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Going in-house with Oracle Fusion Applications demands vast skill set

Companies adopting Oracle Fusion Applications will naturally want to build it in-house. But the complexities of the application platform may make that infeasible – at least for now.

Oracle Fusion Applications are like a mysterious black box to Korey Huerter.

Huerter is a senior IT analyst at one company that was part of Oracle’s early adopter program. As with all early adopters, Oracle hosted Huerter's company's Fusion Applications within its own data center.

Now the early adopter program is over. Fusion Applications has been generally available since last fall. And Huerter's company, among dozens of others from the early adopter program and many more delving into it for the first time, must decide whether to host Fusion Applications remotely or build it in-house.

Huerter is planning to bring Fusion Applications in-house, hopefully within the next six months. He said wanting to keep sensitive data within the four walls of its own data center was one factor. Another was easier integration with existing in-house applications. But Huerter realizes it’s not going to be easy.

You’ll need a database admin, a Fusion Middleware admin, you’ll need to know some of the intricacies of Oracle Identity Management. You’ll need to know SOA, you’ll need to know BPM, you’ll need to know some WebCenter. And those are just the middleware components I’m talking about.

Floyd Teter, VP at Innowave, on what building Fusion Apps in-house requires

“We’re just in the planning phases right now. We hope it goes smoothly but we won’t know until we get into it,” he said. “With it hosted we weren’t able to really see how it was wired together.”

The complexities of building Oracle Fusion Applications in-house

Only about 8% of Oracle application pros plan to add Fusion Applications in 2012, according to the 2011-2012 Reader Survey. surveyed 334 qualified respondents in the fourth quarter of 2011. Of the application pros planning to add Fusion Apps, more than half said they will run it in their own data centers.

However, if they go in-house, they must have the expertise to dig into the guts of an application platform that took years to develop – and which encompasses several Oracle acquisitions. They must go beyond the flashy user interface to see how it really ticks. And they might be surprised by how much they see.

Innowave Technology is another company building Fusion Applications in-house. As an Oracle consultancy, Innowave must know the inner workings of Fusion in case its clients want to build it in-house. What Floyd Teter, an Oracle ACE director and vice president at Innowave, has found is that doing it in-house is complicated.

“What rolled out for Fusion Applications is phenomenally different from the original design,” Teter said. “And as Oracle acquired more and more companies, they wound up baking in more functionality. So the underlying technology stack to support that functionality became more complex.”

Teter foresees most companies hosting Fusion Applications, a particularly good idea if they’re pursuing a “coexistence strategy” – that is, Fusion Applications sitting alongside existing Oracle applications. But some companies have security requirements and concerns around their data, and therefore want to keep it in-house.

That doesn’t mean it will be easy. Particularly imposing is the Fusion Middleware knowledge necessary to build Fusion Applications in-house. Teter went down the list.

“You’ll need a database admin, a Fusion Middleware admin, you’ll need to know some of the intricacies of Oracle Identity Management,” he said. “You’ll need to know SOA, you’ll need to know BPM, you’ll need to know some WebCenter. And those are just the middleware components I’m talking about.”

Huerter is running into that issue. The company’s IT staff does have some Fusion Middleware experience. They are also in the process of training some in-house PeopleSoft experts in Fusion Applications.

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Debra Lilley, an Oracle Alliance director at Fujitsu and president of the UK Oracle Users Group, has been working with Oracle on Fusion Applications for years. She said that large companies with an existing middleware and SOA platform are best suited for running Fusion in-house. She said she has seen “a lot of organizations that could do it quite easily.”

“Bigger organizations are going to want to run it themselves,” she said. “And I think that as time goes by, when people are replacing rather than augmenting, then they will want to do it themselves.”

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is in that camp. The Waterbury, Vt.-based coffee company was a Fusion CRM early adopter, and is still hosting it with Oracle. But CIO Jim Prevo said that once the company gets to a “certain point in stability and utility,” that they’ll pull it back in-house.

“I want my portfolio on an infrastructure that we have engineered and that we operate,” Prevo said. “I know I may be old-school, but that’s where my trust lies.”

Then there are those who may want to run Fusion Applications in-house, but who soon realize it’s too complex. Teter relayed the story of one company he consulted for that wanted to do a rip-and-replace to Fusion Applications.

“They looked at us after the install and said, ‘Crap. We didn’t know what we were getting into.’”

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