October 2, 2012
Oracle vs. Salesforce: Social Acquisition Face-off (click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Want the latest news on Oracle applications? Be prepared for a long discussion. No fewer than 10 executives took to the Oracle Open World stage Monday to recap their application roadmaps. And despite the numbers, a few of Oracle's latest acquisitions weren't represented.
"We ran out of chairs, so we don't have executives from our recent social application acquisitions [Collective Intellect and Vitrue] up on stage," quipped Oracle applications executive Steve Miranda, who presided over the panel discussion. Oracle's apps portfolio now spans diverse applications dating from different computing eras. Represented on Monday's panel were cloud-era apps including Oracle Fusion Applications, RightNow, and Taleo; middle-aged apps like Oracle E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, and Siebel; and even apps born in the AS/400 era, like JD Edwards World. Much of the attention at Oracle Open World is on Fusion Applications, a hybrid ERP, CRM, and HCM suite designed to run on premises, on private clouds, or on Oracle's public cloud. Introduced at Open World last year, Fusion now has 400 customers who have licensed or subscribed, according to Oracle senior VP Chris Leone. Fusion is being developed aggressively, he said, citing that the app is nearing its fifth release--in the cloud, that is. [ Want more on Oracle Open World? Read Oracle Open World: Key Questions On Cloud Vision. ] Leone acknowledged that only 100 of the 400 Fusion customers are in production, and almost all of those are using isolated cloud-delivered Fusion apps rather than anything close to the full suite. Indeed, a few customers signed up for Fusion on-premises apps tell InformationWeek they're waiting for Oracle to deliver key components and updates. We're consistently hearing that the products are green and that adoption is slow. Oracle's new apps tend to be social apps, but one theme that emerged across apps during Monday's sessions was plans to extend social functionality. Oracle's recent acquisitions of Collective Intellect and Vitrue, for example, bring social service and social marketing capabilities that could be deployed standalone or embedded into processes supported by the likes of RightNow, Fusion, and Siebel. The pending purchase of Select Minds is likely to bring social talent collaboration tools to Taleo, Fusion, and PeopleSoft environments. Keynotes highlighting social capabilities are expected on Tuesday at Open World, but thus far the lack of emphasis on all things social is a big contrast to the Salesforce.com Dreamforce event in San Francisco two weeks ago. Social was omnipresent at that event, whereas at Oracle Open World it seems more like an afterthought. Mobile was another common theme, starting with PeopleSoft Mobile Expenses, Mobile Approvals, and Mobile Company Directory applications announced Monday. RightNow and Taleo executives said they're moving quickly to take advantage of Oracle's mobile apps capabilities that they didn't have access to as independent companies. Support will start with iPad apps for managers. JD Edwards recently gained an iPad app for health and safety inspections and reporting in manufacturing settings. Oracle completed its takeover of PeopleSoft (and with it JD Edwards) eight years ago, Miranda noted, and it was at that time that Oracle made its Applications Unlimited pledge to maintain and invest in legacy apps to reassure acquired customers that they wouldn't be forced into painful migrations and upgrades. Oracle has kept that promise, developing new releases even for its oldest applications, like JD Edwards World. The 37-year-old World app saw an upgrade this spring along with a new release for its younger sibling, the JD Edwards EnterpriseOne ERP suite. Middle-aged apps like Siebel, PeopleSoft, and JD Edwards EnterpriseOne were born in an era when customizability was seen as a good thing, but customers know now that customizations can be an expensive burden to maintain. Thus Oracle execs said they're building out vertical-industry functionality so customers can configure the app rather than building customizations. The Siebel team, for instance, is building out popular functionality for financial services, high-tech companies, and public sector organizations, according to Oracle senior VP Anthony Lye. PeopleSoft SVP Paco Aubrejuan said his team is continuing to simplify user interfaces and add industry-specific functionality so customers don't have to build it themselves. JD Edwards ERP functionality is already deep and industry specific, but the spring releases filled out the list with new blend-management features for food and beverage manufacturers and a pay-on-proceeds feature for managing agricultural operations. Almost all of Oracle's applications are taking advantage of Oracle middleware and applications for business intelligence (the exceptions are the apps most recently acquired, but stay tuned). Oracle SVP Balaji Yelamanchili said the next move for this BI functionality would be to re-architect to bring that functionality into the cloud. In addition, he promised cloud delivery for Oracle Enterprise Performance Management applications based on Hyperion. That will be a complement to the ERP suites and specifically Oracle Fusion Financials. "Lest there be any doubt in our continued investment, everybody on this panel is taking advantage of the latest in user interface, BI, mobile, and social improvements," said Miranda.
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