Oracle Delivers New Goodies with EnterpriseOne 8.12
Published: April 27, 2006
by Alex Woodie
Oracle this week unveiled J.D. Edwards EnterpriseOne version 8.12, a new release of its midmarket ERP suite for OS/400, Windows, and Unix servers. This release brings several enhancements, including new functionality in supply chain management, CRM, human resources, and bid management, and three new modules for farmers and food and beverage companies. Some of the underlying technological plumbing has also been reworked in XML, which should make it easier for customers to migrate to Oracle's next-generation ERP platform, called Fusion.
It's been an eventful three years for customers of the former of J.D. Edwards company. First acquired in a friendly transaction with PeopleSoft, then treated like pawns in Oracle's hostile play for PeopleSoft, it wouldn't be surprising if some World and EnterpriseOne ERP customers found themselves questioning why they chose their technology, and how such a seemingly stable ERP suite and server platform (mostly the iSeries) could fall in favor so fast.
Yesterday at the Collaborate 06 conference in Nashville, Tennessee, Oracle acknowledged the pain and uncertainty it has caused these customers and endeavored to gain some trust by pledging support for the J.D. Edwards products beyond the year 2013, which was previously Oracle's limit for extending product support (see "Oracle Indefinitely Extends the Life of JDE World, EnterpriseOne").
At the same time, it unveiled a new release of EnterpriseOne, which has always been less at risk for termination compared to World, due to its capability to run on non-IBM operating systems and non-IBM databases. Nevertheless, because there is considerable overlap between the World and EnterpriseOne customer bases and reseller networks, infringing upon one suite invariably infringed upon the other.
With EnterpriseOne version 8.12, which is due to ship Friday, Oracle will deliver what the J.D. Edwards team was so good at: functional enhancements that help companies run their businesses more efficiently.
At the top of the list is the new Operational Sourcing capability in EnterpriseOne 8.12. This new module uses the Web to automate the process of obtaining and awarding bids after a Request for Proposal (RFP) or Request for Information (RFI) is issued. The software lets users analyze and compare the different bids, and award the contract to the party with the best bid, from a quality and price point of view.
"We've been working on this for a number of years. It's very clear there's a strong demand in the EnterpriseOne installed base for this," says Lenley Hensarling, vice president and general manager of the EnterpriseOne business at Oracle. "This really brings points to the bottom line of anybody who has procurement of materials" especially in asset-intensive industries, such as the mining, and oil and gas industry.
Operational Sourcing is closely linked with EnterpriseOne's Supply Chain Management capability, which has been bolstered with new transportation shipment sequencing. This capability lets suppliers deliver to manufacturing production lines in the exact sequence that parts are required, and will be used primarily in the automotive supply chain.
Collaborating with the former PeopleSoft group--long renowned for its human resources expertise--helped the EnterpriseOne group build new employee scheduling and time and labor capabilities into the Human Capital Management module of version 8.12, Hensarling says. "It really feeds into lean manufacturing, because you have to know what skills" people have to move shifts around. The eRecruitment module was also updated with support for the latest health care and health insurance requirements.
Oracle collaborated with CIBER to build three new modules--Blend Management, Grower Management, and Grower Pricing and Payments--expected to be adopted by a range of companies in the food and beverage industry, including wineries, juice makers, and others.
The Blend Management module helps beverage makers, including wineries that source their grapes from several locations, manage the consistency in taste and quality from season to season. The Grower Management module is designed to help farmers manage attributes of the land, such as the quality of soil, pesticides, fertilizer, and irrigation, and to base future crop estimates on historical yields. The Pricing and Payments modules helps farmers set a price for their product, including variables such as quality of produce, matrix pricing, and bonuses for high quality items, and to manage the payments. A lot of farmers buy materials from each other, so having an automated way to conduct commerce will be a real benefit to them, Hensarling says.
The Push to Fusion
Oracle also unveiled a new release of its technology and tools foundation, version 8.96, to go along with the version 8.12 EnterpriseOne applications. What's significant about this release is Oracle has made the shift to all XML metadata, which Hensarling says will make the future migration to Oracle Fusion much easier, for those customers who want to make the journey. This release of the tools also supports the Fusion middleware's BPEL (business process execution language) Engine, and support for the XML Publisher for "pixel-perfect" renderings of checks, invoices, and the like.
Only the most leading-edge EnterpriseOne customers will make the shift to Fusion when the new Java-based ERP application starts shipping in 2008, Hensarling says. However, Oracle will keep making investments in migration tools, and those investments will pay off, he says. "By the 2010, 2011 timeframe, we'll have it down pat so the bulk of the installed base will be able to migrate at very low cost from EnterpriseOne to Fusion," he says.
However, Oracle still doesn't have an answer to the million-dollar question on the minds of iSeries-using J.D. Edwards customers, which is close to half of them: Will Fusion run on the iSeries? "We don't have an answer to that," Hensarling responds. "Oracle will have an application product offering in the iSeries product marketplace, and that's going to be the EnterpriseOne and World products for now."
Hensarling goes on to explain that J.D. Edwards customers won't have to entirely ditch their iSeries (AS/400 or i5) boxes when they upgrade to Fusion. "The iSeries customers who are looking at moving to Fusion and nextgen solutions, are looking at the iSeries as not just an iSeries [OS/400] box, but as a PowerLinux or AIX box," he says. "Customers' legacy RPG code can be integrated with Web services. Oracle DB Gateway reads and writes DB2/400. We're looking at a lot of this."
In the meantime, it's not looking like J.D. Edwards customers will be able to use the OS/400-DB2/400 part of the iSeries server if they migrate to Fusion.