Oracle Pledges Support for World ERP System
January 4, 2005 Alex Woodie
Thousands of companies that rely on the World ERP system can breathe a little easier now that Oracle has pledged to support and enhance it. In the first public announcement of its intentions for the software product line, Oracle co-president Charles Phillips said his company plans to offer the same level of maintenance and support that PeopleSoft provided. Phillips also said Oracle plans to support the iSeries and competitive databases, although it’s dependent on cooperation with IBM and Microsoft.
The half-hour “town hall” session hosted by Phillips on December 20 was intended to be the last public communication about the PeopleSoft acquisition until the acquisition is completed, which still could be a month or more away because of the failure to acquire 90 percent of PeopleSoft shares during the first tender offer. The company chose to address some of the product roadmap questions left lingering after PeopleSoft capitulated to a $10.3 billion takeover earlier in December. Specifically, Phillips addressed Oracle’s plans for the World ERP suite, which, unlike PeopleSoft’s other product lines, was not mentioned in the big December 13 acquisition announcement (see “PeopleSoft Relents, Agrees to Oracle Acquisition”).
“As we’ve emphasized repeatedly,” Phillips said during the town hall meeting, “the combined company will continue to support and continue to enhance the PeopleSoft products, including Enterprise, known by most as Enterprise 8; EnterpriseOne, also called J.D. Edwards 5; and World software. We will offer support for Enterprise 8 through 2013. Version 9 will be released in between. The same goes for EnterpriseOne, J.D. Edwards 5. On Monday we announced the anticipation of releasing a next version of that product line, in addition to continuing the regular support and enhancement of existing versions. Finally for World software, we anticipate adopting and continuing PeopleSoft’s current support policy.”
Shortly after acquiring J.D. Edwards, in the summer of 2003, PeopleSoft pledged to support World indefinitely, as J.D. Edwards had been forced by its user base to do. PeopleSoft’s World product roadmap called for the delivery of 200 enhancements to the product yearly. In 2004, PeopleSoft delivered 250.
Oracle is actually acquiring two versions of World. There is the World A7.3 line, used by most of the 3,400 World users across the globe, and the World A8.1 line, which is used by about 200 companies. The World product diverged into two distinct lines in 1997, when J.D. Edwards adapted the database for the A7.3 line so that customers could more easily upgrade to the open-platform OneWorld ERP product that J.D. Edwards was developing at the time, which today is called PeopleSoft EnterpriseOne (or J.D. Edwards 5). Some World shops, not concerned about OneWorld database compatibility, chose to stay the course with the product they already had, and they use the A8.1 product line.
PeopleSoft rolled out new service packs for both versions in the last nine months, including A7.3 (see “PeopleSoft Gives World ERP Suite a Web Interface”) and A8.1 (see “PeopleSoft Updates Its Other World”).
Oracle will maintain distinct and separate support and development organizations for the Enterprise, EnterpriseOne, and World product lines, Phillips said. “We will maintain it and enhance it [World]. We have no plans to sell it off.”
The company also plans to work product and regional user group organizations, which bodes well for the Quest group of former J.D. Edwards users, which had a less that perfect relationship with PeopleSoft after its acquisition of J.D. Edwards. “We have been in continuous contact with the user groups since we announced this acquisition last week,” Phillip said. “Oracle remains committed to the value of these organizations for customers and expects to be supportive of their independence going forward.”
Phillips also discussed plans for a next-generation “successor” product, which will combine the best of both Oracle’s own E-business Suite and PeopleSoft’s Enterprise product lines, and which will be based in Java. It’s unclear whether EnterpriseOne will have a hand (or an upgrade path) to this “successor” product, but it appears unlikely. World almost certainly will not be part of this development.
Phillips also spoke directly to PeopleSoft customers, telling them to continue to use their PeopleSoft support channels for the time being. “We intend to maintain and satisfy 100 percent of PeopleSoft customers,” he said. “I want to assure you that we are going to focus on over-satisfying you as an existing customer.”
iSeries, DB2/400, and OS/400
Oracle also plans to continue to support and sell software that runs on the iSeries, Phillips said. “That was also a subject of a conference call we had with IBM last week,” Phillips said during the town hall meeting. “We expressed to them we intend to aggressively support that product line, and they were happy to hear that and they want that to happen as well, for obvious reasons. We’re also working on porting the Oracle database to that platform–if that gives you the assurance that we’re doing R&D–and it should be out shortly. That’s a good platform and we see it as strategic, given the number of units that are out there.”
Phillips was referring to a version of Oracle’s relational database management system that can run on the iSeries, though not the iSeries you’re probably thinking about. Oracle’s database for the iSeries will run on the AIX or Linux operating system but not on OS/400, still the iSeries’ primary and strongest operating system. Both the World ERP product, which was written in RPG, and EnterpriseOne, which was written in C, support OS/400. In World’s case, the only operating system that it runs on is OS/400, and the only database management system it was designed to support is DB2/400. While this restricted World users to using the AS/400 and its descendents, it also allowed for a simpler, more robust design that still can’t be touched by many of today’s “more modern” ERP systems that must support multiple operating systems and databases. These attributes–simplicity and robustness–are shared by the basic design of IBM’s OS/400 platform and RPG language.
Oracle also hopes to work with Microsoft, whose SQL Server database is used by some PeopleSoft customers, and to support the SQL Server database, in addition to the OS/400 and Windows/Unix versions of IBM’s DB2. “We don’t think there should be an issue there, so our intention is to support these other database products underneath those applications,” Phillips said.
Last week saw other developments in Oracle’s takeover of PeopleSoft. On Tuesday, PeopleSoft’s chief executive and founder, Dave Duffield, announced his resignation. Duffield returned to the top position last fall, after former chief executive Craig Conway was forced out over misleading comments he had made to company shareholders concerning the effect Oracle’s bid was having on PeopleSoft’s business.
On Wednesday, Oracle announced it had formally taken over control of PeopleSoft by buying 75 percent of PeopleSoft’s outstanding shares. To avoid sending the merger to a vote of the shareholders, Oracle will need to pick up another 15 percent–for a total of 90 percent of outstanding shares–which it is confident it can do in a second offering period. However, this could delay formal completion of the acquisition by four to six weeks.