an Francisco?At its OpenWorld Conference here this week, which combined for the first time with the PeopleSoft Connect conference, Oracle unveiled its vision for Project Fusion, which promises to push forward the best features from its combined PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, and Siebel product suites. The enterprise software giant also drilled a message into its recently acquired customer bases: don’t panic; we won’t abandon your current applications or force you to migrate to Oracle products before you’re ready.
More specifically, Oracle pledged to protect, extend, and evolve, a mantra repeated frequently during the show: Protect its customers’ existing product investments, extend the capabilities of those products in upcoming releases, and evolve them into next-generation, information-age applications called Fusion Applications.
“We’re going to take the best of breed of all these functions and features that we have [from the acquisitions] and turn them into services over time. So you can build composite applications from them,” said Oracle President Charles Phillips in the keynote address Monday.
The technology blueprint for this vision is Oracle Fusion Architecture, which defines five core principles to which components must adhere in order to be certified as Fusion Applications: model-driven, service- and event-enabled, information-centric, grid-ready, and standards-based. Oracle intends the architecture to bring together grid computing and service-oriented architectures (SOA) under a unified model. Once components are compliant, customers ostensibly will be able to swap them in and out of an Oracle middleware stack while maintaining tight integration with existing components, a capability Oracle dubbed “hot-pluggable”.
The first products in the Fusion line will be the Oracle Fusion Middleware family, beginning with the fiscal year 2006 release of Oracle Application Server 10g Release 3. Release 3 will be the Fusion Middleware implementation of Oracle’s app server product. Dennis MacNeil, Oracle product director for Java EE application servers, explained that the product will employ the hot-pluggable architecture, Oracle’s SOA infrastructure, and enhanced security features such as the inclusion of WS-Security standards and SAML 2.0. (Developers can download a developer preview of the product from Oracle Technology Network.)
Reiterating Oracle commitment to open standards, he said, “Fusion relies on standards that enable customers to build and manage an SOA once it’s implemented. SOA is bigger than just building an infrastructure. It’s about managing it as well.”
Bringing Fusion to fruition will be a major undertaking. “People view merging the products as squishing a bunch of code together. It doesn’t work that way,” said John Wookey, Oracle’s senior vice president of application development. “The Oracle Forms-based technologies aren’t part of the next-generation products. We’re building a new product line.”
Wookey estimated that Fusion information-age applications wouldn’t appear until sometime in 2008. To determine which features from its disparate product suites to carry forward into those applications, Oracle has relied on customer feedback attained from Oracle-sponsored town meetings in the U.S. and Europe and advisory boards, according to Wookey. “We want to focus on the features that have the most business value for customers,” he explained. “There’s always a thousand different things we can do in the next release of software. The best incremental business benefit is where we want to focus our time and resources.”
An Oracle customer panel revealed that existing JD Edwards and PeopleSoft customers are receptive to the ‘protect, extend, and evolve’ message and are even encouraged by Oracle’s handling of the acquisitions so far. However, they also understand that all parties are still in the honeymoon period.
Systems Architect Rod Ely, whose company Green Mountain Coffee has been a PeopleSoft customer for nearly a decade, said, “Our biggest concern is keeping the flexibility in the product suite. We do have customizations that are core to our business and we need to carry those forward.”
“With combining three product suites, there’s the opportunity to make the wrong business decisions. It’s imperative that the integration between components remains easy,” explained Mitch Myers, vice president of operations at FW Murphy, a smaller company than the others represented on the panel.
Spirent Communications, a JD Edwards customer, is very invested in WebSphere according to Group Director of Information Technology Phil Walton. So the announcement of Oracle and IBM certifying WebSphere for Fusion applications was very encouraging to him. “I don’t feel rushed to move from JD Edwards,” he said.
“We’ve got to move from mores and message to execution,” said Jay Schaudies, a Manpower Inc. senior executive who has found Oracle much more communicative and receptive to feedback than he anticipated. “If you ask ‘would you like more details,’ resoundingly yes. The devil is in the details.”