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Marine Corps to march with E-Business Suite

In an attempt to upgrade its legacy systems, the U.S. Marine Corps has decided to use Oracle's E-Business Suite as part of its new infrastructure. The Corps hopes to improve the supply chain to troops at home and abroad.

The U.S. Marine Corps is giving its commanders the ability to more efficiently oversee deliveries of food, ammunition and other supplies to troops deployed abroad and stationed at home.

The military branch is selecting Oracle Corp.'s E-Business Suite for its combat and logistical support systems, giving Oracle a big win against its competitors in the enterprise resource planning (ERP) space, according to analysts.

We want to start from scratch here and reengineer our business processes.
Randy Delarm,
program manager for global combat support systemsUnited States Marine Corps

But it will likely take nearly two years before commanders begin using the new software. The Marine Corps has yet to determine the platform and environment for the applications. The first step is to hire a systems integrator, said Randy Delarm, the United States Marine Corps' program manager for global combat support systems, information systems and infrastructure.

Eventually, the Marine Corps could decide to deploy the software on an Oracle database and application server, Delarm said.

"The systems integrator will take the Oracle solution and map that functionally against our requirements and design a solution within the Oracle E-Business Suite," Delarm said.

The Marine Corps signed on for all of the modules in the suite, including Oracle's supply chain planning, procurement, logistics, maintenance and service applications. The software was selected to track, transport and deliver support items to be deployed at home and abroad.

The deployment is part of a program to modernize logistics IT systems. The systems will give commanders a near real-time logistics picture, Delarm said. Once installed, the software will be used by more than 7,500 people, eventually supporting the entire Marine Corps worldwide.

SAP AG and Oracle have been in intense competition for customers in recent years. Welch Foods Inc. picked Oracle to be its global ERP provider in an agreement announced late last year. In June, SAP took some Oracle business from beverage giant PepsiCo Inc., which had been one of Oracle's premier customers since 1997.

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In recent years, large companies and government agencies like PepsiCo and the Marine Corps have been working to standardize their internal software and systems. "We're definitely seeing a trend in the private sector and public sector to reduce internal IT costs and key strategy is to simplify the environment," said Michael Dominy, a senior analyst with Boston-based Yankee Group, noting that Oracle has been aggressively pursuing government contracts.

At the same time, companies are streamlining and improving networking technologies and business applications. Eliminating outdated systems in networking software platforms, databases and then business applications helps reduce costs and improve data integration, Dominy said.

The Marines have over 200 systems running legacy applications on 30-year-old IBM mainframes. Integrating all the information became an issue, according to Delarm.

The Marine Corps legacy mainframe environment is run by the Defense Information Systems Agency. The agency is currently consolidating its six mainframes onto three mainframes supporting IBM OS/390 and two Unisys mainframes.

"The challenge has been having people around to understand the software and mainframe environment," Delarm said. "There have been some upgrades over the years, but we didn't just want to simply modernize our outdated system. We wanted to start from scratch here and reengineer our business processes."

The military branch been using some modules of Oracle 11i, including procurement, fulfillment, distribution and inventory management since it began updating systems in 2003.

Oracle may have had an advantage over other ERP providers -- a history of working with the Marine Corps.

In 1997 Oracle stepped in to help the military branch built an application to manage new recruit training. Oracle's work eventually developed into a five-year, $5.5 million contract associated with recruit training management.

"Oracle's culture and brand attributes of Oracle appeal particularly well to the military buyer," Dominy said. "Oracle is very competitive, Larry Ellison [Oracle CEO] is very much a warrior and spirit person and that helps them in sales cycles."

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