Ellison: Fusion Applications in 2010

They will combine the best attributes of Oracle's various product lines and be 'SaaS ready'

SaaS applications are different from straight application hosting, because they use a "multitenant" architecture wherein customers share a single instance of an application but their data is kept private from other customers. In a presentation Tuesday, on-demand CRM (customer relationship management) vendor and Oracle rival Salesforce.com compared multitenancy to an office building, where individual tenants share the overall infrastructure but customize their office spaces.

Oracle "will definitely" offer a hosted version of Fusion Applications, although it remains to be seen exactly how their SaaS strategy for the software plays out, Wang said.

When Fusion Applications arrive, they will also raise the competitive stakes between Oracle and its main rival, SAP.

But SAP spokesman Saswato Das dismissed Oracle's announcement.

"Basically, our Business Suite 7 is the most comprehensive and flexible suite of applications on the market," Das said. "Oracle has been talking about Fusion for a long time, and our suite is available now. They're playing catch-up."

Meanwhile, the work ahead of companies looking to adopt Fusion Applications sooner rather than later is "not trivial," said Floyd Teter, head of the Oracle Applications Users Group's Fusion Council, which has been educating group members about the upcoming applications release.

One key step customers should take is to catalogue their application customizations and determine which ones could be retired, Teter said. "A lot of us have done a lot of custom things. If you're a long-term Oracle customer, it's easy to lose track."

Fusion Applications will also require some companies to acquire new development skills, Teter said. "A lot of us run a lot of customizations through MOD PL_SQL. That's going to be gone. The skill set now is more Java and specifically [Java Enterprise Edition]. You also better have some knowledge of JavaScript."

In addition, Fusion Applications rely on Oracle's JDeveloper IDE (integrated development environment), rather than other Java development tools like Eclipse.

For many companies, there will be plenty of time to plan, since the first version of Fusion Applications won't include certain functional areas.

The lack of manufacturing has prompted the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, which uses E-Business Suite, to wait for a future version, said Teter, who is a project manager at the lab. "When I get a full-functionality replacement, we'll look at it. In the meantime, we'll continue to stay current on EBS."

But Teter said the vendor's work on Fusion has produced impressive results, particularly in regards to user experience.

Earlier in his keynote, Ellison turned to Oracle's recently announced Exadata 2 appliance for data warehousing and transaction processing. He claimed the machine widely outperforms and is much less expensive than competing technologies, such as from IBM, calling it "the fastest computer that has ever been built to run data warehousing applications."

"This system will outperform any of the competition," he said.

Exadata 2 uses Sun hardware, while the original machine, announced at last year's OpenWorld show, used Hewlett-Packard iron.

Oracle is in the process of buying Sun Microsystems but the deal is on hold while European officials conduct an antitrust review.

Ellison didn't discuss the acquisition during his keynote, but Sun and its officials have played an active role in this year's OpenWorld conference.

Ellison temporarily ceded the stage to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who delivered a joke-peppered talk espousing the value of technology, from biotech to the Hollywood special effects that powered his long career as an action star.

"Think of Conan the Barbarian fighting the giant snake," he said, referring to his role in the 1982 film based on Robert E. Howard's tales of a legendary warrior king. "I never could have done that and look so studly without technology," he said to an eruption of laughter from the crowd.

Schwarzenegger also congratulated Ellison and Sun chairman Scott McNealy on the pending acquisition, stressing the companies' importance to California's economy. "Working together, I know the sky is the limit for you and your employees," he said.

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