Oracle Fusion Apps: Mixed Messages on Much-Hyped Suite

CEO Larry Ellison proudly talked up Fusion Apps at OpenWorld, but customers have every reason to remain skeptical.

For the better part of five years, Oracle's enterprise applications customers have heard all about the vision for Oracle's Fusion Applications suite: a mammoth engineering and development project to unite its legacy enterprise apps—using some mysterious middleware Pixie Dust—and give every customer a chance to come forward onto a brand-new, "next generation" platform.

During those five years of hype and hope, it always seemed that Oracle's Fusion Apps development team was "halfway to completion." Wait, I thought that's what you said in 2007?

Oracle OpenWorld 2010

No doubt, the vision sounded good. But during the latter part of the past couple of years, when things got lean for companies, most of Oracle's base was still intent on cajoling more life from their aging PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, E-Business Suite and Siebel legacy apps. (Just like those drivers who proudly boast of 200,000 miles on their Toyota Camrys.)

So who really needed to hear about "next generation" when "this generation" was still working—warts and all? Not surprisingly, many Oracle customers have been a bit weary of Fusion Apps. (Oracle, by the way, runs a single instance of Oracle E-Business Suite. I wonder what their upgrade plans are?)

At Oracle's OpenWorld 2010 show on Sunday night, CEO Larry Ellison offered a "preview" of Fusion Apps news that was to be announced, in more detail, throughout the event in San Francisco.

Another year, another preview, it felt like.

Ellison poured the Fusion Apps Kool-Aid while pointing out the "degree of difficulty" in creating them: 100 "information age" apps available when it goes generally available, the largest release ever for Oracle; apps available on-premise or via the cloud; a modern service-oriented architecture; a user interface that looks more like Facebook than E-Business Suite; and a standardized middleware infrastructure entirely written in Java for all Fusion Apps (and this is important when you consider that, for example, PeopleSoft and Siebel have their own middleware).

Oracle's CEO did all this, ironically, by assailing Oracle's very own "older, first-generation ERP systems" and their "old-fashion architecture." (Oh, that stuff! That's total crap!) Ellison also took shots at the cloud players today:, Taleo, Workday, SuccessFactors and SAP's Business ByDesign.

But for all of Oracle's excitement around Fusion Apps—and Ellison was excited, though not as pumped up as when he was talking about his prized Exalogic Elastic Cloud databases—Ellison offered a rather curious sales pitch: Ellison almost gave permission for his customers to keep their old stuff and not buy Fusion Apps when it's finally GA.

When he rhetorically asked if all Oracle customers should invest in Fusion Apps ASAP, he responded: "No, absolutely not…. You can move to Fusion at the time of your choosing. Over the next five years, at some point, we think you'll move to Fusion."

Wait? Did I suddenly get transported to BizzaroOpenWorld? Get excited about Fusion Apps, but don't expect your Oracle rep to shove it down your throat. But it's definitely ready. Don't worry.

And five years seems like an eternity—especially when those competitors Ellison mentioned continue to (slowly) upend the business applications marketplace.

Ellison noted that dozens of customers helped Oracle with the testing, feedback and user-interface development of Fusion Apps. Their logos appeared on screen next to Ellison during his keynote as some type of validation.

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