Preparing to launch Fusion

Software giant Oracle has big plans for the middleware market. As vice president of product development for its Fusion range, Vittorio Viarengo is keen to reveal all

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By  Peter Branton Published  April 30, 2006

|~|Viarengobody.jpg|~|The roll out of Fusion products will be driven by, and depend on, customers’ requirements, says Vittorio Viarengo.|~|The business applications space has seen the lions share of headlines in the past couple of years, with Oracle’s capturing of rivals PeopleSoft and Siebel and the firm’s ongoing battle with SAP. So it was almost a surprise to hear Oracle boss Larry Ellison declare earlier this month that he was looking to “have a complete stack” in software (see IT Weekly 22- 28 April 2006) by possibly launching its own variant of the Linux operating system. However, there is considerably more to Oracle’s product lineup than just its database and applications ranges. While the company has talked a lot about its Fusion strategy for combining the different applications it has acquired in the past 18 months or so, it has also successfully developed its Fusion middleware strategy over the same period. IT Weekly recently spoke to one of the senior executives in charge of developing Oracle’s Fusion strategy, Vittorio Viarengo, vice president of product development at Oracle Fusion Middleware, to get an update on the company’s middleware plans, how middleware fits in with the applications business, and where he sees the market going. How is the progress on Fusion? We recently had a conference in San Francisco where we updated the market on where we are. We are half-way through Fusion, we have delivered a number of technology to our applications frends, so they are up and running, leveraging Oracle Fusion middleware to provide the next-generation applications. The idea is that our own customers can use Oracle Fusion Middleware today to extend their existing investment in the application and if they do so they are already on the platform that Oracle itself will use going forward for all our applications. What is the state of play for the Fusion applications. I know there is quite a lot there, but what will we see first? The first instance for the Oracle Fusion applications we will see in 2008. We are very excited about how we are taking these standards-based stacks that are out there today and putting them to work to become the foundation of modern applications. The way I like to think about it is that sometimes when you talk about these standard technologies, web services, and reliable messaging and all that you lose track of how some of these standards have dramatically impacted the way we build applications. Think about http and html. When they first came on board they were just a technology, it is only when we as the industry put this technology to work that we then used them to do, say customer relationship management (CRM) in a way that was never done before and then lowered out the cost of deploying the application on the client side ten-fold. We believe that the Oracle Fusion architecture that is built around service-oriented architecture (SOA) and web services type of standards will have the same kind of dramatic impact on the way we build applications today and in the future. First delivery of Fusion is scheduled for 2008. Will that be the full product lineup or will we see different products at different times? It is going to be driven by the customer, it will depend on what the customers’ requirements are. All of our applications are being certified on Oracle Fusion middleware today, so you can start using our integration technology in our stack today. So that when you get to the Fusion applications you are ready with an architecture that is consistent with that. One thing that we have really put a lot of emphasis on is protection of customers’ investments. So, your lifetime support for the application that we have today, people don’t have to get to Fusion until they are ready to do so, we are not forcing them to do it until they are see the value and are ready to do so. It will be a very gradual and smooth approach for them. Fusion is incorporating the products of a range of vendors. Larry Ellison has said there are plans for a lot more acquisition activity, how will Fusion be adapted to fit into this? If you look at the acquisitions that we have done so far there are a couple of things that I like to highlight. One is the pragmatism that we use to bring these technologies and value to our customers. So when we see an opportunity to add value by going and doing an acquisition we are ready to do that. The second thing is that we always look to acquire technologies that are architecturally compatible with our stack, so that we don’t give up on our strong architecture which we believe is a differentiator going forward. We are very pragmatic about going in and buying the companies that can complement our stack but also we are very careful about buying companies that are architecturally sound with what we already have, so we don’t end up with really disparate technologies that will not interoperate or work well together. What sort of firms are we likely to see Oracle buying? We don’t comment on that, as you know, but as I said Oracle is very pragmatic. For example, I am right now responsible for our telecommunication strategy and we just announced the acquisition of HotSip [which provides telecommunications infrastructure software and session initiation protocol (SIP) enabled applications for IP telephony]. If you look again it was very compatible from an architectural perspective because they were built on a J2EE stack but they bring to the table some of the knowledge also of having done some things before, in this case closer to the network and the telecommunications network. So you’ll see us do those deals strategically and tactically where we need to do so. Are you looking at a lot of verticals? Is this part of your strategy with specific industry segments? We started with telecommunications and [this is] the first of a number of vertical initiatives. I think it is natural for any company as the technology stack matures to move to a vertical and I think what that enables us to do is get closer to the business needs of the customer. I think the one that we are going to unveil a little more details about over the next few weeks is definitely telecommunications market where we are getting a little more aggressive here. If you look at what is happening in the telco world it is a convergence on voice and IT into one stack around technologies like SIP and so on. That creates a great inflection point for us to bring some innovation to the table and I think it is becoming more and more of an IT-based solution in the telco world. So we can leverage a lot of the Oracle Fusion middleware stack that we already have but with the addition of the acquisition of HotSip I think we are bringing to market a very very compelling platform for voice and multimedia applications in the telco world. How does that fit in with the idea that Fusion is a one-size-fits-all product line-up? Will we see disparities between the different products? I wouldn’t say Fusion was one-solution fits all. The guiding principle for the platform is that we absolutely want to bring together a comprehensive set of products and technologies that inter-operate and work together. But that doesn’t mean that you need to buy the entire stack, we’re very pragmatic. We understand that IT is very heterogeneous, people have investments that have been there for years that they need to leverage, they may have chosen already an application server. So we are the only middleware platform that actually runs their high-value services on top of other application servers. Larry Ellison has identified the business intelligence and middleware space as key areas. Do you think you need to add to these areas? We have a strong business intelligence suite today that has actually been made richer by the Siebel acquisition; Siebel has some great analytics tools. I cannot comment on what Larry thinks or try to interpret him, but when we talk about stuff in the middle we think that our standards-based middleware stack is what will allow our customers to differentiate themselves by being able to integrate different systems and implement these processes that span across systems and so on. Once you do that, then the next step is to get the invisibility in to what is going on. More and more of the processes are being moved away from just the silo applications or legacy systems. Now they are exposed as services and with middleware we can put them together and orchestrate them and exchange messages. Then if you have a strong business intelligence and business activity monitoring layer on top then you get a lot of business insight into what is going on in your business across different services and applications. So the combination of the two is really the winning combination. ||**||

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