New Oracle OpenWorld details give early look at company's plans

Cloud computing, Fusion Applications and Oracle's engineered systems will be featured prominently

Oracle tends to keep a tight lid on the specific announcements it will make each year at the OpenWorld conference prior to show time, but a newly released session catalog provides plenty of clues and fodder for speculation as to what's in store at the event, which runs from Sept. 30 to Oct. 4 in San Francisco.

1. Cloud computing

OpenWorld will no doubt see plenty of updates and refresher courses on Oracle's recently launched Oracle Cloud, which runs the gamut from Fusion Applications delivered as SaaS (software as a service) to an on-demand database and Java application server.

It wasn't clear from Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's presentation earlier this month whether all elements of Oracle Cloud are generally available, but any lingering questions on that front should be answered at OpenWorld.

Meanwhile, one OpenWorld session will feature a number of Oracle technical staffers sharing "lessons and best practices learned in the initial rollout" of the database service, which uses the vendor's flagship database with pay-as-you-go pricing.

It appears that Oracle is going to beef up the PaaS (platform as a service) elements of its cloud strategy as well. One talk will center on Oracle Developer Cloud Services, described as "a hosted environment for your application development infrastructure, including version management, build services, tasks and defects tracking, wikis, document storage, and more."

In addition, Oracle will make a cloud pitch of sorts to customers looking to upgrade their on-premises installations. A session will cover Oracle Consulting Cloud Environments, which give customers "access to virtualized Oracle Applications environments (including Oracle Fusion; Oracle E-Business Suite; and Oracle's PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, and Siebel product lines) as well as Oracle Consulting tools and accelerators," according to the description. These tools will include "prebuilt conversions, interfaces, test scripts, project templates, product documentation, and business process maps," which can help speed up the upgrade process, it adds.

2. Engineered systems

Wall Street has been eyeing Oracle's hardware business closely since the acquisition of Sun Microsystems, which was completed in early 2010. Ellison and others have said repeatedly that the company is most interested in selling higher-margin "engineered systems" like the Exadata database machine and Exalogic application server, which combine its hardware and software for various computing workloads, and is reluctant to compete in the commodity server market.

Last year at OpenWorld, Oracle unveiled the Big Data Appliance and Exalytics machines.

The OpenWorld session catalog doesn't appear to spill the beans on any additional systems to be announced at the show, but Oracle plans to closely align Fusion Applications with Exadata and Exalogic. One session describes those products as the "ultimate platform" for deploying its next-generation Fusion Applications. Speculation has also swirled in the past that Oracle would eventually ship Fusion Applications pre-installed on its appliances; this session could reflect a step in that direction.

Oracle is also planning to discuss how customers can build "database clouds" of their own with Oracle technologies, most likely Exadata, in order to create a DBaaS (database as a service).

Attendees will also get an update on the technical road map Exadata, which has received the most attention of all Oracle's systems, during a session titled "Future of Oracle Exadata: Developments for OLTP, Warehousing, and Consolidation."

4. Databases

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison recently revealed that the next version of Oracle's flagship database will be released in December or January. It's expected to be named 12c, with the "c" standing for cloud.

It wouldn't be surprising if longtime Oracle database chief Andrew Mendelsohn gives OpenWorld showgoers a preview of database 12c during his keynote, "What's Next for Oracle Database?" Conceivably, Mendelsohn could announce a beta program for the release as well, assuming that Ellison was referring to a general-availability date.

Another session will discuss how Oracle's recently released NoSQL database, which is part of the Big Data Appliance, makes a complementary, "perfect fit" alongside Oracle's main database.

MySQL users will get plenty of fodder at OpenWorld as well. In fact, Oracle has created a separate MySQL Connect conference, co-located with the main event. Seventy-six sessions were listed for MySQL Connect as of Monday, highlighted by a "State of the Dolphin" road map keynote (referring to MySQL's logo) featuring Oracle vice president Tomas Ulin and Oracle chief corporate architect Edward Screve.

4. Oracle's applications strategy

Oracle's next-generation Fusion Applications are linked to about 100 sessions slated for OpenWorld so far. Attendees can expect a wealth of details on new Fusion product road maps, as well as "co-existence" strategies for rolling out Fusion alongside Oracle's other business applications.

There's more emphasis on sessions covering Fusion Applications implementation and support methods as well, whereas in past years the focus was more on familiarizing showgoers with Fusion Applications' architecture and features.

A number of sessions will also feature case studies told by early Fusion adopters, something that has been somewhat lacking in previous OpenWorld conferences.

While the OpenWorld slate is well-stocked with Fusion Applications events and sessions, significantly more are planned for E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards and Siebel, highlighting the fact that it will be quite some time before Fusion Applications overtakes those product lines in sales and prominence.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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