This week Oracle announced 3 major deals. Deals of this size would normally be the single biggest piece of news in any typical week, so to get 3 in successive days means that they were lined up and unleashed in a deliberate manner to create the largest splash possible. And it’s certainly got people’s attention, with many analysts penning a series of posts on the matter.
The Microsoft Deal
Oracle and Microsoft announced a deal to make a slew of Oracle products available on the Microsoft Azure platform (their rival to Amazon Web Services). What’s so surprising about this deal is that historically the two companies haven’t been the best of friends and are the two main rivals in the battle for relational database supremacy.
When Larry teased during the earnings call last week that there were some big deals coming – including one with Microsoft – many expected something much tamer, like Microsoft certifying Oracle’s Java within Azure for example. What was announced is much bigger. Microsoft is making Oracle Java, Oracle Weblogic and – amazingly – the Oracle Database available within their Azure cloud.
The Salesforce Deal
Although Marc Benioff honed his craft while under Larry’s wing at Oracle, he’s his own man now and Salesforce and Oracle have been on a collision course for a while. Salesforce currently runs on the Oracle database, there has been some speculation that they were looking at PostgreSQL to help reduce that dependency. This deal not only negates that threat, but ties the two companies very closely together. Salesforce will run on Oracle’s Exadata machines, Oracle Linux OS, Oracle Java and the Oracle database platform for the next 9 years (although Benioff has subsequently said that it’s actually 12 years), and implement Fusion HCM internally (they currently use Workday). Quite a deal.
There are lots of positives for Oracle from this deal, but you have to wonder what Salesforce employees will think. They’ve a daring, charismatic and visionary leader who has taken the CRM market by storm, taking them to become the world’s #1 for CRM and the world’s biggest SaaS company. By aligning themselves with Oracle they’ve lost some of their autonomy, Benioff will often be playing second fiddle to Larry, and this does box Salesforce in to the CRM market – HCM and Financials will be all about Fusion (work.com and FinancialForce.com will presumably not be touted so strongly).
Does Larry also see Benioff as a successor? Larry is only just over a year off of being 70. Although we suspect he relishes deals like this, and his appreciation of Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’ is oft-recounted, there will become a time when he’ll want to reduce his influence – as Bill Gates did at Microsoft.
This isn’t good news for Dell (who previously supplied all of Salesforce’s servers). It’s a real kick in the teeth for Workday though. Extensions to Workday are created in the Force.com platform, Salesforce’s Chatter is integrated with Workday, and the CEOs are frequent speakers at each other’s conferences. It’s safe to assume that some or all of this is going to cease and it’ll be Larry presenting at this year’s Dreamforce instead.
The NetSuite Deal
This is definitely the least surprising of the 3 deals as Oracle and NetSuite have always had a friendly relationship (Larry was a heavy initial investor). The biggest question is what market is the deal aiming at? They’re after mid-sized companies where they’ll deploy Fusion HCM and NetSuite Financials – both SaaS hosted, one would assume as that’s the only model available for NetSuite. To me, this sounds like they’re aiming at Workday.
Larry has really pulled a masterstroke in getting the whole enterprise software industry talking. He’s created a huge cloud marketplace with some of the industry’s leviathons, and positioned Oracle at the centre of it – at the same time as devaluing some competitors. Larry is – right now – probably the Enterprise Tech industry’s most powerful leader.
The implications of most of these deals will come in time. Big questions remain, however:
- How much revenue will the Azure tie-up actually bring?
- What happens to Fusion CRM? When will it be sold in preference to Salesforce?
- Are Salesforce’s HCM and Financial offerings no longer viable?
- Will Oracle eventually purchase NetSuite, Salesforce, or both?
Most of the early screenshots that came out about Fusion were all from the Web-based UI, things like the 9-box grid etc. Now that the product is out there we’re getting to see more. I attended an excellent webinar that explained a few things that were new to me:
1) The Professional User Interface is separate to the Casual User Interface
Oracle are terming the ‘Professional UI’ to be the one that we’ve seen most of so far, and the ‘Casual UI’ to be the one that was christened Fuse that we first saw at OpenWorld. I would expect that the former is targeted at administrative or power-users, whereas the latter is more geared towards Self Service applications. Here are a couple of shots of the Casual UI (click for bigger):
2) Outlook Integration
Oracle also showed the Fusion CRM Desktop within Outlook. This looked fully integrated (as many of the tasks could be carried out without leaving Outlook and accessing the Fusion UI). I’m not going to go into any detail on this as a) desktop integration is already a staple feature of most ERPs, and b) Desktop email clients like Outlook are losing popularity to web based email so this is less important than some of the other items.
3) Fusion Tap
We also saw some screenshots of Fusion TAP integrated with the Oracle Social Network (a professional Facebook, so to speak). Fusion Tap is going to be very useful to those with tablets, and with the continued progress of tablets in the workplace – and especially the growth of BYOD – this population is only going to grow.
One thing I particularly like about Fusion Tap is that it’s configurable, so you can adjust what the user sees and what they don’t. It’s not just a static native app.
This is still in development, but it’s very aesthetically pleasing (as with the above pics, click for bigger):
5) Oracle Voice
The biggest surprise of all for me was the mention of Oracle Voice. It’s basically a Siri, but for Fusion. It’s being integrated with CRM first (and it’s not hard to see that this is where it’d be most useful).
So in summary, there are some really strong UI facets that are currently available, and there are some very exciting innovations that are in the pipeline.
(All of the above is covered by the standard Oracle Safe Harbour agreement, so don’t base anything contractual on what you see here. Some of the above is still in development too, so there’ll be improvements before it is ready.)
There was an interesting comment earlier today at Collaborate where a senior exec mentioned that of the 250 customers who’ve licensed Fusion already, most of them have opted for a cloud-based deployment. It’s encouraging that there is widespread adoption of the cloud, however you do wonder if some of these will move on-premise once things have settled down – as Green Mountain Coffee Roasters are intending to do.
I suspect that many of these early adopters are co-existing their Fusion modules with an existing core system, so SaaS hosting is understandable. When the time comes to replace the core system they may well move things back in-house.
It was also interesting to hear that Oracle expects to have made around 1,000 customer-driven enhancements by OpenWorld. That’s an incredible amount of improvements in such a short space of time.
See more here.
I was heartened to see an opinion piece on ZD Net discussing the Oracle’s recent Public Cloud / Fusion Apps progress. Oliver Marks – the author – clearly has access to much more than us outsiders, but the impression that he has formed – that Oracle has made huge progress since last year and is accelerating fast – is very encouraging.
He reports Steve Miranda (Senior VP for Oracle Fusion Development) as saying that he was confident that Fusion would prove to be the fastest ramp up in enterprise computing history in terms of uptake by customers, and looking at the momentum Oracle appear to have with their vast client base [he] looks to have a point.
Oliver also says “From the client enthusiasm and rapid uptake of Oracle’s Fusion offerings it would appear that the Oracle mothership is enjoying a pretty spectacular launch which should give enterprise competitors who have had plenty of room to maneuver in the cloud until now cause for concern. … It would appear that while the competition have been moving a lot of air talking about the future, Oracle have efficiently executed on their vision in remarkably short order and are accelerating pedal to the metal into a suddenly very mature cloud era.”
It’s a good article and well worth a read.
I’ve watched some Fusion presentations and webinars over the last month or two, and a couple of things have struck me.
1) This – if you just glance at it quickly – looks like it reads ‘Oracle confusion’
Not a good message to be sending out.
2) The Fusion Apps logo is really dull:
It’s just words.
Sure, some of the competition isn’t much better. The Workday one just seems a poor copy of the Amazon one. At least the arch in Amazon has meaning (i.e. going from A to Z)
I’m not sure what the arch in Workday signifies, is it sunrise or sunset? Or does the ‘O to A’ mean something that I haven’t cottoned on to yet?
At least it’s a friendly logo though.
It doesn’t need to say Oracle in it, we all know that Fusion is an Oracle product. Make it red if you want to keep the corporate branding involved. Just spend a few thousand letting your designers riff on the words ‘Fusion Apps’ (or maybe just Fusion) and see if they come up with something more likeable.
Oracle have uploaded an interesting little series of videos showing some of the personalities behind Fusion Apps development. It struck me as refreshing because Oracle is such a monolithic company, and although you often get to see/hear the execs speak you don’t often get to see the other contributors to the product.
For dedicated Fusion-watchers there’s probably not a lot of new information, but some of it is worth re-iterating:
Killian Evers – The set/family of Composers allows you to change the application without needing Java skills, and regardless of whether you’ve deployed on-premise or in the cloud.
Kristin Penaskovic – The Fusion help system is a cloud based portal called – imaginatively – the Fusion Help Portal. From the description it sounds a little like the hosted versions of PeopleBooks.
Janine Erb – The first time we had a mass group of people coming in and using the applications we heard people saying “I had to keep reminding myself this was Oracle because it’s so user-centric”.
Andre Ohl – Oracle are the only vendor that can offer an ERP where there’s flexibility over the deployment model. Fusion can be on-premise, SaaS/public cloud or hosted on a private cloud (on demand).
The camera work is a bit shaky, but it’s quite nicely done. At the moment they just have CRM and HCM ‘faces’, but it’s a good start.
There’s an interesting post from Thomas Wailgum on the Long and Windy Road to Oracle’s Fusion Applications.
It’s a decent summary of the feeling towards Fusion Apps – striking the balance nicely between those who’ll trumpet Fusion Apps regardless and those who’re a little more negative.