Oracle touts Fusion Apps but affirms commitment to other software lines

Four hundred customers have licensed Fusion Applications since their release a year ago

Oracle touted what it called strong early adoption of its next-generation Fusion Applications on Monday, but also discussed how it will continue to support and add new features to the company's other business software lines, such as E-Business Suite and JD Edwards.

Fusion Applications went into general availability about a year ago. Four hundred customers have licensed the software, with about 100 having gone live with it, said Chris Leone, senior vice president of applications development, during a session at the OpenWorld conference in San Francisco. "The ramp-up and trajectory is just astronomical," he said. "Fusion's really here."

That adoption rate may not seem huge in light of Oracle's overall size but it should be kept in context, said analyst Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research.

"The one thing they've done is been very modest about their deployment [rate]," he said. "They've really been trying to get their customers up and running. It's a good start."

However, it's worth watching to see if Oracle will be able to speed the pace of adoption significantly within a couple of years, Wang added.

Oracle is employing a rapid cadence for Fusion Applications development, with a fifth release due out soon. Such a cycle is more in line with the pace set by SaaS (software-as-a-service) vendors. It gives Oracle the ability to quickly tweak the software and lets customers adopt new features in manageable pieces.

Most customers are going with Oracle's cloud deployment option for Fusion Applications, according to Leone. And customers are typically employing a "co-existence strategy," running some Fusion modules alongside their existing Oracle applications, rather than ripping and replacing, he said.

Still, some customers are weighing "full-suite deployments" of Fusion, Leone added.

Oracle is planning "a lot of new product introductions" for Fusion over the next year, Leone said.

Some of those will involve additional features for social networking. While some social features were built into Fusion from the start, recent acquisitions by Oracle in the area of social software will allow those capabilities to grow, Leone said. "You'll see social is a key tenet of our road map going forward."

Oracle is eager to show that Fusion Applications are clicking in the marketplace, both to help increase the return on its large investment and to prove that the long development process was worth the effort.

But Fusion sales are still small compared to those of Oracle's other software lines, which it has committed to support for many years. That's not altruism on Oracle's part, since those customers will continue to pay lucrative maintenance fees.

Still, Oracle made a concerted effort Monday to reassure these customers that their investments are safe.

Leone spoke on a panel with other Oracle applications executives, each of whom described their product's recent improvements, road map and place in the Oracle universe.

Oracle's Siebel CRM (customer-relationship-management) software "continues to play a very significant role in our customers' strategies," because of its functionality for vertical industries, said Anthony Lye, senior vice president of cloud applications strategy.

"For us, the obvious thing to do is continue to innovate on the application" as well as try to lower the cost of ownership, he said. "It will maintain its position as a great, great product for many, many years to come."

PeopleSoft has one of its biggest releases ever in the pipeline, said Paco Aubrejuan, senior vice president of PeopleSoft development. "The number of large companies that depend on us to run their business has continued to grow," he said.

Customers can expect Oracle to simplify the apps to make them easier to use, he said.

Separately Monday, Oracle announced a set of new HTML5-based mobile applications for PeopleSoft.

E-Business Suite is also gearing up for a major release, 12.2, over the next year, said Cliff Godwin, senior vice president of applications development.

The key feature in 12.2 will be online patching. "People have been asking me to deliver it for about 20 years," Godwin said to scattered applause. "We expect that feature will substantially reduce, down to minutes, planned downtimes associated with E-Business Suite."

The news resonated well with Kevin Bixler, a business analyst at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which uses E-Business Suite as well as PeopleSoft Campus Solutions. The school is on an earlier version of E-Business Suite, Bixler said at the conference. Online patching "would certainly streamline things," he said. On a scale of one through 10 rating desirable features, online patching is an eight, Bixler added.

Right now, it takes hours for a patch to be applied since it involves taking the system offline, he said. "In our shop, in order to do a patch, it's got to be a pretty bad problem, whereas with this we could be more regular with it and more up-to-date," Bixler said.

Of course, to gain that functionality Embry-Riddle will have to undergo an upgrade, which is also a goal of Oracle's even as it continues supporting older applications.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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