Two top Oracle executives met with analysts and customers in New York as part of an Oracle roadshow aimed at reassuring those nervous about its recent buying spree and plans for a merged applications set, dubbed Fusion, incorporating its purchases.
"I know you're all wondering: is there some strategy behind all this bizarre behaviour over the last six months, us buying all these companies, or is it just Oracle being Oracle?" company president, Charles Phillips, said.
He and John Wookey, Oracle's applications development head, reiterated the points Oracle first laid out in January, when it introduced its Fusion roadmap. Oracle will deliver one more major update, due in 2006, in each of its three applications lines - its own E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft Enterprise, and EnterpriseOne (formerly JD Edwards) - and release an applications set built on a new, Java-based architecture, Fusion, in 2008.
Customers on all of the product lines would be able to smoothly upgrade to Fusion without any greater pain than they encountered in a standard applications upgrade, executives said.
Since unveiling Fusion plans, Oracle executives have taken great care to deliver a consistent message about PeopleSoft support plans - mindful that before the contentious merger went through, PeopleSoft's customers were confused and upset about the uncertain future of their ERP technology. Still, when it comes to specifics of how Oracle will blend its heterogeneous applications architectures, the answer is often still to be determined.
One customer asked how Oracle would reconcile a difference in database support. Because PeopleSoft supports a number of different databases, it stores much of its business logic elsewhere, while Oracle builds most of its business logic into the database layer.
Phillips said Oracle was in the process of talking with customers about its options, and would make a decision later.
"We decided to see how important that is to customers," Phillips said. "We can do a lot more for you if we can optimise and take advantage [of the database]. We can't do that for an unlimited number of [database] configurations."
Wookey said Oracle was looking to push more business logic into the middleware layer, potentially ameliorating the problem.
Oracle will also limit its bundled database with Fusion to its own software - it won't offer IBM's DB2, as it has in the past. It will instead work with IBM and other database vendors to certify products for use with Fusion applications.
Oracle is still selling all of its acquired software, and was working on bringing PeopleSoft's pricing model in line with Oracle's, Phillips said.
While Oracle maintains standard licensing prices on its software and publishes a price list on its website, PeopleSoft used a more complex pricing method for its products, which varied the software's licensing cost based on such factors as a customer's size, industry and annual revenue.
Customers purchasing PeopleSoft licenses today still do so under PeopleSoft's licensing structure, but within the next few months Oracle would add PeopleSoft's products to its price list, Phillips said.
Oracle also plans to add PeopleSoft's applications to its Oracle On Demand hosted software service, which Phillips said now had 400 customers and about 100,000 subscribers
PeopleSoft had its own hosted applications business, but, according to Phillips, it never drew a large customer base.
Oracle's newest applications purchase, Retek, will also be put on track to blend into the Fusion architecture. Meanwhile, Oracle will integrate Retek applications with its E-Business Suite within the next six months, and with PeopleSoft's applications within the next nine months.