Oracle provides outsiders with so little information beyond the name, rank and serial numbers of its offerings that those of us trying to figure out what it is up to need to resort to psychic or occult techniques.  Having too little hard information to go on, I will offer my read of what I heard and saw this week at OpenWorld safe in the knowledge that the best I can hope to be is within one standard deviation of the truth. 

CEO Larry Ellison told us on Sunday that his speech scheduled to run one hour would focus on Fusion Applications.  It started fifteen minutes late because Infosys, the warm up act, didn’t know when to get off the stage and needed a non-subtle hook.  The late start did not stop Ellison from spending over 45 minutes recapping what he told us on Sunday. 

Mixed in with a re-announcement of Exalogic Elastic Cloud was a classic Ellison attack on a competitor.  This time it was Salesforce.com, a business he went after with great vigor Sunday.  Ellison seemed surprised that its CEO had the nerve to respond by pointing out that a “private cloud” wasn’t really a cloud.  Those keeping score at home can add one more vendor to enemies of Oracle list. 

I watched Ellison’s keynote along with a room full of press and bloggers.  The frustration with his decision to use precious time to repeat his Sunday hardware speech was tangible.  Mercifully, the subject finally turned to Fusion Applications at 4:15 – the time the session was due to end.  For the next 20 minutes Ellison gave an interesting and articulate summary of what Fusions Applications were and why he decided over five years ago to develop them.  I will offer a series of postings on them later after taking more time to try to make sense out of all that I heard about them this week. 

Ellison then handed over the stage to the Fusion Applications team to do a demo.  It is just me, or does everyone else find software demos done to a large audience from a stage impossible to follow and understand?  I am not too proud to admit that I could not follow what was being presented so I will not venture an opinion.  I will observe that the screens that flashed by sure contained lots of cool graphics.  The iPhone apps that appear to be part of the product looked interesting but they went by too fast for my aging brain to absorb. 

What did this all mean?  Should anything profound be read into the late and rushed presentation of Fusion Applications?  Was this just Ellison being eccentric (and in love with his new hardware appliance) or was it an indication that Fusion Applications are not really ready to be given featured billing?  My guess is some of both. 

Was the Fusion Applications story poorly told at OpenWorld because it remains an incomplete work in progress and an enigma to top management, or is this just a case of Oracle not being very good at explaining itself?  I have to vote for the former at this point. 

Whatever they turn out to be in the long-run, Fusion Applications do not appear to have a great deal of relevance to our community for quite some time.  Instinct tells me that they will end up being profoundly important to all of us, but not for a minimum of two years.  Three to five years is more likely.  This will give us the breathing room we need to make sense of them.