Oracle completes 11i Suite

Oracle customers have been slow to follow the company's exhortation to run their businesses online, and last week's completion of Oracle E-Business Suite Release 11i appears unlikely to motivate many more of them.

The final modules in the suite are an order management application that enables orders to flow from customer operations through the supply chain by interoperating with other Oracle applications, such as Telesales and iStore, and a customer relationship management application.

However, the product suite has a built-in obstacle because current customers can't upgrade one element without also upgrading several others. For example, 11i applications run only on Release 8i of the Oracle database, released earlier this year. But many customers continue to run a vintage, character-based version of the Oracle Release 10.7 application suite on early versions of the database.

One such company is Integrated Measurement Systems in Beaverton, Oregon. It doesn't want to be among the first to upgrade to the Web-based applications, but it does plan to start testing the software this summer, according to information technology director Jeffrey Thompson. "We'll embark on the project early next year," he said.

Oracle acknowledged widespread use of Release 10.7 late last year, and said it would continue to support the suite through 2001 rather than remove it from active support this year. Thompson described Oracle's support as "transitional," meaning Oracle addresses only "critical bugs," leaving the customer to solve less severe problems.

Gary Hensley, director of IT at Odwalla in Half Moon Bay, California, said the natural juice drink maker is in a better position than established Oracle customers because Odwalla is replacing a non-Oracle system with 11i applications on the 8i database. The company started loading Release 11i financials last week and expected to complete that installation today, thanks to an autoinstallation feature that "saves days of time," Hensley said. The "front-to-back" Oracle implementation is replacing a custom application that uses Microsoft's Access and Excel.

Hensley estimated Odwalla's transaction volume to be about 1,000 orders per week entered by mobile sales associates using mobile wireless input devices and about 200 orders per week from on-site customer service representatives.

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