Oracle gains partner, outlines e-business future

Claiming that businesses from now on must either operate online or get steamrollered by competitors who do, Oracle has launched a series of electronic-business initiatives, including an application outsourcing partnership with Qwest Communications and fixed-price, fixed-time packages of its applications.

Claiming that businesses from now on must either operate online or get steamrollered by competitors who do, Oracle has launched a series of electronic-business initiatives, including an application outsourcing partnership with Qwest Communications and fixed-price, fixed-time packages of its applications.

The announcements were part of a larger presentation Oracle gave yesterday on its road map for applications, databases, tools, and services helping to run the new Web economy.

"It's either e-business or out of business," said Mark Jarvis, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Oracle.

Jarvis noted that even many successful online businesses basically add a Web front end for customers to a traditional back-end workflow where orders are transmitted by fax or printer, typed in by hand, and shipped from an overflowing warehouse.

But the most up-and-coming businesses reshape their entire workflow around the Internet, in which customers enter their own orders or service requests, as with Amazon.com; that order is transmitted online directly to the fulfillment center, and filled or built on a just-in-time, personalised basis, Jarvis said.

Because many companies may not want the hassle of running the software that automates these functions, Oracle has created a Web-based application outsourcing arm, Business On-Line (BOL), which is officially available now, said Chris Russell, president of Business On-Line. The program was announced in November and has been in a pilot phase since then, he said.

Telecommunications company Qwest, based in Denver, is the first infrastructure partner for BOL, Russell announced. Starting this quarter, customers can access all Oracle's Release 11 applications via a browser. Qwest will host BOL applications at various Qwest Cyber-Centers, handling much of the physical environment, including the lines, signals, networking, and data delivery, he said.

Oracle will sell and service the actual software, including optimizing it on server architecture, Russell added. You could think of it as Oracle creating a "BOL franchise" package that gets dropped into a Cyber-Center, he said.

Other BOL partners will be announced later this year, Russell said.

BOL will cost between US$200 and $900 per user per month, depending on the modules used, Russell said.

Oracle also wants to appeal to smaller customers with updated, Release 11 versions of its pre-configured application packages, FastForward, according to Sandy Sanderson, senior vice president of consulting. The packages, ranging from budgeting to Internet procurement, human resources and manufacturing, take between 30 and 100 business days to implement, he said.

Some early customers, such as Pony Express Delivery Services, have implemented FastForward in as little as 25 business days, Sanderson added.

Oracle also announced that it is trying to transform itself into an e-business, adopting its Web-based self-service applications internally. For example, employees are handling travel, procurement, and expenses via self-service, and customers can buy databases and servers online via OracleStore.com, Jarvis said.

Oracle Corp., in Redwood Shores, California, is at http://www.oracle.com/.

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