In the last part of the last keynote at Oracle Open World yesterday, Larry Ellison finally gave some specifics concerning Oracle's Fusion Applications, its next-generation of business software.
Technology foundation and user interface
These are the areas where Fusion really shines. The product is completely architected from the ground up on Oracle Fusion middleware, with a service-oriented architecture, allowing it to interoperate with existing Oracle applications as well as competitor applications and even custom systems, as long as they adhere to open standards. Fusion apps also incorporate role-based design, embedded analytics, and unified communications features, such as presence-awareness and chat.
The best summary I've seen so far about Fusion apps comes from Forrester's Paul Hamerman
What Fusion will include
Those counting on Fusion to be a comprehensive successor for Oracle's existing products, however, will be disappointed. According to Ellison, when Fusion first reaches general availability, it will not provide the breadth of functionality currently available in Oracle's existing portfolio. This has been self-evident, but now Oracle has made it official.
Specifically, Fusion will only address the following horizontal functions:
- Customer Relationship Management
- Project Portfolio Management
- Governance, Risk, And Compliance
- Human Capital Management
- Financial Management
- Supply Chain Management
Ellison specifically mentioned manufacturing (both process and discrete) and public sector as two sectors that would not be addressed by Fusion Apps, at least initially. But it would also appear that any Oracle customers or prospects looking for industry-specific functionality (e.g. retail, life sciences, etc.) would not find Fusion to be a complete solution.
The roadmap: "Fusion + Other Stuff from Oracle"
Here's the big disappointment. In nearly the last sentence of his keynote, Ellison indicated that Fusion apps would be available "next year." That would be 2010. So literally, Oracle could release Fusion apps next December--14 or 15 months from now--and still meet Ellison's timetable. Until then, for most customers, Fusion is just a roadmap.
Although Oracle asserts that the apps are “code complete,” the product is in what Oracle calls “in-house beta.” Customers have been brought in to test applications installed on Oracle premises as part of this program. There are no live customers currently, but early adopters are signing on as we speak.
On the other hand, you could spin the Fusion timetable in positive light. The fact that software sales are depressed right now as a result of the recession means it is a good time for Oracle to be making this transition. In addition, I would rather see Oracle take the time to get it right with Fusion than rush it into general availability only to suffer a loss of credibility when new customers encounter problems.
But even when Fusion does reach general availability, most Oracle customers will need to consider Fusion apps along with industry-specific modules from existing Oracle products. Unless an organization only needs the horizontal functionality in the bullet points listed earlier, we're talking about Oracle selling Fusion apps in combination with other Oracle products. A manufacturing industry prospect would need to buy Fusion apps plus manufacturing modules from Oracle's E-Business Suite or J.D. Edwards, for example. A retail industry prospect would need to buy Fusion apps, plus Oracle's Retek products. "Fusion + Other Stuff from Oracle" will be the roadmap, at least until Oracle can roll all that industry-specific functionality into Fusion.
Compounding the problem, Oracle's existing products are a moving target. From other information gleaned during Open World presentations, it's clear to me that Oracle's development organization is not standing still with its current portfolio. For example, I saw some very deep CRM functionality recently introduced for municipal government in Oracle's E-Business Suite. I don't know when Oracle would be able to incorporate such functionality into Fusion.
From the quick screen shots and demo scenarios presented during Ellison's keynote, it appears Fusion apps will be a great product. But the limited functional coverage of the initial release for Fusion means, as I noted, that most Oracle customers and prospects will need to sign up for Fusion in combination with other, existing, Oracle products. For existing customers, the more straightforward path would be to simply stay with Oracle's existing products, for which Oracle has promised to continue support under its Apps Unlimited program. And new sales prospects may find "Fusion + Other Stuff from Oracle" a muddled sales pitch.
Update: Merv Adrian blogs
that he was less impressed with the Fusion news than with the news on Oracle's database and BI offerings.
Update: Jim Holincheck
has a good post with lots of details about the functionality included in the Fusion's Human Capital Management (HCM) module.
Live from Oracle Open World 2009