Observations From Oracle Collaborate 2015
April 20, 2015 Richard Schoen
Each year the three largest Oracle user groups combine to host a user group event called Collaborate. With more than 1,200 educational sessions, you can see there’s a lot going on. Cloud and mobile strategy implementation were highlighted, as was the increasing impact of big data and analytics.
To a large degree, the conversations I had at this event stemmed from the software and services my company offers–HelpSystems was an exhibitor in the expo area–but this event provided a view into a large group of IBM midrange users who are similar to, but also different from, the attendees at an event like the annual COMMON conference.
The Collaborate event is hosted by the three main Oracle user groups: the Independent Oracle User Group (IOUG); the Oracle Application User Group (OAUG); and the Quest International User Group for JD Edwards World, JD Edwards EnterpriseOne, PeopleSoft, Fusion Applications and Primavera users.
The list of keynote speakers included Oracle CEO Mark Hurd, Oracle CIO Mark Sunday, IBM‘s vice president of cloud platform development Tim Vanderham, and GSI CEO Kevin Herrig. The session agenda included six GSI hosted presentations on six JDE World topics, including a joint presentation with a GSI client partner, discussing why that company chose to upgrade World instead of jumping to EnterpriseOne.
My best estimate is the expo size was about four to five times larger than the normal COMMON expo. The approximate number of vendors was 250. Just the Quest-specific expo area was at least the size of the COMMON expo or larger. Each of the three user groups had their own vendor expo areas. Based on the expo size and the number of attendees circulating through the expo, there appears to be a healthy JDE ecosystem of vendors and customers.
From an IBM i perspective, JD Edwards (JDE) World is where many of the customers are aggregated. However I talked to a few who had migrated from World to E1 on IBM i, so the landscape is changing a bit. From what I could gather JDE World is still running in several hundred customer locations in various forms from 7.3 to 9.X. My colleague Tom Huntington, director of technical services at HelpSystems, said he spoke with an equal number of E1 and World users. Most of the World customers, in his estimation, were at the conference for the purpose of learning how to get from World to E1.
A year ago, Oracle put a plan in place to move 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 affected both EnterpriseOne and World suites. Much like the IBM i Technology Refresh program with regard to smaller and more frequent updates, it’s undetermined how effective this has been in enticing customers to get on an upgrade path.
Big ERP upgrades, particularly with systems that are highly customized, have a high degree of difficulty. Over the years, this has attributed to customers falling behind on software upgrades. It is a problem for all ERP software vendors, but as IT Jungle has reported in the past, Oracle ended technical support for broad swaths of the older versions of World and EnterpriseOne suites.
While in Las Vegas (Mandalay Resort and Casino hosted Collaborate 2015), I met with one of our larger customers who is currently running JDE World 7.3 and grappling with the decision to upgrade to the latest version of World or do a migration to the EnterpriseOne platform with its many enhanced features and options. Because the company uses World mainly for the accounting functionality, expectations are that a move to E1 will impact only the finance team. However, that small accounting department has 150 JDE users who will be affected no matter what happens. Either way it goes, this customer appears to be firmly entrenched with IBM i for the foreseeable future.
According to folks I talked with at Collaborate 2015, Oracle’s official statement of direction continues to offer support for the World platform as long as there are customers using it, but E1 is the strategic and forward-facing Oracle direction for new JDE deals and any time an upgrade is mapped out.
There appear to be numerous variations of rollout methodology when selecting an E1 environment. We talked to customers running E1 on IBM i, Windows, and hybrid scenarios of AIX and Windows. For customers who migrated from IBM i to another platform the sentiment seemed to be slanted towards IBM i, but as we all know IT doesn’t always get to make the final business decision when a decision comes down from above.
You may have heard this one before. The names may be different but the story could likely be nearly the same. One of the Oracle technical evangelists told me how an Oracle Sparc T4 machine with four sockets can run 100 times faster than a similarly configured IBM Power System running AIX. Virtuous or not, there are as many statistics to prove superiority for IBM hardware as there is for Oracle hardware. Both sides are going to tell their story.
The MSP space has grown in the past year and there are more vendors specializing in hosting E1 or World customers. A few individuals we spoke with said the relationships with MSPs have been good. The biggest benefit is that it allows them to concentrate on business applications, while the MSP vendor concentrates on HA, security, and the availability of IBM i. Some of the bigger vendors in this space were Denovo and GSI.
I also have an observation for my IBM i colleagues seeking new employment opportunities. There appears to be a lot of job opportunities for JDE programmers and implementers. JDE service providers are looking for RPG and IBM i-specific talent and seem to be having a hard time tracking down potential candidates. For those looking for employment on IBM i or JDE, it might be as near as their closest JDE service provider.
Richard Schoen is the director of document management technologies at HelpSystems.