Oracle To Make JDE More Agile, Less Painful To Upgrade
February 24, 2014 Alex Woodie
In a bid to make it easier for JD Edwards shops to upgrade their ERP systems, Oracle is moving its JD Edwards suites to a more agile product release cycle that emphasizes a continuous stream of product enhancements rather than periodic big-bang releases. The change in development cycle, which will impact both EnterpriseOne and World suites, was announced by Oracle at the recent JD Edwards Partners Summit, and corresponded with the release of JDE EnterpriseOne Tools version 9.1.4.
Lyle Ekdhal, the group vice president of the JD Edwards business at Oracle, apparently discussed the new agile development cycle during his keynote address at the JD Edwards Partners Summit held in Colorado in late January. Oracle didn’t publicly share the news. And in fact, Oracle execs were so busy last week that they didn’t have time to discuss the changes with IT Jungle. But Dave Balser, a senior JD Edwards consultant with the Ohio JDE technical services firm Briteskies, was at the show and shared the goings-on in a blog post earlier this month.
“Instead of large upgrade projects that occur once every five years or so,” Balser writes, “JD Edwards wants to move clients to consume innovation through a series of smaller bite-sized uplift projects that occur on a regular and perpetual basis.” Major new versions would still be made every three to five years, “but interim releases that introduce new functionality will now occur once or twice a year.”
It is no secret that big ERP upgrades are a major hassle for customers, which is why so few customers are anywhere close to current anymore. It is a growing problem for all ERP software vendors, but the situation is especially poignant for Oracle, which in December ended most forms of technical support for broad swaths of the World and EnterpriseOne suites.
According to information that Ekdahl shared with IT Jungle in February 2013, about 60 percent of the World customer base (estimated to be around 1,500) was running those older versions, while about 35 percent of the EnterpriseOne customer base (estimated at 4,000) was running an older, now-unsupported version. While Oracle has committed to offering “sustaining support” indefinitely, the company does not make any commitment to actually fix anything under that plan, so it’s not really technical support in the normal sense.
It is unclear exactly how successful Oracle was last year in getting JD Edwards customers to move forward from these old versions of World and EntepriseOne, all which were released between 1996 and 2002. Oracle doesn’t break out JD Edwards results in its financial statements–and, as we mentioned earlier, the company declined to talk with IT Jungle last week.
There are some indications Oracle has had some success. In a post on the JD Edwards Facebook page, a JD Edwards consultant with IBM claimed that the JD Edwards division closed over 750 deals during the first three months of the year, including 330 net new deals (meaning 420 upgrades). Third quarter sales increased 50 percent over the same period in 2012, the consultant said.
Even if those numbers are true, that leaves a large number of World and EnterpriseOne shops who are running on older releases of the ERP suite. While the new agile development cycle won’t make an upgrade from these older releases less painful (they will be quite painful, in fact, which is why they haven’t been done already), the new cycle does show that Oracle is taking steps to ensure that future upgrades are less painful.
Balser, the JDE consultant from Cleveland, continues: “The teams are looking at ways to minimize testing and validation by only passing changed objects to the production system,” he writes. “Several of the break-out sessions discussed how Oracle, in combination with partners like us, could improve the upgrade process and add value by shortening the technical and testing phases from months to weeks, accelerating the rate of adoption of change while reducing the time to benefit.”
It’s interesting how Oracle and IBM are finding themselves in the same boat and rowing with identical oars. IBM has been forced by its customers to maintain old releases of the OS/400 and i5/OS operating system (as IBM i was known up until 2010) and allow them to remain on i5/OS V5R4 (and, most importantly, continue to get technical support) for years longer than IBM would like. There is still a lot of OS/400 V5R3 out there, too.
This is exactly why IBM moved to an agile development model starting with IBM i 7.1. Gone are the big-bang releases made every two to three years. Instead, IBM gives us a pair of Technology Refreshes (TRs) every six months. IBM i 7.1 is currently up to TR7, and we could see TR8 and TR9 before IBM i version 8.1 makes its appearance. “As we adopted agile,” IBM i chief architect Steve Will told IT Jungle a year ago, “it became clear that we could marry the development process with these deliverables that we wanted it to do and avoid the disruption of major releases.”
The fact is that many of these JDE World shops (and some EnterpriseOne shops) are running outdated versions of World and older releases of i5/OS. There are a lot of interdependences between the application code and operating system for World, especially, which makes it a big old hairy ball that customers are afraid to try to untangle. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is still the ruling mantra in many of these organizations, and Oracle and IBM need to tread carefully–lest they say “screw it” and move entirely to Microsoft Windows and Dynamics ERP, or worse, “the cloud.”
In the meantime, Oracle showed it is walking the agile walk by shipping JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Tools Release 9.1 Update 4. This release of the tools component (as opposed to the application component) brings enhancements in the areas of: the Web browser interface, mobile solutions for tablets and smartphones; reporting and watchlists; and system administration and security. You can read more about the new release here.