Posts Tagged ‘Fusion’


All right!  Recess is over!  If you went to Dreamforce last week you can be forgiven for taking a kind of victory lap in your head today because it was a truly great experience, besides if you are like me you are still tired.  One reason I think so many people like Dreamforce is its relentless focus on the future and on what will likely become standard practice in the not too distant future.  But also, if you went to the keynotes from M.C. Hammer to Colin Powel to Richard Branson to Tony Robbins, you left San Francisco with a certain “lightness of being.”

However, if you are an analyst you need to put all of that behind you and get ready for Oracle OpenWorld (OOW), which promises to be a barn burner for its own reasons.  Same city, same Moscone Center, same closed Howard Street, similar large crowd — where Dreamforce was all about the social enterprise, OpenWorld is about a lot that might not be so clearly connected.  There’s hardware and operating systems and then software for the back office, front office, databases, middleware, and development tools.  There are things I’m leaving out too like the America’s Cup.  At OOW Oracle will provide a glimpse of its own into what the future looks like for the enterprise and in some ways it’s very different from what Salesforce is talking about and in some ways they are similar.

This is not to say that one vision is less good than the other, far from it.  The competing visions reflect different world views and different realities.  For instance, while Salesforce approaches things from a clean slate perspective, Oracle takes the view that what it introduces has to work with what delivered before.  You can see this in its disciplined approach to supporting customers of the companies it bought way back in 2005.

Companies like Siebel and PeopleSoft whose products are getting long in the tooth and are prime targets for Oracle’s new offerings that are based on its platform called Fusion.  You may recall that Fusion went GA (that’s general availability, not the mid-night train), more or less, at last year’s OpenWorld but it hasn’t exactly set the world on fire and there are persistent rumors that the stuff doesn’t work very well or that it requires a phalanx of consultants to make it do its tricks.

The big hurdle for Oracle therefore will be to convince the assembled multitude that Fusion is real and that the path to the future goes through the intersection of Fusion and Big Iron.

Speaking of big iron, last year the company rolled out some additional gear to complement its Exalogic computing devices.  It seems this family of hardware is built and optimized for very big jobs involving terabytes of data gazillions of users.  That’s exactly the kind of stuff the growing cloud computing movement might gobble up.  Currently data centers are masses of commodity servers in racks running feverishly but without a layer of sophisticated management that would optimize their utilization and reduce costs.

There has been an interesting series of articles by James Glanz here and here in the New York Times over the last few days focusing on the power consumption and pollution caused by data centers.  The pollution comes from diesel generators periodically fired up to test the centers’ ability to withstand a power interruption.  The consumption is gargantuan.

But a bigger question, for which there are ready answers, asks why so much power demand?  Part of the answer lies in how many companies are avoiding the necessary virtualization that will make the cloud much more efficient and sustainable.  According to the Times and backed up by McKinsey & Company, which did the analysis, conventional data centers run many CPUs and disks at much less than capacity in part to cater to the urban myth of the need to keep one company’s data separate from another’s.

You’ve heard me on this before using the metaphor that we comingle our funds in banks and overlay the pool of deposits with metadata like account numbers and statements.  Why are we resisting do this with data?  Companies like Salesforce are already doing the same virtualization in the cloud and Oracle has an opportunity to strongly support virtualization and point to a more sustainable future.

Will it?

I’m going out on a limb to say yes.  Maybe it won’t happen right away but keep in mind that two or three years ago Larry Ellison ridiculed the cloud and now that he has modern hardware and software he’s a big proponent.  The next logical step would be to endorse the Exa-hardware as a sustainability tool for a power hungry planet.  I’m looking for some sustainability messaging from Oracle and it could even happen.

This is not a digression.  Sustainability is not alien to ideas like mobility, cloud, social and analytics, you can’t separate them.  I think if Oracle wants to maintain its leadership position with many of the largest companies in the world, it needs to put a stake in the ground and become a thought leader here.  The next decade in IT won’t be like the one that preceded it and if Oracle simply comes out with a grocery list for replacing old hardware and applications with more modern stuff it will be missing a great opportunity.  At the end of the day people go to these conferences looking for new ideas and things they haven’t seen before.  That’s what I’ll be watching for.

Oracle Buys RightNow

Posted: October 24, 2011 in CRM
Tags: , , , ,

I found out about Oracle’s purchase of RightNow, a multi-channel contact center company, when Chris Kanarkus of IDG News rang my cell.  Ironically, I was sitting in the departure area waiting for a flight that will take me to the RightNow Summit, the annual user meeting which is being held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmore resort.

Kanarkus was looking for comment, which I am always happy to provide, and lots of thoughts ran through my head that I chose to pass by.  The deal was worth one and a half billion dollars at the $43 per share offering price, a nice bump to the share price.

It had been my observation that the stock prices of many companies rose just before or during their user meetings as good news was usually announced there and the financial press in attendance post their scoops.  A couple of years ago I watched RightNow’s stock gain two or three points as CEO Greg Gianforte gave his keynote but this year the news appears to be built in to the share price already.

One and a half billion bucks is a lot to spend and that’s even truer for a company that last year generated $200xxx million in revenue.  A multiple between seven and eight is usually reserved for less proven and smaller companies with some kind of social angle.  But RightNow has been around a while and it’s track record, while sterling made me, at first, somewhat skeptical.

True, RightNow has a great focus on the customer experience and on helping its customers craft great experiences for their customers.  Also, it’s a SaaS company with a SaaS strategy that mirror’s Oracle’s which is to say they are multi-tenant but not fanatics about it.  However, RightNow is not a Fusion application and Oracle has its share of customer service/call center, call them what you will, apps so they weren’t exactly desperate to get another one.  I recall that Oracle paid one billion dollars for ATG, a company focused on e-commerce, so perhaps the company only knows how to write checks with nine places to the left of the decimal.

Seriously though, Oracle, ATG and RightNow might be a thing in the future.  Multi-channel communication combined with e-commerce outreach could be very important.  Add to this Oracle’s success in what it has called clienteling (sp?) in which store sales associates carry mobile devices that can orchestrate customer centric shopping, and you might see a pattern.  If the customer can’t come to the store, perhaps the store will come to the customer.

But this takes nothing away from RightNow’s core strengths today.  The company has become something of a missionary bringing the message of customer centricity to its customers.  In teaching the religion, RightNow has helped them navigate the social divide and some of that teaching might be very useful to Oracle which has a boat load of older technology products that it is in the process of “Fusing” and those applications need to adopt more socialized approaches.  Presumably, Oracle will protect the brand as it has with other acquisitions and Oracle RightNow does not appear to be that hard to say.

Competitively, this is interesting.  Salesforce.com another big CRM vendor recently bought Assistly which provides service functionality in an unassisted mode, or to say it differently, it is more of a customer self-service solution for the small business space.

Nonetheless, these are merely starting positions; it’s hard to know the ultimate destination some of these packages will have.  Part of that issue resides in a couple of social facts of life.  First, socially mediated processes are completely scalable working across the internet equally well for all sizes of company. Second, socially mediated business processes have very low costs and for that reason are attractive to anyone with a pulse especially in this economy.

There are other companies in the market that might make interesting buys for one of the bigger CRM companies and you can start with the CRM Idol finalists — Assistly’s stablemates, CrowdFactory, GetSatisfaction and Stone Cobra.  Each does something different and each is worthy of a vote or even a billion.

Finally, we should ask why in the middle of a terrible economy there is so much company buying going on.  The answer is that the corporate economy replete with M&A activity and some very good IPO’s this year has little to do with the real economy.  We’ve reached a point where some very good but siloed solutions have matured and a time when the big companies have ample cash that they aren’t spending on things like hiring people.  Buying a promising company is like R&D spending all bundled up and you get the result more or less right away.

So there it is.  Oracle buys RightNow for a king’s ransom.  I wonder if they’ll be serving champagne at the Broadmore tonight.


Fusion is big, potentially powerful, based on new technology, backward compatible and not available yet.

Larry Ellison began taking the wraps off Fusion at his Open World keynote on Wednesday.  His appearance on Sunday with Sun CEO Scott McNealy was just for poking some fun at IBM, this was the real deal.  Fusion is a big idea and this post will leave something out – that’s a given – but here are some important impressions.

There are ten applications and I don’t write fast enough to have copied them all down from Larry’s slide.  For sure there was CRM but also GL, Deal Management, Territory and Talent Management too.

The applications are based on SOA architecture, the UIs have embedded BI.  There are six thousand database tables, 6,500 objects, 20,000 views, 10,000 task flows and the applications are code complete and being tested by customers.

Fusion is based on industry standards like JAVA Fusion middleware which Larry said is the first such deployment.

Fusion applications are scheduled to debut next year and while that is a little disappointing it is entirely in keeping with the purpose of a keynote – forward looking statements right?  Ok.

I saw some demos but as I said in a previous post, I want to see a birth certificate.

Fusion applications are modular and they are designed to be deployed as full replacements for other older Oracle products.  Modularity enables them to also work side by side with existing applications so that there is no need for a wholesale replacement.  There are also new applications that have no analogs with the older product suites so it is good that Fusion and legacy applications can work together.

Like a lot of CRM products coming out these days, the Fusion applications, based on a SOA architecture are intended to operate behind your firewall in a single tenant manner or at some other data center in either single or multi-tenant mode.  This approach neatly straddles the diverse deployment options that some people feel they need today and gives a company like Oracle the flexibility to support all of them with one code set.  This neatly solves the problem of how to convert Oracle’s product set from premise-bound to cloud resident by leaving the decision to the customer.  That’s good, fine even and it does a lot to close the discussion about on-premise vs. on-demand, or does it?

The trouble with running a private cloud is that as soon as I make a modification to the system I might be making the product unique and unsupportable putting me back into the same version conundrum that many hope to avoid.  I need to know more about this.

Interestingly, in no demo did anyone talk about Fusion code or coding beyond Larry’s statement about JAVA.  I suspect that is not because you can’t get into coding some arcane part of your application but I hope coding is infrequent and at a level of abstraction sufficiently removed from the guts of the operation to make it possible to have one version of code for the whole planet.

The Fusion applications, specifically the CRM stuff, are compatible with Oracle’s Social CRM gadgets and widgets and I expect that it will offer fairly robust support for enterprise computing when the applications hit the street.

The UI looks nice.  I don’t know what the technology is that supports it but it has an Adobe Flex look.  Nice job on that – it will give all those Gen Y people coming into sales and other front office disciplines a feeling that they are using something as modern as the games they play on the home computer.

That’s about all I feel qualified to say.  We need to see more but for now it is very good to see Oracle redeeming a promise it made a few years ago when it went on a buying spree in the front office market.