PeopleSoft co-founder Dave Duffield has returned to the software fray with a hosted software company and is thanks Oracle for giving him the opportunity.

Duffield and some of his former PeopleSoft colleagues have announced the general availability of the first of four planned suites from their new on-demand ERP software company Workday.

The first suite, Workday Human Capital Management (HCM), is already deployed at two companies - multichannel customer service firm Kana Software and biotechnology player Biosite. Workday has three other customers close to going live with its HCM suite, according to Duffield, who is Workday's co-founder and chief executive officer.

Looking ahead, Workday plans three other suites in the areas of financial, resource and revenue management that should be released next year. At the same time, the company will "deepen and broaden" its HCM offering, Duffield said.

Duffield blamed Oracle for his re-entry into the software world.

Toward the end of the 18-month hostile takeover bid Oracle waged to acquire PeopleSoft, Duffield came out of retirement to rejoin PeopleSoft. "We worked like crazy for several months to keep PeopleSoft from the clutches of Oracle," he said. "When Oracle prevailed, it inadvertently opened a door for us." Duffield and former PeopleSoft colleague Aneel Bhusri founded Workday in March 2005 and the company now employs 65 people.

Duffield is keeping PeopleSoft's former emphasis of looking after its staff and good customer service with his new venture, he said. He believes the world needs another ERP player to make it easier for customers to change, use and integrate back-end applications. Workday has architected its software with Web 2.0 in mind, Bhusri said, with the applications including XML and AJAX along with built-in analytics and reporting.

As well as the new product suite, Workday has also announced four key partnerships, and the most significant is with Microsoft. The software giant to date has limited presence in the on-demand applications market, with the focus on hosted CRM software, not ERP. Workday and Microsoft are hoping to provide integration between Workday software and Microsoft's Outlook, SharePoint Server and Exchange Server products some time next year.

Turning to the other partnerships, systems integrator Accenture is building a practice around Workday technology. Payroll specialist Automatic Data Processing (ADP) is integrating its PayForce product with Workday's offerings. Finally, Workday has embedded Cape Clear Software's ESB (enterprise service bus) as part of its core infrastructure.

Workday is initially focusing its hosted software on North American upper mid-market companies with 1,000 to 5,000 staff and annual revenue of US$200 million to $1 billion, Bhusri said. The vendor hopes to begin introducing global functionality in the second half of 2007 to cover countries like Australia and the UK, as well as going after business in Asia-Pacific, he added.

The company doesn't expect to release pricing for its hosted applications until January, but it'll probably be on a per-employee annual subscription basis, Bhusri said.

Original reporting by IDG news service