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Larry Ellison: First Fusion apps to arrive early in 2008

For the final Oracle OpenWorld keynote, singer Billy Joel, part of the evening entertainment lineup, introduced Larry Ellison, who is celebrating 30 years at the helm of the company he co-founded.He announced that the first Fusion applications would come out early in 2008, focusing on salesforce automation, with pre-built integration packs for Oracle's E-Business Suite ERP.

For the final Oracle OpenWorld keynote, singer Billy Joel, part of the evening entertainment lineup, introduced Larry Ellison, who is celebrating 30 years at the helm of the company he co-founded.

He announced that the first Fusion applications would come out early in 2008, focusing on salesforce automation, with pre-built integration packs for Oracle's E-Business Suite ERP.

Instead of creating massive applications, such as a full CRM or HR suites, Oracle is starting with focused modules, based on Fusion Middleware, that integrate with existing applications.

During a Q&A Ellison was asked specifically when a full HR suite would be delivered. He danced around with his answer, saying he needed more information about the specific application and that the date of sometime in 2008 is the date. "Fusion applications will come out an application at a time," Ellison said.

Earlier, during his presentation, Ellison said, "I can't press a button and have them all be Fusion apps. It has to be a gradual, evolutionary process." Later during the Q&A he said that ultimately Oracle will rewrite all of its applications and have a Fusion version for every functional area, he said. Indeed, the full Fusion suites will take years to surface.

Ellison was asked what comes after Fusion. "We rewrite our applications every 10 or 15 years. We can't deliver modern applications on technology that was around 15 years ago. I'm not sure what will be available 15 years from now. I'm not sure if its the right interval," he said. He offered 2025 as possible date for the next generation, and said with a touch of humor, "I won't be there."

Fusion middleware and applications have to coexist with existing apps from Oracle and third parties was the principle message to the crowd of Oracle customers. "That is priority number one," Ellison emphasized.

Anthony Lye, senior vice president of Oracle CRM OnDemand, demoed the first Fusion three applications, Sales Prospector, Reference and Tools. "We are trying to fuse assets together to create second order value propositions," Lye said. "You can go from lead to opportunity to quote, without entering data. The applications come with the data." (See my previous coverage of Fusion apps.)

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Prospector (below) shows the top ten prospects and purchase history and velocity of prospects to show comparisons of customers with similar buying patterns. "They can see the likely references, which makes sales people much more productive," said Lye.

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Sales Prospector predictions can be funneled to a Campaign Manager (below) to turn leads into opportunities. It includes a library of campaign templates, which have ratings and historical response rates so users can derive the best campaigns to run. Specific customer data is not shared.

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The next phase is to turn an opportunity into a quote. Sales Library is a tool that helps people share and find content, such as PowerPoint presentations, Word documents and PDFs, relevant to the selling process.

Ellison categorized Siebel and salesforce.com as first generation salesforce automation, focused on helping to manage opportunities to deliver forecasts to sales managers. "Second generation Fusion apps are really designed not to take the place of salesforce.com or Siebel CRM on demand or on premises. Fusion coexists with those products. These applications are for sales prospecting, looking at the customer database. It's a datamining application, looking at what types of customers are buying what types of products."

I doubt that salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff will share the same view as Ellison, his former mentor, regarding the non-competitive nature of Fusion.

Ellison gave an update on Oracle's Unbreakable Linux Support service, which is competing with Red Hat's Linux offering.

Introduced a year ago, Ellison said that Oracle first focused on fixing bugs and maintain compatibility with Red Hat. He said the Oracle has a lot of customer and partners, and that Red Hat continues to grow because the Linux market is growing, but gave no numbers or indication of how it is faring against Red Hat.

"We are literally building up our sales team right now, and I think we will move faster. We wanted to focus on getting the engineering and support right before going into sales," Ellison said.

Sounds like Oracle Unbreakable Linux Support isn't beating up on Red Hat at this point.

He then touted the just introduced Oracle VM. "We have a single stack of code that includes Oracle VM and Linux. This is a very high quality, optimized VM. This is not the same code as what Red Hat delivers," Ellison said. He pointed to performance. a single management console and single support call as differentiators from competitors. This is similar to what Sun said in unveiling its xVM virtualization platform at OpenWorld.

Regarding Oracle's claim that its VM has three times less overhead, Ellison said that Oracle will publish the benchmarks on its Web site.

Video clip: Ellison takes questions from the audience

See also: Phil Wainewright--Oracle goes for the CRM jugular