OpenWorld begins this coming Sunday and, as usual, I will be there from start to finish. Oracle never telegraphs what is coming, especially what CEO Larry Ellison plans to address in his annual presentation. Recent years have seen Ellison personally focus on database appliances, especially since the Sun acquisition and that will almost certainly continue to be the case. IBM has recently been bragging about its gains in market share versus Oracle in hardware so I expect a vigorous and entertaining counter-attack.

It is a relatively safe bet that Fusion Applications will be formally introduced in some way this week. If not, it will mean that something has gone terribly wrong. Every indication is that the opposite is true – pilot site testing seems to be proceeding well.

Principal Financial has already been named as the first large scale user of Fusion Applications so I expect that it will provide a compelling customer testimonial. Others that have tested portions of the application suite can also be expected to get lots of airtime. In the last few years, as the delivery date for Fusion Applications continued to slip, Oracle has taken a low key approach by refusing to make grand claims about the product line beyond assuring us that it is in the works, is going to some day be wonderful and that it will provide a smooth upgrade path for Oracle application customers.

A few weeks ago I talked to people from a company that is not yet using Fusion Applications but that has agreed to become an early adopter of the Payroll module later this year. They indicated that Oracle is making it incredibly attractive to become an early adopter for a group of carefully selected organizations. It will be interesting to see if the early adopters that are not yet using the software will be called out in any way in advance. I suspect not, but Oracle surprises me at every turn.

Not surprisingly, Oracle is trying to get early adaptors to run Fusion Applications on the Oracle Exadata and Exalogic appliances. Apparently the current list pricing is very attractive and obviously there will be lots of discounting. The servers being advocated for use with Fusion Applications offer a great deal of flash memory, often multiple terabytes. It will be interesting to see if Fusion Applications have been optimized to run on Exadata and if it will become normal for them to be sold together.

Fusion Applications will have to run on all the popular servers but the cost of running them elsewhere could turn out to be high. Complete adoption of Oracle’s “red stack” of hardware, database and middleware may be a de facto requirement for those that move to Fusion Applications. How Oracle attempts to both maintain its reputation for openness while also making the use of all of its products together compelling will be one of the more interesting aspects of the Fusion Application introduction.

With only a few days to go before the curtain is at long last lifted on Fusion Applications I can’t wait.