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In part one of our examination of Oracle's Fusion Applications project, we looked back on statements and timelines provided by Oracle in the four years since it launched "Project Fusion."
Part two provides the latest look into Oracle's plans and progress, along with customer and analyst reaction.
For all of the ink, video and digital posturing devoted to Oracle's ambitious Fusion Applications project, there has been very little in the way of specifics -- and that's for a reason, according to Oracle.
Yet, some analysts and customers are optimistic about the project's future.
At OpenWorld 2008, Oracle's annual user conference, Steve Miranda, senior vice president of Fusion Applications development, and Chris Leone, group vice president of applications product strategy for Oracle's Fusion applications suite, gave two sessions that previewed the next generation of Oracle Fusion Applications.
"The thing we've found most beneficial at conferences like this is to be relatively conservative in regards to the future for obvious reasons," Miranda said.
"Across all of our products, you can include database, you talk about general direction. We try to avoid specific features and specific dates because first of all, it's not very helpful to our customers while we're in planning and development stages," he added.
Fusion on display at OpenWorld
Floyd Teter, an Oracle ACE Director and a program manager for institutional business systems at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as well as a past chair of the Oracle Applications User Group's Fusion Council and "ORCLville" blogger, told SearchOracle.com that he saw the two presentations at OpenWorld. He has posted several dozen screenshots -- taken from the audience on his iPhone -- on Photobucket for those interested in seeing a bit of the new Fusion Applications.
"I think Oracle has done very well so far in keeping to schedule and communicating the Fusion Applications timeline, especially in light of market and legal constraints," he said. "From the early announcements regarding Fusion Applications, the target date for finishing the build of version 1.0 was 2008. I always understood that to mean sometime prior to the end of 2008. Based on the live demo of Fusion Applications we saw at Oracle OpenWorld last week, it appears that Oracle is on track to hit that goal."
First suite to arrive in 2010
Despite the outward polish, however, one report from IDG News Service quoted Miranda as saying that the first suite of Fusion Applications might not be delivered until 2010. "We're going to be with early customers at the end of next year, and we're going to be very, very cautious on the [general availability date]," Miranda said. "We're going to make sure [the applications] are successful. Period."
But are the real super-duper Fusion Apps almost here?
"Oracle has been testing with live code with 350 customers -- they've pretty much brought people into their centers, had people provide feedback on screens, and they've done a lot of usability testing," Ray Wang, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc., told SearchOracle.com. He noted that those customers would typically be unable to share their experiences due to Oracle nondisclosure agreements.
"They had a bunch of analysts in to actually look at the product, to look at the live code, and it's actually very compelling," he added. "You look at it and one of the first things you realize is that it's about a brand new user experience. Instead of getting information that you search for, it's delivered in a dashboard -- you're looking at analytics that are pushed to you by a role, and you're saying, 'OK, if I'm an accounting clerk, what are the things I need?' Well, you suddenly see the important receipts, you suddenly see the dashboards that tell you are where you are from a money supply -- it's a very proactive push approach."
Even though Oracle has been showing off live code, widespread delivery could be a ways away.
"We estimate it'll be toward late 2009, early 2010," Wang said.
"There's still a certain amount of testing they still have to do and some modules and components they still have to build. They are leveraging the Fusion Middleware tools, but it looks like they have rewritten and expanded and built upon a lot of acquisitions here," he added.
Has the Fusion strategy shifted?
Nearly four years after Oracle first announced its plans for Project Fusion, customers are left to wonder about the delays and whether Oracle's Fusion Application strategy has shifted.
"I would say that Oracle's strategy has remained the same," Wang said. "What they are after is dominance in industries -- instead of expanding their ERP system, they are going out and buying key products. They are buying key pieces of a business of the things you actually have to do in an industry and then they are integrating it back into Fusion Middleware and ultimately back to the database."
Plus, Oracle has chosen companies with great maintenance revenue streams and is actively enhancing the solutions they've acquired, which buys Oracle plenty of time to work on Fusion Middleware and get the applications right.
"Over time, opportunities will arise to enhance your approach or to take your strategic target up a notch," Teter said. "One recent example of this is the acquisition of BEA. The BEA technology components Oracle acquired are a nice fit with the overall vision for Fusion Architecture and are also enabling Oracle to extend the breadth of Fusion Middleware in several areas."
You can't break a promise never given
So if Oracle hasn't exactly promised a specific timeline, much less a date, has it really delayed its Fusion Applications? Without knowing the settings of Oracle's internal alarm clock, it's impossible to say for sure.
"There's always been an aura of mystery around Fusion as everyone has been waiting for it to come out," said Laura DiDio, principal analyst at Information Technology Intelligence Corp. "But has Oracle handled things well or not? Has there been slippage? First of all, software application ship dates and timelines have more rubber in them than a Goodyear tire -- they're very elastic and very rarely do these things stick to a specific date."
Even if Oracle is a little behind, it doesn't matter to the vast majority of Oracle's customers -- the 70% or so rank-and-file mainstream users who aren't laggards and aren't on the bleeding edge of new technology.
"It doesn't really matter if it's a little late," she said, noting that this is a big move for customers and they'll need a lot of time to prepare for adopting Fusion Applications.
By far, the biggest risk Oracle could take is to deliver a half-baked suite of Fusion Applications. After all, Oracle has made 50 acquisitions in 44 months and now has 3,000 products on its hands. The next full-suite generation of Fusion Applications will define the company as either an innovation application powerhouse or simply a bully willing to buy what it can't create on its own.
"The worst thing they could do is come out with a flop," DiDio said.