The assessment of a major focus of Oracle Open World by my colleague David Menninger sums up what I also see as the key strategic element of the event: the new appliance including that called Exalytics. My focus as an industry analyst is on the needs of the line-of-business user, not IT. And that’s the source of my ongoing frustration with this event: It’s not an application user’s conference, especially compared to the PeopleSoft and Hyperion annual gatherings of the past before Oracle acquired and absorbed them. Open World seems almost grudging in addressing their needs, and so it’s not surprising that there don’t appear to be many business users here. For example, other than the Finance IT folks, I’m not sure who from the finance organization was in attendance. In their case, most companies with fiscal years ending in December, March, June or September – and these constitute the vast majority of corporations – are busy with their quarterly financial close this week. Applications sessions focused on the basics and, while I might have missed the one or two line-of-business  show-stopper success stories, the ones I saw were ho-hum. Another indication that applications are not the focus of the event is the location of the Hyperion breakout sessions, which were a 15-minute walk from the Moscone Center this year.

But enough grousing – it is what it is.

While Oracle set its spotlight on appliances, its technology stack and their benefits for IT, it did demonstrate, however quietly, some progress on the applications front. There were no earth-shaking announcements, and much of the news about applications was shoehorned in between the infomercials (aka keynotes). The most notable announcement, I think, was that, after six years in development, Fusion Applications are now in general availability. I commented on Fusion Financial last year. In the announcements this week, almost all of its applications had a list of specific functionality additions, many had mobility and analytics enhancements, and especially where customization for vertical industries is an important competitive advantage, there were business-specific improvements.

Still apparently on the defensive about its commitment to individual applications, Oracle continues to promise ongoing improvements to each. It would be suicidal of the company to do otherwise, since keeping customers on maintenance more than pays for ongoing R&D and provides a continuing stream of revenue. Having purchased a wide array of sometimes overlapping applications, Oracle hasn’t needed to immediately rationalize them as much as support their ongoing development to provide companies with compelling reasons to remain maintenance-paying customers. And Oracle continues to stress that companies can migrate to Fusion on their own schedule and in any fashion (on-premises, in the cloud or hosted) they want. On that last point, other than CRM and human capital management, users will have to wait for a formal offering of finance in the cloud and other Oracle business applications as a service.

Fusion’s value to the existing installed base of Oracle apps users could be in providing a relatively easy migration path to an advanced applications environment. I’ll reserve final judgment on that until proof points emerge. For Oracle, the value is clear in that Fusion encourages users (at a minimum) to remain on maintenance and perhaps buy more of what the company has to offer. For example, since the data from one application (say, Financials) can be available to all (say, CRM), there is the opportunity to sell them new applications and the shiny new Exa-boxes on which to run them.

I expect that next year, after the first 100 Fusion apps users have accumulated more experience and the number of companies adopting the platform grows, Oracle will make more of an effort to highlight successes and the economic value of migration. Then again, if this year’s performance is any guide, this may be buried in endless, repetitive pitches for adopting the entire stack of hardware, servers, middleware and applications. But I hope not: Such a message will obscure the compelling value that more typical organizations will may find in adopting Fusion to replace their existing software.

Regards,

Robert Kugel – SVP Research