An In-Depth Look at Oracle Fusion Applications
What does the formal launch of Fusion mean for existing Oracle CRM and ERP users?
A year ago, Oracle (NASDAQ: CEO) Larry Ellison made a big splash at the 2010 Oracle OpenWorld about the company's Fusion middeware and application platform. He said it would be rolled out carefully to ensure it was fully ready for the enterprise.
Fast forward a year and 200 companies have been using a beta version of Fusion, with another 200 early adopters helping to test and refine the platform. At last week's OpenWorld, Ellison officially ended the controlled release phase and put his foot down hard on the throttle of Fusion sales.
"It took six years of engineering to build a complete integrated suite of ERP, Human Capital Management, CRM, Supply Chain Management and many other applications on top of modern technology," he said. "Now Fusion is ready for general availability – over 100 separate products all rewritten on top of modern technology."
The design goals for Fusion were for it to run in the cloud and on premises, base it on standard programming languages like Java, standard middleware, have baked-in business intelligence and analytics, and have security running in the middleware and OS rather than the applications.
Oracle's CEO compared that approach to SAP, which uses the proprietary Advanced Business Application Programming (ABAP) while Fusion utilizes Java, which Ellison characterized as the most popular programming language in the world.
When users log in to the home page, it is designed to tell them the latest news about the business. For a sales manager, this would be details of deals closed, how current sales match up against quotas, tasks that need performing, hiring info, pending approvals and more.
Oracle Cloud Applications
Ellison also revealed the Oracle Public Cloud, which is both a platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS). The platform part consists of services for data, database and security, while the application side is where Fusion CRM, Human Capital Management (HCM), Talent Management and Financials reside. As a result, you can take any existing Oracle database and move it into or out of the cloud (or into another standards-based cloud like Amazon), as well as associated data.
For those wanting to extend an application or build an app, the Java Services portion comes into play. Users can use Java EE to build an app that is portable.
"Don't try to move that Java EE app to the Salesforce cloud," said Ellison. "It won't run."
He then proceeded to bash Salesforce.com as a "false cloud" based on proprietary APEX and Force.com technologies.
Ellison gave an example of Oracle Fusion CRM running in the cloud.
"Other CRM systems help managers monitor their sales forecasts," he said. "Our system helps sales people sell more and work as a team."
The Oracle Public Cloud is available on a monthly subscription basis with self-service sign up and instant provisioning of more or less resources as needed.
Ellison ended with the unveiling of the Oracle Social Network. It is a way for teams to collaborate, communicate, web conference and share documents in a secure environment. It, too, has business intelligence and analytics built in.
The idea is for sales teams, for example, to use this network to collaborate on closes, provide recommendations on the best customer references and team members to bring into the sales cycle. Security controls allow managers to enable individuals to see only certain info and not others.
So should users migrate to Fusion or stick with their existing platforms? Oracle's approach is to be happy to accept both viewpoints. Those in a rush to get their hands on Fusion can do so. Other more conservative operations will be supported for many years to come on current apps. And both can coexist as well.
Accordingly, Oracle has developed coexistence processes that extend across all major product lines, including Oracle's Siebel CRM, Oracle's PeopleSoft, Oracle's JD Edwards, PeopleSoft, Oracle's JD Edwards and the Oracle E-Business Suite.
"Oracle Fusion Application coexistence means organizations can cull the best from existing systems and incrementally adopt without the expense of a complete overhaul," said Steve Miranda, Oracle's senior vice president of application development.
He explained that Oracle's Applications Unlimited initiative allows customers to remain on existing apps like PeopleSoft, Oracle EBS or Siebel CRM, or else move over to Fusion. Part of the strategy is to use Fusion as a gateway to cloud-based enterprise apps.
"Some are rushing to the cloud and Fusion is the way to get them there easiest," said Miranda.
He made the point that current applications in the cloud are there in isolation. You can have CRM in the cloud or talent management in the cloud but those systems don't interoperate. Fusion is a means of remedying that – each app that runs in the cloud shares the underlying platform and so data can be shared by them.
Miranda said the CRM and HCM families are the most popular modules of Fusion, followed by supply chain management (SCM).
"Most customers are using several modules in tandem within one family," said Miranda.
He said that the Fusion upgrade path will vary from customer to customer. Some will dive in as they are anxious to move to the cloud. Others will upgrade to the latest on premises version of ERP or CRM and then add a Fusion module to add specific functionality.
Even without Fusion, there are plenty of advances across the Oracle Financials and ERP categories.
Paco Aubrejuan, a PeopleSoft Manager at Oracle, mentioned UI upgrades to PeopleSoft 9.1 to make it more intuitive. While version 9.2 is due next year, several feature packs from 9.2 have already been given to 9.1 users, including increased support for mobile users. PeopleSoft is also leveraging centralized R&D from Fusion to improve its own feature set. Similarly, Aubrejuan expects to see customers taking advantage of new platforms such as Oracle Exadata.
"A lot of PeopleSoft customers are running on the mainframe so it is attractive to many of them to move to Exadata," he said.
JDEdwards EnterpriseOne 9.0, too, has had some updates. It includes more functionality for contractors and a recently released module deals with multi-variant Store Keeping Units (SKUs). And like other areas of the Oracle app portfolio, it is benefiting from new technical capabilities from Fusion middleware. For instance, developers have taken mobility features for Apple's iPad and created specific gestures for ERP on that device.
For the Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS), the last major release was 12.1 back in 2001 with a couple of minor updates since.
"Easing the process of maintenance is a big focus and the 12.2 release is coming soon," said Cliff Godwin, an EBS Manager at Oracle. "Online patching will mean you can apply patches while users are still using the older versions."
Oracle Hyperion Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) 11.1 developers are also working on deep integration with Fusion Financials. Fusion has analytics as one of the key features, and these business intelligence and analytics features will bleed into other Oracle apps, including Hyperion EPM.
The storm of announcements during Oracle OpenWorld continued with the company introducing Oracle Financial Management Analytics, prebuilt analytic dashboards that integrate data from Oracle Hyperion Financial Close Management and Oracle Hyperion Financial Management to deliver a unified view of financial close process and financial results. This is based on Oracle Business Intelligence and includes support for the iPad and iPhone. It is generally available as an extra option to users of the Hyperion Financial Close Suite.
"Oracle Financial Management Analytics reduces the complexity of implementing a BI solution that provides insight into the financial close process as well as monthly and quarterly financial results," said Hari Sankar, vice president of product management for Oracle Enterprise Performance Management.
The week included plenty of announcements about CRM too. Oracle CRM On Demand Release 19 Innovation Pack was introduced at Oracle OpenWorld. It includes a hosted contact center that adds features such as chat, co-browsing, response libraries, multi-party conferencing, suggested email responses and a pre-built integration interface. Oracle CRM On Demand Marketing Release 5.4 is included as part of it. This simplifies the building and managing of campaigns, websites and customer-facing documents and includes ways to target content to specific customers.
Anthony Lye, senior vice president of Oracle CRM, covered Siebel CRM 8.2, which has the same mobile technology as Oracle CRM On Demand, including middleware to connect apps to the iPad. He added that there had been four major releases to Siebel since its acquisition five years ago.
He was happy also with the acquisition of ATG Commerce, which he termed the world's best ecommerce platform. It has been integrated with Siebel so either set of customers can easily back in to the other one.
Lye wasn't a proponent of all cloud for every app, however,
"It is never going to be all cloud," he said. "If seconds matter in orders, for instance, it is maybe not good to put that over a public internet. Cloud is a good extension but it won't take all applications."
He countered that, though, by stating that Oracle is already the second biggest provider of cloud applications.
Lye ended with a discussion of Fusion, noting that by using Groovy (the scripting engine for Java), it has become much easier to make changes to CRM applications. He gave the example of tweaking a manager's dashboard to only show deals over $1 million. This can be accomplished in minutes, he said, as could the addition of mobile features or customization for partners to help them qualify leads.