RealTime IT News

Oracle's New App Suite Tackles RFID

Oracle is preparing to release its next major upgrade to the E-Business Suite application suite in the next couple months. It promises more functions tailored to meet specific industry needs.

E-Business Suite 11i.10's new features were unveiled at Oracle Open World in London Monday, the biggest update to its application suite since the July 2003 launch of E-Business Suite 11i.9. Since that time, the Redwood Shores, Calif., software giant has enhanced specific applications within its suite for 11i.10 -- namely its supply chain management (SCM) offering in August -- and plugged numerous security holes in its software.

Oracle has instituted a monthly patch schedule -- akin to Microsoft's own system for fixing bugs -- in the wake of numerous vulnerabilities targeting the E-Business Suite in June and July.

E-Business Suite's biggest functionality bump comes in the form of RFID support within its Warehouse Management application. The technology, a wireless tagging technology that promises to vastly improve the supply chain management process, has gotten a lot of attention since retail giant Wal-Mart mandated its top 100 suppliers to have pallet-level RFID in place by 2005 and the rest by 2006.

Oracle boosted its Warehouse Management application to provide improved inventory control and extended supply chain visibility, a part of the RFID management process that analysts say software vendors need to focus more attention. An August study by Forrester Research concluded that RFID middleware needs to grow up and feature a more robust set of capabilities than previously shown. In addition to Oracle, the report points to competitors like IBM , Microsoft , SAP , Sun Microsystems and webMethods .

According to Jonathan Colehower, Oracle's SCM vice president, that means for the time being focusing on the area of RFID that's of the most importance to manufacturers right now -- at the pallet-level or big-cost asset inventory process, not individual-item consumer packaged goods (CPG) level.

"There's a huge demand, and when I say huge demand I mean everyone's curious, they want to know more," he said. "I don't think they really know how they are going to use it and we have to be very careful when we starting talking to them about how to use it."

Oracle is also set to support out-of-the-box integration and software management RFID capabilities in its upcoming Oracle Application Server 10, due out in the coming weeks.

Another E-Business Suite 11i.10 add is improved Enterprise Manager 10g Grid Control integration with its Applications Manager. Officials say the tighter interaction between the two will decrease the lag time between an error in a business application and repairing the software, due to the software's ability to let IT staffers monitor both the infrastructure and applications running on the network through a Web portal.

"Companies need comprehensive management tools that provide monitoring, automation and administration capabilities for the entire technology and applications stack -- enabling companies to not only minimize IT infrastructure complexity and cost, but also ensure the health of everyday business processes," said Gartner analyst Ray Paquet, in a statement.

Other E-Business Suite 11i.10 enhancements new industry-specific items like:

  • manufacturing - scarce inventory allocation, lot/serial receiving, better controls for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 21 CFR Part 11 compliance and an improved channel/partner management dashboard for faster communications;
  • health care - iRecruitment improvements to better screen new applicants and enhanced par cart management functionality to link health care needs with medical supplies
  • public sector - an enhanced Oracle Service module to help with case management, as well as new contract and services procurement software.

    While the particular software enhancements are tailored for specific industries, Colehower said all the new software features are available to any E-Business Suite 11i.10 customer.

    The new contract and services procurement applications in the public sector updates were also announced by Oracle officials at Open World in London. The two programs, Oracle Procurement Contracts and Oracle Services Procurement, tackle the automation of business processes that are often-times left out of the loop.

    "Typically, most procurement applications tend to focus on goods and materials, not really on services," Colehower said. "This is a particular issue with most organizations, primarily because a good portion of their spend is on services, whether it's for janitorial or temporary/contingent labor, and they need to be able to source those services just as they would with materials."

    Oracle's Procurement Contracts application contains a terms and conditions library, contract authoring and contract deliverable and compliance, while Services Procurement deals with supplier collaboration, preferred supplier management and new service line types. Both fall under the company's Advanced Procurement line, which is made up of Purchasing, iProcurement, iSupplier Portal, Sourcing and Daily Business Intelligence.