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1/19/2006
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Oracle: 'We're Halfway To Fusion'

The company is incorporating elements from PeopleSoft, JD Edwards and eventually Siebel into its own applications, and is trying to do it without being disruptive to customers.

Oracle is well on its way to reaching its goal of unified middleware for all Oracle, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards and eventually Siebel Systems applications. At least, that’s what Oracle executives say.

Addressing a packed house at San Francisco City Hall Wednesday night, Charles Phillips, co-president of Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle, said the work to incorporate elements of applications from PeopleSoft and JD Edwards has reached the midway point.

“Oracle is halfway to Fusion, and that’s the toughest half,” Phillips said, noting that the work has progressed to the point where Oracle will no longer refer to Fusion as a “project.” Oracle plans to deliver Fusion components beginning this year on current releases.

The plan is to move users--as painlessly as possible--from brand-specific tools like PeopleTools and Oracle Forms to a converged set of tools and middleware that will cover all the applications. Oracle has promised that the road to Fusion will be incremental rather than disruptive. But many observers say it's tough to have it both ways, since big changes to code bases tend to be disruptive.

"Oracle's biggest difficulty is integrating all this stuff together, and that's the vision behind Fusion middleware," said Dan Mori, vice president of FusionStorm, a San Francisco-based Oracle partner.

Mick Gallagher, CEO of LS Technologies, a Fallbrook, Calif., solution provider, said Fusion creates a great opportunity for Oracle partners in terms of the service they can present to customers. Through Fusion middleware, Oracle is now providing a way to set an application standard and bring systems together seamlessly, he said.

"That's huge, especially for JD Edwards, PeopleSoft and Siebel customers that have any reservations about transitioning," Gallagher said.

Still, one Oracle integration partner, who requested anonymity, said that although the vendor’s vision is sound, so far he's seen little more than vision. "It's vapor," he said.

Madhu Madhavan, managing director of Premier Consulting Group, a PeopleSoft integrator in Secaucus, N.J., was more upbeat. "I think there is some truth to [Oracle’s] claim [of progress], but they still don't have their act all the way together." On the plus side, Mabhavan said Oracle's decision six months ago to extend support--virtually indefinitely--for old applications has been well-received by customers.

Oracle's attention to PeopleSoft partners, products and customers has surprised Chris Rapp, vice president of business development at Apex Consulting, a PeopleSoft integrator based in Minneapolis. But the product integration has been a very slow process, he said.

"The next release of Oracle E-business Suite and PeopleSoft will include these new services, so they're moving the current products [forward],” Rapp said. “But as they build brand-new things, they'll integrate with existing products. It's not seamless, but nothing is."

At the event, Thomas Kurian, senior vice president of server technologies development at Oracle, cited progress made in defining the Fusion architecture, which he characterized as a "blueprint for service-oriented architecture-based enterprise solutions." Key aspects of the Fusion framework are SOA, information-driven architecture and grid computing architecture, which he said has to do with the ability to scale the network using low-cost hardware.

The application framework for the project is Fusion Middleware, a standards-based development toolset announced in April 2005 that's accessible through an enterprise portal. Fusion Middleware is a strong tool for developing integrated enterprise applications with desktop tools like Microsoft Office, and identity management is incorporated into all of the applications, Kurian said.

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