Oracle to extend green screen support past 2000

For Oracle, closing the books on its green-screen ERP applications is proving harder than expected.

Oracle this week will give its independent applications user group the full story about the next upgrade of its Web-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, due in February. That's five months behind the schedule Oracle officials laid out earlier in the year.

But at the Oracle Applications Users Group's (OAUG) conference in Orlando soon, Oracle will also announce plans to extend support for the character-mode applications that many users still run -- a move requested by the OAUG's board of directors in July.

Oracle had planned to stop updating the character-mode software with bug fixes at the end of next year. But Oracle officials last week confirmed that support will continue into 2001, although they said the length of the extension was still being finalised.

Several users applauded the change. Having just finished upgrades to Oracle's only year 2000-compatible green-screen release, users said they don't relish the idea of pulling off another upgrade -- to its Web-based software -- next year.

"There was just no way we would have been able to do it by then," said Hugh Allan, director of information technology at Acme Electric in New York. "We would have had to go into a mode where [Oracle] wouldn't give us new bug fixes."

Allan said Acme, a maker of electrical devices such as power converters, has to buy new Unix servers and beef up about half of its 400 PCs before it can install the applications. And switching to Oracle's graphical user interface poses "an enormous training issue," he added.

Don Payne, executive vice president of the OAUG board, said the group asked -- at a regular quarterly meeting with Oracle executives two months ago -- that support for the character-mode applications be extended into late 2001.

"We believe users need some breathing room," said Payne, director of information systems at Integrated Measurement Systems, a maker of equipment used to test semiconductors.

The delayed shipment of the Release 11i upgrade is a factor, Payne added: many users want to skip over Oracle's first Web-only ERP release and go directly to 11i, but doing that by the end of next year would be tough if the software isn't available until February.

Draeger Safety, a Pittsburgh-based maker of breathalyser devices and gas-detection equipment, doesn't plan to go right to 11i. But upgrading its character-mode system to Oracle's current Web-based software may take into early 2001, said Shirley Jessup, Draeger's Oracle applications manager.

Jessup said Draeger had to put off other projects to upgrade to the Y2K-compatible release of Oracle's applications earlier this year.

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