Oracle Indefinitely Extends the Life of JDE World, EnterpriseOne
April 24, 2006 Timothy Prickett Morgan
The users of the World and EnterpriseOne ERP software suites from the former J.D. Edwards will probably breathe a sigh of relief this week, and so will the top brass at IBM‘s System i division. The reason why is that Charles Phillips, Oracle‘s president, and Mark Shearer, general manager of the System i business, will announce that Oracle will now support and enhance the JDE World and EnterpriseOne suites indefinitely–no strings, no gimmicks, no tricks.
Oracle and IBM will be making the announcement at the Collaborate 06 user group meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. Collaborate is a joint event hosted by the Independent Oracle Users Group, the Oracle Applications Users Group, and the Quest International Users Group, the latter being the user group for companies using JDE and PeopleSoft suites. The announcement that the JDE applications will be given their own future, distinct from the converged “Project Fusion” ERP suite that Oracle is currently creating using Java and which is expected to be finished around 2008 or so, is welcome news on a lot of different levels.
Since the early days of the minicomputer, there have been a number of midrange cultures that did not mix all too well. The users of IBM‘s System/3X and AS/400 lines of midrange machines thought themselves superior to those using Digital Equipment’s VAX systems, and about the only thing these two camps had in common was disdain for the Unix platform and its darling, the Oracle database. So it probably comes as no surprise to anyone that the JDE application customer base doesn’t necessarily feel all that comfortable with Oracle being the owner and steward of the applications they chose.
Oracle has, undoubtedly at the nudging of IBM, finally come to the conclusion that the 6,500-company JDE World and JDE EnterpriseOne customer base cannot and will not be shoehorned into the Java-based Fusion application, Fusion middleware, and Oracle 10g database stack that the company is building for users of its Oracle E-Business Suite and PeopleSoft Enterprise applications. PeopleSoft customers, who by and large deployed their software on Windows or Unix platforms, simply cared less about making a jump in technology because they were never tied to a particular technology.
Part of the reason for this is that PeopleSoft was founded in 1987, not in 1977 like the former J.D. Edwards was. When JDE was formed, the System/3X line of minicomputers was the most advanced technology on the market and RPG was one of the two dominant business application programming languages; by the time PeopleSoft came along, Unix was just starting to go commercial and server-grade Windows was only seven years away. PeopleSoft made a stab at porting to the AS/400 in the late 1990s, but killed off the project. JDE went in the opposite direction, taking its WorldSoftware suite, which was written in RPG, and converting it to a mix of C++, Java, and homegrown toolset code so it could run on OS/400, Unix, and Windows. The idea was to have JDE expand into the new Unix and Windows markets, and thereby compete with the likes of Oracle, PeopleSoft, and SAP. But, after all that effort, the JDE installed base is still dominated by the OS/400 platform, with about 81 percent of the combined 6,500-strong installed base of companies deployed on an OS/400 platform.
As I explained two weeks ago, Oracle and IBM have started the process of rebuilding a JDE sales and reseller channel, and seem committed to push the JDE software–even the RPG-based World suite–into new customer accounts. With today’s announcement, it now becomes clear why Oracle and IBM would bother. When it closed the PeopleSoft acquisition in January 2005, Oracle said it would support the PeopleSoft and JDE suites at least until 2013, and by support it meant provide security patches, necessary updates, as well as product releases to improve the functionality of these ERP suites. That 2013 date might seem far away, but it seems pretty close when you consider that it can take years to move applications. Moreover, the jump from PeopleSoft Enterprise applications to Project Fusion applications might only mean changing applications while continuing to have the same database, operating system, and server platform. Jumping from JDE World or EnterpriseOne to Project Fusion would mean changing everything: applications, database, operating system, and server. Just knowing that they were facing a move like that made companies do two things: get nervous and stop investing in their software. When you want to sell application software, having 6,500 deer in the headlights for several years (First the PeopleSoft acquisition, then the Oracle hostile takeover) is a bad thing.
Good sense has prevailed at Oracle, and the company has correctly decided that the best thing to do with these JDE shops is to let them have their applications and the platforms they choose to run them on. “Our customers want to see these products around for many years to come,” says John Schiff, vice president and general manager of the World suite at Oracle. “We’ve all come to the realization that this is the right thing to do. This is welcome news to our installed base, and to customers in the SMB space that are considering World and EnterpriseOne. Having the 2013 date out there made people concerned.” So now, the sun is not going to set on the JDE suites–at least until Oracle changes its mind again.
The un-sunsetting of JDE World and EnterpriseOne is certainly good news for IBM, which as I explained last week, generates about one-eighth of its iSeries-System i sales out of the JDE application portfolio. The installed base of companies that use JDE software may only make up about 3 percent of the AS/400-iSeries-System i installed base, but it makes up about 13 percent of sales. (For all we know, the confusion and uncertainty in the JDE installed base is one of the major factors in the decline of iSeries sales in the past two years, and if I had to guess, that is what I would guess.)
What Oracle and IBM want to do now is get the World and EnterpriseOne installed bases buying upgrades again. Schiff says that a large portion of the 4,000-strong World base is running on the World A7.3 and A8.1 releases. The upcoming World A9.1 release, which is coming in late 2006 or early 2007, is written in a mixture of various RPGs, but according to Schiff, new functions are being implemented in RPG IV. And every screen in the World suite has long-since been Web-enabled through an embedded screen-scraper that JDE got through a partnership with Seagull Software many years ago. World customers can use Web or green screens. The World A9.1 release will have enhancements for PC integration, the capability to support multinational address formats, integrated email features, various extensions for SOX and other regulatory requirements. The release will also include service oriented architecture (SOA) extensions such that the World suite will be able to plug into so-called Enterprise Service Buses (ESBs) using XML interfaces. The World suite will support WebSphere middleware on the System i platform as well as the Oracle Fusion middleware and application servers running in a Linux or AIX logical partition or on a Windows or Linux server attached through Integrated xSeries Adapters or built using the Integrated xSeries Server co-processor.
Schiff also says that the EnterpriseOne suite will be upgraded this week with the promised 8.12 release, and Oracle will announce plans to put out a future 9.0 release. Not being in charge of the EnterpriseOne product line, Schiff could not say what features will be in this release, but we will chase it down in our Four Hundred Stuff newsletter.
By reinvigorating the JDE product lines, Oracle has very cleverly sidestepped a very thorny issue with the JDE installed base: support of i5/OS, DB2/400, and possibly RPG with the future Project Fusion application suite. I have been saying there is an ever-so-remote chance that Oracle might implement Fusion in RPG IV–and when I said remote, I meant like me winning PowerBall and I don’t even gamble–but Schiff says just forget that. “Fusion will not be implemented in RPG. It will be written in Java,” he says. As for DB2/400 and i5/OS, Schiff says that no decision has, as yet, been made with regards to the Fusion application suite. By extending the life of JDE World and JDE EnterpriseOne, Oracle can say that it is supporting the iSeries. The issue will become how much functionality gets put into World and EnterpriseOne, and how the functionality gap between these suites and the future Fusion suite opens up. At some point, if the functionality gap gets too large, customers who want the most advanced software from Oracle will have to move to Fusion, and that will mean they will have to drop the JDE suites and probably the iSeries, too. But, if Oracle truly does enhance World and EnterpriseOne, then that day may never come at all.