Time for Oracle to make good on PeopleSoft promises

Analysts and customers welcomed Oracle's announcement on Tuesday of a plan to integrate PeopleSoft with its Oracle applications suite but said they now want to see the company deliver concrete results based on these promises.

At an event for customers, analysts and press at Oracle's headquarters, the company announced "Project Fusion," its effort to combine the Oracle, PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards enterprise applications into a single suite. Fusion is due in 2008, with the first deliverables set to appear next year, company executives said.

While some details on Project Fusion were new, most of what Oracle talked about at the event confirmed what the company had said during the 18 months it took to seal the PeopleSoft deal, said Joshua Greenbaum, a principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting.

"Now they have to execute, and that will be the trick," he said.

Indeed, all Oracle has shared so far is a plan, said Andreas Bitterer, vice president of technology research services at Meta Group. "We still have a lot more questions than answers. They have told us what they want to do, not how they are going to do it. ...We did not see any other action than the putting together of a piece of paper with plans."

Fusion will be Java-based and use standard technology for easy integration with other applications, according to Oracle. The product will provide a simple upgrade from PeopleSoft, Oracle and J.D. Edwards applications, Oracle Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison said in his remarks at the event.

"I expect the majority of customers will do the upgrade," Ellison said. "The important thing is that it will be a time of their choosing, not of our choosing. Customers decide if and when to do the upgrade."

Dan Shannon, a senior Oracle consultant at FMT Systems, said Oracle put "a good spin" on the integration challenge. "Usually when I go to this type of Oracle events I feel like I get sprayed with Oracle Kool-Aid. Today, it is a fire hose," he said.

Although integrating PeopleSoft will be a challenge, Shannon believes that Oracle can build a very good unified applications suite. "I think they can build something very good. If they don't deliver, they are done," he said. In 2008, Oracle will likely ship something, but it probably won't be very usable, Shannon said.

The 2008 due date for Fusion and the announced end of support date for PeopleSoft products in 2013 give PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards users time to weigh their options, said Meta Group's Bitterer. "It is a comforting story," he said.

PeopleSoft user TriNet Group plans to take that time, said Gary Hamilton, a business analyst at the hosted human resources services provider. "With the support they are offering, if we have a need to change, we have some time to think about it," he said.

Oracle teams comprising both Oracle and PeopleSoft developers have already started work on Fusion. Early technology is slated to be available in 2006, followed by individual applications in 2007 and a full suite in 2008.

Oracle has tapped John Wookey, senior vice president for applications development, to lead its enlarged applications business. Insiders call Wookey a "fixer" and say he is a good pick for that responsible post. "He is a very established leader," said Meta Group's Bitterer.

While developing Fusion, Oracle will also offer updates on all three of its applications lines and will release in 2006 the next major upgrade for each: PeopleSoft Enterprise 9.0, EnterpriseOne 8.12 (the software line PeopleSoft acquired from J.D. Edwards) and the Oracle E-Business Suite 12, the company said. Oracle will support each of the three product lines through at least 2013.

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