be dynamically changed without bringing down order fulfillment processes for orders that are working correctly. It also allows Oracle to embed business intelligence throughout the suite, so that you don’t have to leave the application to perform analytics.

For instance, in an HR process used for locating the right person for a job, you can dig up an employee’s salary history, and instead switching to a separate dashboard, you can instead retrieve and display relevant pieces of information necessary to see comparisons and make a decision.

Fusion’s SOA architecture also allows Oracle to abstract security and access control by relying on its separate, Fusion middleware-based Identity Manager product. The same goes with communications, where instant messaging systems can be pulled in (we didn’t see any integration with Wikis or other Web 2.0 social computing mechanisms, but we assume that they can be integrated as services.). It also applies to user interfaces, where you can use different rich internet clients by taking advantage of Oracle’s ADF framework in JDeveloper.

Oracle concedes the obvious: Outside of the mid-market, there is no greenfield market for ERP, and therefore, Fusion Apps are intended to supplement what you already have, not necessarily replace it.

That includes Oracle’s existing applications, for which it currently promises at least a decade of more support. But at this point, Oracle is not being any more specific about rollouts other than to say it would happen "sometime next year."

This guest post comes courtesy of Tony Baer’s OnStrategies blog. Tony is a senior analyst at Ovum.