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Oracle's (Con)Fusion Update

SAN FRANCISCO -- One year after Oracle announced its Fusion project, the database giant cleared up some myths and reaffirmed its goals.

Customers, partners, analysts and press crowded into a room in San Francisco City Hall on Wednesday evening in order to get a progress report and clear up some Fusion confusion.

"Our vision is a completely standard suite of applications for large and small companies," Oracle President Charles Phillips told the assembly.

First off, Phillips said, it's no longer a project. Fusion is a combo of service-oriented architecture, applications and middleware.

At this point, he said, the company has a blueprint for the new suite, including requirements and specifications, and the data model, which will be based on that of Oracle E-Business Suite.

The company also has shipped Fusion developer tools and middleware. According to Phillips, that makes Oracle halfway done with Fusion. The application's ship date is 2008.

Oracle's Fusion Middleware brand includes Oracle Application Server 10g, Oracle Identity Management, Oracle Data Hubs and Oracle Collaboration Suite, now lumped together as Fusion Middleware. The middleware was released to manufacturing on Wednesday.

Rebecca Wetteman, vice president of research for Nucleus Research, said that the Fusion middleware release is an important step for existing Oracle, J.D. Edwards and PeopleSoft customers.

"They can use the middleware to extend the value of what they already have," she said. "The applications will be fantastic -- if they can pull it off. But middleware is a big piece and a great way for people to leverage more value from existing applications."

Project Fusion was initially conceived of as a next-generation applications suite resulting from the merger of products acquired with PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards.

But Phillips said that Oracle is not merging code from the disparate offerings. Instead, it's building a new Java-based product based on the best elements of the different software offerings.

"Companies are demanding more and more service-oriented architectures, and the ability to integrate applications more easily," Wetteman said. "Oracle needed an SOA story, and [Java] is probably the most straightforward way to get there." Moreover, she said, Java is becoming a required standard for applications to support.

According to Thomas Kurian, senior vice president of Fusion middleware development, the key benefits of the Fusion architecture will be Web services; the ability to get better business information and intelligence out of enterprise applications; and grid computing, which will let businesses deploy databases and applications on low-cost hardware and storage.

At the top is a unified portal. Corporate users manage all systems from a centralized console equipped with identity management.

In three months, Oracle will publish the Fusion Web services registry.

"This will let people understand how to integrate Fusion applications in the same way they've integrated Oracle e-business applications," said John Wookey, senior vice president of Oracle applications development. "They'll know how to model their business processes to support Fusion applications."

Wookey promised new releases of the soon-to-be legacy products: J.D. Edwards 8.12, PeopleSoft Enterprise 9.0 and Oracle E-Business Suite 12.0. He said Oracle already is migrating these applications to Java, accelerating the process with release 12 of E-Business Suite.

Earlier this month, Oracle renewed its partnership with Sun Microsystems , creator of Java, signing a new, 10-year licensing agreement for the technology.

Oracle executives emphasized that the company will deliver on its promise to support the legacy applications. Moreover, Wookey said that if they did choose to migrate to Fusion, it could be handled as an upgrade, rather than a reimplementation.

Nevertheless, he advised them to upgrade now to the most current versions of the applications they're using, in order to prepare to upgrade to Fusion in 2008.

A research note today issued by Nucleus Research said, "Customers concerned about the future product path for their existing applications should feel better knowing that Oracle has continued investment plans but should also keep watching the roadmap. Oracle's development priority is focused on applications that have the most customers, so if your user group is small, you may be waiting a long time for upgrades."