Fusion's pretty, powerful and not quite baked

The almost but not quite here Oracle Fusion apps are good. Or at least they will be assuming that what we've seen is delivered.

The almost but not quite here Oracle Fusion apps are good. Or at least they will be assuming that what we've seen is delivered. However the launch, if that is indeed what happened at Oracle Open World, was surprisingly tame to the point of almost being lame. Instead of fanfare from the keynote speakers, what we've seen are side shows where Oracle is keen to set expectations at the low end.

Speaker after speaker said that Fusion will go into general availability in Q1 2011 but that there will be a tightly controlled release to customers. A hundred customers by years end 2011 is the number being bandied around. If that sounds familiar then you've heard it all before: when SAP released Business ByDesign. That tells me something.

Much as I admire the embedded analytics and the work that's been done to develop what looks like a modern, uncluttered and user friendly interface (hence it's pretty), I can't help but wonder what's left to get done and why Oracle isn't selling Fusion like crazy. Something ain't quite right. But first the good news.

Oracle is saying that analytics can sit on JD Edwards, PeopleSoft or the E-Business Suite and that the UI and customer experience does not change when they swap out, upgrade or move to Fusion. That's excellent news and a genuine step forward. The functionality I've seen in the demo'd apps not only looks intuitive but allows customers to pull third party information such as map data from any preferred service such as Google Maps, Yahoo, Mapquest etc. The same goes for socialized data sources.

Consumption wise, customers can pick off which pieces they need but it is less clear whether this represents situational applications that would be consumed for a period and then discarded. And it as it this point that things start to get murky.

Chris Leone, Oracle group VP was asked four times to say whether Fusion is multi-tenant and whether Oracle will offer hosting services. He prefaced his answer by saying: "That's a bit tricky." In other words, it depends on your definition of multi-tenant. He did say that Oracle will offer a service that allows for many customers to co-mingle their data. That sounded very much like the co-mingling CEO Larry Ellison spent so much time dissing down in his keynote. Oracle will also provide Fusion in a single tenant, presumably running on an Exalogic machine.

But the big tell about this topic comes in the way Oracle will price Fusion. While Chris Leone would not be drawn on specifics he confirmed the model will be similar to that which we see today. In other words, the only elasticity I can envisage is up and Oracle is far from comfortable about its ability to provide Fusion in a public cloud.

In discussions with colleagues, the word 'confused' was liberally used. Both at our end and in what we perceive as Oracle's go to market understanding. However, if attendance in the demos is an indicator, Oracle may be forced to come clear and clean sooner rather than later. At one Fusion session I attended, people were being turned away because they couldn't fit any more into the room.

Oh  - and we now know what Oracle thinks is the cloud - it's a machine.

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