Ellison: Fusion Applications in 2010

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

Oracle plans to launch its long-awaited Fusion Applications in 2010, and they will be deployable both on-premises and as SaaS (software as a service), CEO Larry Ellison said Wednesday during a keynote address at the OpenWorld conference in San Francisco.

Fusion Applications, which Oracle first announced several years ago, will combine the best elements of Oracle's various business software product lines into a next-generation suite. Oracle has placed special emphasis on improving the user experience with Fusion, as well as embedded BI (business intelligence) throughout the applications, Ellison said.

Ellison's keynote contained the most specific information the company has provided about Fusion Applications since first announcing the project several years ago. The CEO took pains to tell the packed room of Siebel, JD Edwards and E-Business Suite users that Oracle has no plans to abandon the product lines anytime soon.

"Oracle will continue to enhance those applications for the next decade and beyond. We're absolutely committed to do that," he said to applause. "We can afford to not only maintain the software you're running today, but also build the software you may want to move to tomorrow."

Ellison did not provide details regarding licensing and pricing models, including whether Oracle will sell the new applications via subscription, as is the norm with SaaS.

But Oracle is nonetheless ensuring the products are ready for SaaS, including by developing monitoring tools that will track their performance, Ellison said.

While SaaS vendors provide users with service-level agreement guarantees, "there aren't very good tools for figuring out whether you're actually getting the service levels you're paying for," he said. Oracle's tools will enable it to "not only contractually commit but prove we're delivering the service levels."

Fusion Applications are based on a SOA (service oriented architecture) provided by Oracle's Fusion Middleware stack, Ellison said.

This gives Oracle "a huge advantage" because the SOA model will allow users easily to tie together "the Fusion generation and all the stuff you have deployed today," Ellison said.

"We don't think all customers are going to replace what they have today with Fusion," he added. "We think they will augment what they have with some Fusion. Fusion is designed to be delivered that way. ... We have replacement applications and then we have net-new applications."

The initial suite will include modules for financial management, human capital management, sales and marketing, supply chain management, project management, procurement management and GRC (governance, risk and compliance), but other key areas, such as manufacturing, will come later.

Ellison stressed the benefits of the modular approach. "You assemble the components in the order you want to use them, in the order that makes sense for your industry," he said.

Oracle has worked "very, very closely" with customers to design and test Fusion Applications, work that has resulted in a superior user interface, Ellison said.

Embedded BI is another major focus of the suite. "You can't use the system without using business intelligence," Ellison said.

In a demonstration, a pair of Oracle executives showed how the system alerted one user that a particular shipment had been delayed. The application allowed the user to bring up a dashboard showing which order manager was responsible for the particular transaction, and then begin an instant-messaging conversation with him directly from the tool. In turn, the order manager was able to search for less critical orders and reroute them to fulfill the first one.

"We tell you what you need to know, what you need to do, and we tell you how to do it," Ellison said.

Ellison's presentation proved that "Fusion apps are real," said Ray Wang, a partner with the analyst firm Altimeter Group.

While Oracle "definitely has the capability to deliver this as SaaS, it's really up to them to figure out if they want to enter [that market] large-scale," Wang added. In some product areas, such as talent management, "they can't compete without the SaaS option," he said.

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