Paul Hamerman By Paul Hamerman

At Larry Ellison’s keynote at Oracle OpenWorld 2009, the veil of secrecy was finally lifted on Oracle Fusion Applications (Fusion Apps). During the past several months, under NDA, we have had an opportunity to learn about the Fusion Apps strategy and view demos of the various modules. Now we can speak more freely about this product release. Here are some key questions and answers:

What are Oracle Fusion Apps?

Fusion Apps are a next-generation suite of business applications, built with a rich client user interface and embedded analytics. The functionality spans finance, human resources, project portfolio management, sales and marketing, GRC and supply chain/procurement. Modular components within the suite can co-exist alongside existing ERP applications (e.g., territory management, distributed order orchestration, talent management).  

By design, Fusion Apps are not addressing deep industry-specific operational needs. Traditional ERP components related to manufacturing, for example, are not present in the suite. Fusion Apps will use open standards and Oracle integration products to integrate with industry-specific applications.  

What’s all the hype about?

From a technology standpoint, Fusion Apps bring together several evolutionary changes: a rich user experience, configuration flexibility that can be managed by business users rather that IT, collaboration within the application, embedded business intelligence, and standards-based integration. Forrester has referred to this evolution as Dynamic Business Applications. While these features are not unique to Oracle or this product, Oracle is making a major step forward with an enterprise-class suite that embodies these characteristics.

Where do Fusion Apps stand today in the development process?

Although Oracle asserts that the apps are “code complete,” the product is in what Oracle calls “in-house beta.” Customers have been brought in to test applications installed on Oracle premises as part of this program. There are no live customers currently, but early adopters are signing on as we speak.

When will Fusion Apps be generally available to customers?

Mr. Ellison made the statement that the Fusion Apps will be available “next year,” meaning calendar year 2010. Oracle wants to avoid quality problems out of the gate and will choose its GA date carefully. Our best guess is late 2010, after the early adopter program has delivered enough proof points.

Will Fusion Apps be provided as Software-as-a-Service?

Yes and no. Oracle describes the Fusion Apps architecture as SaaS-ready, but its corporate commitment to SaaS as a business model is lacking at this time. Oracle is committed delivering a SaaS CRM product based on Fusion, as well as a SaaS talent management solution. Oracle partners may have an opportunity to deliver broader Fusion Apps as SaaS sooner than Oracle itself. 

Will Fusion Apps be provided as an upgrade path from existing products without additional license fees?

Oracle has promised in the past that Fusion Apps will be available as a migration path for existing customers current on maintenance. For functionally equivalent migrations, in theory, there will not be additional fees, but there will likely be embedded platform components and net new functionality that will enable Oracle to generate additional revenues.

What should customers do now? Wait for Fusion or upgrade within the existing product line?

Existing Oracle apps customers should understand roadmaps for those products, as well as the potential migration paths to Fusion Apps. Upgrading to new releases should be considered by customers based on the business value of those releases, as well as for allowing time to assess Fusion Apps as a longer term strategy. There is no pressure to migrate, but Oracle will continue to try to move customers forward in the existing product lines via the Lifetime Support time frames.