Oracle has produced version 9 of PeopleSoft Enterprise Performance Management.

The release is another piece of its PeopleSoft Enterprise 9 applications suite, Oracle's most substantial revamp of the suite since acquiring PeopleSoft in January 2005.

The Performance Management element is an integrated suite of analytic applications to help businesses match company data and resources to operational goals. The release features improved enterprise planning in budgeting and forecasting, and better compliance management around financial control and reporting.

Oracle has also increased integration between it and other PeopleSoft products. For example, the new offering now integrates with PeopleSoft Workforce Rewards so users can more easily assess the likely impact on their operations of different compensation models.

The vendor has also included some additional functionality for the higher-education market with a new Campus Solutions Warehouse. The warehouse brings student data together and allows staff to perform detailed analysis on that information in relation to student recruitment, student retention and faculty workloads.

The release is more proof of Oracle's plan to improve existing applications while working in parallel on Fusion a new applications suite, due out in 2008, said Oracle development manager John Wookey.

Oracle is part way through delivering PeopleSoft Enterprise 9, releasing the CRM (customer relationship management) piece of the software earlier this month. Next will be the financials portion of the application suite due out in September, followed by human resources by year-end, Wookey said.

Oracle has also releasedan upgrade to its free tool for building Web applications that access Oracle databases, wrties Paul Krill of InfoWorld.

Oracle Application Express Release 2.2, or APEX, was known in previous incarnations as HTML DB. Built as a browser-based, declarative tool, Apex is suitable for tasks in which a spreadsheet traditionally has been used. Applications such as surveys and event registration forms can be deployed via APEX, which can be viewed as a Microsoft Access replacement.

"We think it's a unique product," said Oracle VP of software development, Mike Hichwa. "It's kind of like Microsoft Access but it's not a thick client. It's kind of like Ruby and PHP but it's not really scripting and it's not a framework in a 3GL like C# or J2EE," Hichwa said. Like APEX, Ruby and PHP also are designed for building simple, straightforward Web applications, Hichwa said. But these scripting languages are more complicated than APEX.

Oracle hopes to build a community around APEX, with developers sharing packaged applications such as wikis, blogs, or discussion forums. Currently, only a couple of applications are available on the Oracle Technology Network but the company hopes to expand that to 20 applications by the time of the Oracle OpenWorld conference in late-October.