Oracle put nearly a dozen executives on stage during an event in San Francisco designed to give a one year update of the project. Executives described the company as making great progress, building a new set of applications called Fusion on top of its middleware infrastructure layer using the Oracle database as the foundation. The entire Fusion package would be services-enabled and allow customers tie in legacy systems and third party applications.
"We're not merging code. We're going to take what we've learned from all those applications and build another product," said Oracle president Charles E. Phillips Jr. "We're doing more than any other applications vendor has done talking about our next product."
SAP tried to throw the first punches before the event, releasing a statement to reporters calling Oracle's positioning the battle for the applications software space around middleware "pure marketing spin" and criticizing the company's recent financial performance.
Oracle is standing firm on its commitment to launch a new Fusion suite by 2008. When the first release is launched, up to 80% of Oracle customers will be eligible to upgrade, Phillips said. While standard support for JDE and PeopleSoft products will run through 2013, Oracle will also offer lifetime support to customers not ready to upgrade, he said. It also reiterated its pledge to support PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards customers, announcing that plans to release upgrades are on schedule.
The event, which was supposed to include concluding remarks from Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, instead ended with a brief summary by Phillips. Ellison canceled his appearance at the last minute after he became ill with the flu, Phillips said.
Analysts still believe Oracle lags behind SAP in service-enabling its products. But it has the ability to produce a product with a cleaner code base, said Paul Hamerman, vice president of enterprise applications at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.
"SAP is going to retain a lot of its proprietary ABAP code in developing its next generation SOA applications whereas Oracle's approach is to try to get away from legacy and proprietary code and move to a pure Java J2EE environment," Hamerman said. "Even though the task Oracle has is more complicated in that they have to integrate applications from multiple acquisitions, they will achieve a more open kind of environment."
Ultimately both SAP and Oracle middleware stacks will be similar, Hamerman said. Middleware is important in building out a service oriented architecture because the capabilities of the applications are based on the middleware functions, he said.
One area where analysts see Oracle standing out is its BPEL Process Manager, a middleware component it acquired from Collaxa. BPEL is an XML language, designed to use Web services to enable task sharing for grid computing environments. Customers can monitor business processes and change system resources on an as needed basis.
"Middleware is important because the capabilities of the applications are based upon the middleware functions," Hamerman said. "Oracle exploits some of its database technology and will leverage middleware and database capabilities into the applications."
Despite lagging financial results, Oracle's business is growing through acquisition. Despite some revenue overlap and overlapping application products, very few Oracle customers are jumping ship.
"As they have made these acquisitions they have maintained the maintenance base and even increased it," Hamerman said.
During the event Wednesday night, Oracle demonstrated its work showing how a customer can use Fusion Middleware to run Oracle E-Business Suite through a PeopleSoft Enterprise portal. The demonstration showed a customer order move from the point of sale using PeopleSoft order capture software through E-Business Suite order management software.
Company executives, including John Wookey, who heads Oracle's overhauled applications division, said the company spent 2005 defining its Oracle Fusion Architecture, a standards-based technology blueprint that details the linkage between enterprise applications, middleware and grid infrastructure technologies. It also expanded its middleware by releasing repackaged Fusion middleware components.
Phillips said Oracle also bolstered its network of independent software vendors (ISVs), value added resellers (VARs) and system integrators (SIs) in 2005, growing the number to about 7,500.