To say that Oracle has sent the market – and its customers – conflicting information about its plans for Fusion Applications is being a little charitable. It’s been incredibly difficult to track the shifting sands of Oracle’s strategy over the last three years, and, if you’ve been a little confused up till now, you’ve had a lot of good company.
But, on the eve of a road show designed in part to clear the air about what Fusion Applications are all about, Oracle’s strategy is finally starting to coalesce. I recently spent some time with Oracle’s apps guru, John Wookey, going over the details of where Fusion 1.0 planning is today, and I will say that Oracle’s strategy is now starting to make some sense. And, if the execution continues as planned, the newly incarnated Fusion Applications suite is going to start making headaches for Oracle’s competitors well ahead of its planned 2008 launch.
Once upon a time, Oracle led the world to believe that Fusion Applications was going to be the mother of all enterprise applications suites: a service-oriented, highly verticalized, best-of-the-best roll-up of the company’s E-Business Suite as well as its PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards, Siebel, Retek, and other acquisitions (see Decoding Oracle’s Latest Fusion Update).
This uber-suite was, in many ways, too good to be true: There was no way that Oracle could blend all its disparate data models, processes, and code bases, not to mention the vertical and horizontal functionality that arrived with every new acquisition, and still deliver a functional “SAP-killer” suite in the 2008 timeframe. And so the uber-suite idea quietly left the building.
Some pundits though that the uber-suite would be replaced by a clever rebranding exercise in which what rightfully should be called E-business Suite 13 became Fusion 1.0 – absent functions and processes from the rest of the Oracle portfolio. In other words, an upgrade to an existing product cobbled together to meeting an otherwise impossible deadline. It turns out that wasn’t what Fusion 1.0 was destined to be either.
A New Strategy Born
Meanwhile, what was incontrovertible was that a shift in thinking was in the works: Oracle, which started this march with a damn-the-customers hostile takeover of PeopleSoft, began to listen to its customers. What the company heard was that, for many customers, industry-specific innovation (as in upgrading the vertical functionality of the existing products) was more important than the technological innovation (i.e. web service-enablement and modeling) that was the inspiration for Fusion 1.0.
Hence, the Applications Unlimited strategy was born, and with it the promise that Oracle would continue to innovate the functions in its E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards, and Siebel products while leaving the technology side of these products untouched.
This evolution now leads us to the current strategy for Fusion 1.0, as outlined by Wookey, and it goes like this: Fusion 1.0, instead of being a superset of the functionality available from the different stand-alone products that Oracle now owns, will be a subset culled from Oracle’s many product lines. That subset will appeal mostly to companies that think technology innovation along the lines of web services and business modeling is more important than functional innovation along vertical industry lines.
This means that Fusion 1.0 is not E-Business Suite 13, though many of the EBS data models will be part of Fusion 1.0. Nor is this a “SAP-killer” by any stretch of the imagination. The reality is that Fusion 1.0 is an alternative path toward web services, modeling, and other next generation functionality. And a potentially appealing one.
With that in mind, and with Applications Unlimited going full throttle, Oracle really doesn’t need anyone to implement Fusion 1.0 any time soon. As long as Oracle’s customers buy into the new roadmap, and keep upgrading their existing applications and, by the way, implement Fusion Middleware as well, whether they implement Fusion 1.0 or Fusion 5.0 matters little to Oracle.
That’s the headache factor for Oracle’s competitors, and it’s a doozy. Of course, Oracle has its own headache factor to worry about, as in what to do about migrating customers to Fusion 1.0 or 5.0 without making it as much fun as a migraine at a jackhammer convention. But for now, Fusion 1.0 is looking a lot better than it has ever looked before, and that can’t be good news for Oracle’s competitors. Aspirin, anyone?