Volume 6, Number 6 -- February 7, 2006

Mixed Reaction to Oracle Fusion from J.D. Edwards Users

Published: February 7, 2006

by Alex Woodie

Users of the J.D. Edwards ERP systems are offering differing views on how Oracle's Fusion application and integration strategy will effect their long-term plans. The software giant says its half-way to completing Fusion, a new suite of Java-based ERP applications that are due to be rolled out in 2007 and 2008. Some J.D. Edwards users are seriously considering making the upgrade, while others have strong misgivings over wildcards in the equation, such as Oracle's commitment to OS/400, DB2/400, and the iSeries.

Oracle has definitely bitten off a big chunk of project management with Fusion, a multi-year plan to build a new ERP system that blends the best of its original E-Business Suite and the various enterprise software products it has acquired, including J.D. Edwards World and EnterpriseOne, PeopleSoft Enterprise, Siebel for CRM, and Retek for the retailing business.

The software giant raised the hopes of some users last month in San Francisco when it gave a status report on project Fusion, which refers to both the new "Fusion Applications" under development, as well as various "Fusion Middleware" and development tools, some of which are available now.

"We are already halfway through the development process of Oracle Fusion Applications, and we remain on track for the 2008 target delivery of the Oracle Fusion Applications," Oracle president Charles Phillips said. "Additionally, we have defined the data model and mapped the functionality that is planned for future releases of Oracle Fusion Applications."

At the Oracle shindig, John Wookey, the Oracle app dev VP who has received kudos from some J.D. Edwards customers for his vision, said Oracle's customers could get a head start on Fusion applications by adopting some of the Fusion middleware already available or planned for release in 2006, including the Web Services Repository, the BPEL Process Manager, and the XML Publisher. Oracle's Fusion roadmap will also lead customers through new releases Oracle plans for this year, including Oracle E-Business Suite 12, PeopleSoft Enterprise 9 and JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 8.12. A new version of J.D. Edwards World is planned for 2007.

"We've already developed the upgrade architecture and will begin working with a customer advisory board later this year to help us determine the best ways to automate and ease the upgrade process," Wookey said. "A key priority is for us to make the upgrade as automated as possible, and to reduce cost and downtime."

Upgrade or Migration?

There has been some debate whether the move to Oracle Fusion apps will entail a relatively straightforward upgrade, as Oracle maintains, or whether it will be more like a wholesale migration to an entirely new application platform.

Oracle says that, by following the path it prescribes, getting current on new releases of ERP apps, and adopting the Fusion middleware components that are available now, such as the new reporting tool, the move to Fusion apps will be no more painful than an upgrade.

However, others aren't so sure. Some of this doubt stems from the technology Oracle is using to put Fusion together, and whether this will give some customers a leg up on the move to Fusion.

For example, it's been estimated that about 60 percent of Fusion functionality at the point of initial release will be based on existing functionality in Oracle's E-Business Suite. Siebel, a best-of-breed CRM developer that Oracle officially added to its bag of acquisitions last week, will contribute the CRM functionality to Fusion, while much of the business intelligence capabilities will come from the PeopleSoft apps. Not much has been said about the re-use of J.D. Edwards functionality.

Because Oracle is taking an open-standards approach to developing Fusion, and relying heavily on Web Services, XML, and Java--including Java Server Faces (JSF) and JSR168 for Web portal integration--it expects customers to be able to "plug in" the components of Fusion that will get them the functionality they need. While standards-based technologies are definitely a plus and the wave of the future, it will require many J.D. Edwards users to invest in new skills.

One of the J.D. Edwards users applauding Oracle's progress in Fusion is John Matelski, the deputy CIO for the city of Orlando and the president of Quest International User Group, a user group for J.D. Edwards and PeopleSoft customers, and chairman of the International Oracle User Council. "Oracle has done an excellent job integrating PeopleSoft and JD Edwards customers, not only into their overall corporate support structure, but also their Fusion application strategy as well," Matelski says in an interview conducted via e-mail.

The biggest concern Matelski has as a customer is Oracle's "aggressive" Fusion timeframe. However, the fact that Oracle has pledged to support all J.D. Edwards and PeopleSoft apps through 2013--and beyond, if needed--tempers this concern, he says. "We will conduct our due diligence, weigh the benefits of enhanced features and functionality against the cost of upgrading, and decide if/when it makes sense to make a leap," he says. "Based on the current and evolving ERP landscape, I have a great deal of confidence that moving to Fusion will make sense at some point in time."

The city of Orlando has an advantage because its implementations of EnterpriseOne and PeopleSoft Enterprise applications were conducted in a relatively straightforward manner, with a minimum of modifications. "Some minor customizations will always be required," Matelski says. "Actually I am hopeful that the new Fusion solution may actually eliminate the need for any of our current customizations, and am hopeful that we will be able to use Oracle development tools to 'recreate' any customizations that would be required."

A 'World' of Pain?

J.D. Edwards World users will have the most trouble adopting Fusion, Matelski says. "The small subset of die-hard customers who have not upgraded their infrastructures over the years, and who continue to rely on a green-screen terminal solution, will, in all likelihood, need to rely on Oracle's lifetime support policy to maintain their implementations," he says.

Elizabeth Goins, a systems analyst with the Manatee County (Florida) school district and a Quest board member, says she hasn't yet seen anything in Fusion that makes her want to take the leap from the OS/400 server and J.D. Edwards World ERP, a combination that has served the organization very well.

"I do not see us moving to Fusion when it is first released," Goins says in an interview conducted via e-mail. "We are pleased with the functionality in the World product line. Once the Fusion product has matured and we can review the functionality and infrastructure, we will determine if there is a business case for us to move."

Like many World shops, the Manatee County school district relies on many modules of the World suite, including human resources, payroll, finance, accounts payable, accounts receivable, fixed assets, purchasing, work order management, construction and contracts, and warehousing and inventory management.

At this point, it doesn't look promising that Fusion will be able to match the functionality that Manatee County currently has with World. "We are government and have worked hard with JDE to evolve the World product to meet governmental needs in the areas of purchasing and fixed assets. I have not heard any mention of governmental practices being addressed in Fusion, but we will review the product when it has matured and see if it will meet our needs," Goins says.

OS/400 and DB2/400 Support

From a technology and platform point of view, there is uncertainty whether Fusion will run on the iSeries and use its integrated systems, including operating system (OS/400) and database (DB2/400). While the applications will be written in open standards like Java and XML--which the OS/400 server has no trouble running--there are political ramifications of Oracle supporting a competing database in IBM's DB2. The two tech giants are working to support their mutual customers, but short of Oracle's commitment to support WebSphere with Fusion, there hasn't yet been a solid commitment on Oracle's part to support the OS/400 part of the OS/400 server.

"So much is unknown at this time that I do not even want to guess. We, of course, would be much happier with a DB2/400 iSeries solution, not only for the stability, but for the infrastructure and current staff experience," Goins says. "As long as Oracle allows us to make the decision that is right for our business and continues to listen to our input, I think that the current product lines and Fusion can exist in harmony."

Short of full integration, an intermediate stage of cooperation between DB2/400 and Fusion may be all World customers should hope for.

"I have had the pleasure of participating on an alternative database focus group sponsored by Oracle, and based on my participation am confident that they are analyzing all databases, and they will make some determinations as to how other databases may be able to be integrated into the final solution," Matelski says.

"It is quite clear, however, that the Fusion application will be optimized on the Oracle database--and that makes sense!" Matelski says. "As a leader representing the needs of the Quest community, which has a significant iSeries/DB2 customer base, I am hopeful that Oracle will work diligently with IBM to develop a product set that will allow IBM, the iSeries, and DB2 to still play a role. The IBM customer community is a loyal one, and rightfully so. I am hopeful that the partnership that Oracle and IBM have been enhancing over the last year will allow for some positive movement on this front."

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Editor: Alex Woodie
Contributing Editors: Dan Burger, Joe Hertvik,
Shannon O'Donnell, Timothy Prickett Morgan
Publisher and Advertising Director: Jenny Thomas
Advertising Sales Representative: Kim Reed
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