Oracle hosted an electronic party last week to announce the availability of new releases for all of its application products including EnterpriseOne and World. The high profile event was held in New York City on January 31 and broadcast to over 3,000 people at meeting sites around the world. The event was webcast to those who cared not to travel.

The event was all about celebration and education. The fact that nothing new of consequence was announced or introduced did not dampen the excitement of Oracle’s executives and did not seem to concern the audience. During an interview with analysts later in the day, Oracle development executive John Wookey admitted that the availability of all these new releases at approximately the same time was a coincidence. However, Wookey also made important revelations to us about the Fusion Application timetable for JD Edwards users that were not part of the scripted event.

A Good Excuse to Talk

The arrival of new releases for all five major application lines provided a convenient excuse to restate a set of messages that have not yet completely penetrated the consciousness of the 30,000 organizations that use Oracle applications. Boiled down to its essence, Oracle’s message is simple:

     – You will not be forced to replace your software for a very long time.

     – The applications you now own and use will continue to improve.

     – Something better is coming, but it will not be relevant for most of you for quite some time.

Oracle President Charles Phillips made these same points in April 2006 at the Collaborate conference. Unfortunately, his 8AM presentation, delivered in Phillips’ professional but low-key style, did not penetrate through the early morning fog that fills the brains of most trade show attendees. The recent clustering of new releases provided a great excuse to review the bidding.

News from the JD Edwards Breakouts

On the JD Edwards front, GM Lenley Hensarling hosted a break out session reviewing the features in EnterpriseOne release 8.12 – something that has been available and in use since last summer. Besides offering a nice articulation of its new features, the presentation included useful observations about the state of the market. According to Hensarling, 46% of EnterpriseOne customers have now either upgraded to release 8.10 or higher or are in the process of doing so. If release 8.9 is added into the mix, the percentage rises to 65%. Upgrading is such a vital topic that it will be the subject of a major article on this blog site soon.

Release 8.12 focused heavily on the special needs of Agribusinesses, one of the most important industry vertical markets for JD Edwards. Future releases will likewise tend to major in the needs of particular groups of customers. For example, EnterpriseOne 9.0, due in 2008 will focus on the needs of the Construction industry. It is reasonable to assume that this pattern of an industry focus for each release will continue for at least a few years.

Meanwhile, in another hall, World GM John Schiff went over the enhancements included in release A9.1 in front of a small but excited gathering of the faithful. Since this is the first major World release in almost a decade, just the fact that it arrived on time was very welcome. A separate blog article on this release will be posted as soon as we get more live user feedback about it. Anyone who has put this brand new release into production is strongly encouraged to share their experiences with the rest of us.

Wookey Opens Up

After the formal meeting, John Wookey and Senior Vice President Sonny Singh, who oversees Oracle’s industry specific initiatives, spent an hour with an invitation-only group of industry analysts. That dialogue yielded lots more valuable information than the formal presentations. The key points are summarized below. A more in-depth analysis of some of the intelligence gathered at this exclusive briefing will follow in the coming weeks after we study and analyze what was learned.

The most important information we gathered was about the relevance of Fusion, Oracle’s next application generation, to the JD Edwards community. Wookey responded to a question we asked by agreeing that Fusion Applications, while very important in the long run, would not be something that current JD Edwards customers will convert to until 2011 or later. Fusion Applications will first arrive toward the end of 2008. During 2009 and 2010, the majority of organizations that install Fusion will come from the e-Business Suite user base or those converting from non-Oracle applications. It will almost certainly take until 2011 or longer for the conversion tools needed to make the transition to Fusion practical to be ready for JD Edwards.

Between now and then, it is our opinion that a growing number of the building block technologies from which Fusion Applications are being created will work themselves into JD Edwards applications as new releases come in 2009 and 2010. In this sense, Fusion will have an impact on the JD Edwards community sooner than 2011. In terms of being worried about a migration to new software, however, there is no reason to be concerned for a very long time.