The Long and Windy Road to Oracle's Fusion Applications

Oracle has laid out the Fusion Apps roadmap for its customers. But how each customer actually gets to the Fusion Apps destination is another question altogether.

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What's Special About Fusion Apps

The Fusion Apps project kicked off circa 2005. During each subsequent year, it seemed like the next-generation suite of business applications was roughly halfway to GA. Steve Miranda, Oracle's SVP of application development, joked at OpenWorld 2010: "This was the longest NDA ever."

In describing Fusion Apps' lengthy development, Oracle states (in a user experience document):

"We watched sales representatives, accountants, product managers, CFOs and shop floor engineers firsthand. Before a line of code was written, Oracle enrolled more than 800 customers in its User Experience Customer Participation Program. Oracle shared design concepts, asked questions and continually listened to customers to make sure we got the right feature set, the right business flows and the right user experience."

In July 2009, Floyd Teter, a VP of the Oracle Applications Users Group and enterprise apps guru, blogged about his week-long "validation testing" experience with Fusion Apps. He wrote:

"I should also point out that the overall quality of the apps is much higher than I would expect it to be at this point in the development lifecycle. Yes, I did hit some bugs...but not nearly as many as I expected to see, and nothing that prevented execution of business processes. The whole idea of using an iterative development approach to improve product quality seems to have paid off handsomely on the quality front."

Coming out of OpenWorld 2010, Constellation Research CEO Ray Wang noted that Fusion Apps "highlight a new level of design. The apps infuse Web 2.0 paradigms with enterprise-class sensibilities, and role-based screens present relevant tasks, alerts and analytics."

Key to the Fusion Applications Suite is Fusion Middleware and its Pixie Dust integration capabilities. Oracle has promised that, owing to the modularity of Fusion Apps design and magic of Fusion Middleware, customers can unite their portfolio of legacy applications with Fusion Applications—that the old (E-Business and PeopleSoft apps) will play nice with the new (Fusion Apps) modules. (At this time, though, it's not fully clear what sort of additional investments in middleware customers will have to make.)

Oracle executives have, as of late, been pushing Fusion Apps' cloud capability—dual-delivery of FA on-premise or in the cloud.

"Fusion runs both places. You decide where you want to put this," Ellison stated on Oracle's Q2 2011 earnings call in December. "You can't do that with Salesforce.com. You can't do that with Workday, a lot of these guys. So we've got this brand new, extremely modern Java-based suite of applications called Fusion that runs in the cloud, runs on-premise, and is going to dramatically strengthen our position against our cloud-based competitors like Salesforce and Workday, and our traditional competitor SAP."

Of course, those competitors all take umbrage with Ellison's newfound cloud braggadocio. Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, for instance, has repeatedly warned Oracle's customers: "Beware of the false cloud."

NEXT: But Will Oracle Customers Care?

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