OpenWorld is over, but the full notebook I brought back will take weeks to put into postings.  This one will expand on the first glimpse of Fusion Applications provided by CEO Larry Ellison himself.  First the basic facts. 

Fusion Applications is the first attempt by a major software vendor to create a complete suite of applications using Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) design principles.  It is the brainchild of Oracle software executive Steve Miranda who has overseen much of its development over more than four years.  The first wave of working applications will hit the market sometime in 2010 and will include financial, distribution and human capital management modules.  The family of applications will continuously be expanded over time to include manufacturing and much more.  It is not clear when or if special industries such as banking or retail will be included.  Fusion Applications are intended to be a next generation of ERP software and are targeted directly at SAP. 

Oracle has gone to great pains to assure users of its JDE, PeopleSoft, Siebel and eBusiness Suite applications that none of them will ever be forced to convert to Fusion if they do not care to.  The term “applications unlimited” was coined to capture this notion.  At the same time, Oracle clearly hopes that the new applications will prove so compelling that many current customers will one day decide to make a transition that Oracle promises will be an easy one. 

At OpenWorld a first glimpse of what is coming was provided, much as Hollywood producers create a trailer to get us to want to go to a film arriving months from now.  The little we saw was very enticing and, of course, far too little on which to form a solid opinion.  The handful of screens shown were visible for too little time to prove the claims made by the presenters.  We will assume for now that everything that was said is true.  The claims made were exciting: 

  • The SOA foundation enables a level of integration never before achieved.
  • Business Intelligence is seamlessly integrated into all of the applications.
  • A new interface that focus user attention on exception processing. 

Ellison showed a chart with the names of around 50 well known businesses that have provided input on specifications.  From this I surmise that the first wave of customers for these applications has already been established and that few if any outside of this inner circle will get their hands on them until well into 2011.  It will thus be 2012 or beyond before we have answers to some fundamental questions: 

  • Does the cool technology underneath translate into real user benefit?
  • How hard will it be to get these applications up and running?
  • Is built-in BI a killer feature or just something impressive in a demo? 

The starting point for the functional design was eBusiness Suite.  It seems safe to assume that the second wave of sales (after the pioneers already signed up) will come from this user base.  It is therefore hard to imagine a serious effort to convince current JDE customers to switch to Fusion Applications before 2013 at the very earliest. 

Oracle needs Fusion Applications installed and working at some prestigious accounts as soon as practical as a means of reversing SAP’s momentum in the applications market.  I suspect it will be quite successful in causing those businesses considering a new ERP platform to wait and take a careful look.  We are aware of a small number of businesses that have JDE within their application portfolios that are considering a move to SAP.  The news that Fusion is coming may put many such projects on hold for now. 

As in previous postings I remain skeptical about the impact Fusion Applications will have on the JDE customer set over the next 3 to 5 years.  At the same time, I am excited to see Oracle introducing a new generation of applications and see no reason why it won’t be successful. 

The greatest impact on our community will be indirect.  The SOA foundation means that Fusion Applications are being created out of re-usable software building blocks.  SOA connectors have already been built into the newer releases of EnterpriseOne so that elements of Fusion can be easily incorporated into it over time.  Most of you will therefore experience a gradual inclusion of an increasing amount of software developed for Fusion into your existing applications without experiencing anything more traumatic than a release upgrade.  For us, Fusion might better be named “infusion”. 

More thoughts on this important topic will come at time passes.