Oracle development exec offers Fusion update

Oracle's senior vice president of applications development John Wookey speaks about the company's next-generation set of applications, Fusion, and current application development

As Oracle's senior vice president of applications development, John Wookey oversees the continued development of the company's existing business application lines -- including the Oracle E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft Enterprise and J.D. Edwards' EnterpriseOne and World applications. Wookey also is charged with crafting the company's next-generation set of applications, Fusion. He spoke recently with Computerworld in a wide-ranging discussion about both Fusion and current application development.

Is Oracle is becoming less aggressive in promoting Fusion, particularly after announcing in April its Applications Unlimited program, which offered indefinite support for its legacy systems?

When we laid out the Applications Unlimited branding, some had the reaction that we were going soft on Fusion. We've talked from the start that we'd offer support [for acquired apps] till 2013. We said we'll deliver compelling applications in 2008 with next-generation [Fusion] technology. We're doing that. But the customers have had more concern for the products over the next year than what they'll be choosing in 2008. They had very immediate needs that we made sure we addressed in the current product lines.

Tell me about those current support efforts. What is support?

It's not just fixing bugs, but adding regulatory updates and reacting to changes in the business climate. With J.D. Edwards 8.12 [announced in April], there was a lot of new functionality for the food and beverage industry. In PeopleSoft Enterprise 9.0, there's a big investment in construction -- not just features in individual products, but new expansion in government procurement [functions]. More and more companies we talked to said that [government] was a bigger and bigger business for them. We have, coming in 2007, the first new release of J.D. Edwards World [9.1] since 1998, with improvements around regulatory compliance. We just shipped the biggest CRM release of PeopleSoft, 9.0, ever done. We have appointed general managers, such as Lenley Hensarling, with J.D. Edwards [EnterpriseOne], Ed Abbo with Siebel and Doris Wong with PeopleSoft Enterprise. Their responsibility is to build a team dedicated to their product line. EnterpriseOne 9.0 is a year out. As for Siebel, we've got a Version 8.0 coming out at the end of this year.

How will you get customers to move to Fusion?

We believe that the customer, if given a choice, will end up moving to the new technology. From our standpoint, it's a pull demand vs. a push demand. You don't see other vendors doing this today. Traditionally in the industry, there's a forced march. Look at SAP today -- it's at the point where mySAP ERP is the only product to go forward with. To do this, we expect R/3 customers will have to reimplement SAP technology, going from one architecture to a different one in mySAP ERP and doing a relicensing. For an SAP R/3 customer, that's pretty dramatic.

How does Oracle plan to execute its Fusion strategy?

After the acquisition of PeopleSoft, we talked to [PeopleSoft officials] about their plans, and they said they had a next generation of PeopleTools [development technology] under development. It was proprietary, and they had a ton of work to do to move it to .Net or Java 2 Enterprise Edition [J2EE] standards. We were doing the same thing. Siebel had Project Nexus and was trying to build J2EE tools that would be evolved beyond their own proprietary tool set. If you laid out [next generation] architectural diagrams -- Siebel or Oracle or PeopleSoft -- if you got the colors consistent, they were the same diagrams.

What about Retek? How does that fit into the Fusion road map?

The original Retek application is based on Oracle Forms [software developer design and building] technology. As we're doing new development, we'll be moving to a J2EE-based platform.

So just what makes Fusion unique?

If you take a fundamental look at any application solution today with Oracle or SAP, what the vendor delivers to the marketplace is based on a combination of things. There are things you can play with and things nobody gets to touch. PeopleSoft had stuff not accessible, Siebel had code and engine routines that neither customers or channel partners could touch. We had Oracle Forms, and SAP has ABAP [proprietary source code]. All had proprietary technologies that made it difficult to make changes in the system.

We're delivering the first standards-based, commercially available applications all written in Java and XML. If you believe in the concept of component-based architecture, the fundamental premise is adaptability. If you don't like Oracle billing, take it out -- and with clearly defined connection points, replace it with something else I build or [something] another vendor built. The overall business flow is uninterrupted.

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