Those who attended Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's keynote address at the OpenWorld conference hoping to learn a wealth of new detail about the vendor's long delayed Fusion Applications likely left disappointed, but plenty of vital information was available throughout the week for those interested enough to pursue it.
Ellison's presentation largely repeated what is already known about the software, which is set for general release early next year after more than five years of development. Moreover, much of the keynote was spent on discussions of recent hardware announcements such as the Exalogic "cloud in a box", as well as verbal jabs directed at Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff.
Fusion Applications combine the best attributes of Oracle’s various ERP (enterprise resource planning) product lines into a next generation suite with built-in BI (business intelligence) and collaboration capabilities.
"Nobody until now has ever been successful at building large ERP applications on top of industry standard middleware," Ellison said. He went on to touch upon long discussed aspects of Fusion Applications, such as pervasive BI (business intelligence) and its modern UI, which is the result of ample engagement and testing with user groups in recent years.
He also once again stressed that Oracle believes customers should adopt Fusion at their own pace. “It can’t be rip-and-replace.” Ellison then left the stage as a number of Oracle executives ran through a series of Fusion product demonstrations.
Meanwhile, although Ellison's talk was thin on finer details, more than 40 "drill-down" sessions were scheduled during the conference week, along with many demo booths showcasing the software. And there apparently is a healthy amount of interest in Fusion Applications among the Oracle installed base.
Many showgoers were turned away from a talk Tuesday by Steve Miranda, senior vice president of application development, due to a lack of space. This was a dramatic departure from Fusion Applications sessions at previous OpenWorld events, which drew healthy but far from standing-room-only crowds.
Fusion Applications will have the same codebase whether they are run on-premises or on-demand. They also use "standard vanilla" BPEL (business process execution language) for designing business process flows, ensuring interoperability with third-party tools, Miranda said. Oracle has also rethought the concept of application customisation. A key component of Fusion Applications is a special metadata layer that allows customers to tweak business processes without touching the underlying code.
For example, Oracle's code might supply a two-step process that creates a purchase order and issues an invoice, Miranda said. A company may want to add a step in between that checks the customer against a terror watch list database before completing the invoice. Oracle might update its code in the future, but that won't affect the process step created by the user.
The scope of Fusion Applications version one includes financials, HCM (human capital management), SCM (supply chain management), PPM (project portfolio management), procurement, CRM (customer relationship management) and GRC (governance, risk and compliance).
The suite is not yet fully globalised. "We focused really on Tier 1 economies around the world," particularly North America and Western Europe, Miranda said. Oracle hasn't built out core manufacturing capabilities for Fusion either, but the initial wave includes complementary modules for areas like distributed order orchestration and inventory management.