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Oracle has commitment issues over Fusion

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OpenWorld A week, former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson is famed for having said, is a long time in politics.

If that's true of politics where destinies turn on a sixpence (or dime), then what does that make a year in application development, where deadlines determine success or failure, and where - so marketing drones keep telling us - business is being done at the speed of the internet?

Oracle, no slouch when it comes to evangelizing the transformative effects its SOA can have on customers' business, on Tuesday recommitted itself to not providing anything approximating a release date for any of its vast array of Fusion-branded development tools, middleware, and applications beyond saying sometime in 2008.

The analysts might know what's really happening, but as executive vice president of development Chuck Rozwat helpfully explained, they are not at liberty to comment as they signed non disclosure agreements (NDAs) in exchange for being briefed by Oracle.

There is one date to be had: Oracle cleared up any possible confusion over what it means when it says "the holidays". The holidays on Oracle's campus means Christmas, not US Thanksgiving, which is next week. Which is a nice gesture towards the Europeans, but - frankly - a little odd given Oracle is a US company.

Senior vice president of server technologies Thomas Kurian said Tuesday the developer preview edition of Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g will be made available in the "middle" of December. The day before Kurian told OpenWorld its middleware and tools preview pack would hit its Technology Network (OTN) "before the holiday season".

Otherwise, it's a case of "calendar 2008" for Fusion Middleware and JDeveloper 11g, and "the first modules" of Oracle's Fusion applications Kurian and Rozwat told press and analysts at OpenWorld.

Which modules from the amorphous project that is Fusion? Oracle wouldn't say. Is Fusion now delayed, with Oracle scrambling to deliver only what it can in 2008 with the rest coming later in the wake of last month's surprise departure of John Wookey, the executive who'd been heading Fusion application development?

No, according to Rozwat, who said Oracle always planned to deliver parts of Fusion in 2008 and that plan is still on track. That contradicts what his boss, Oracle president Charles Phillips, told a "half-way to Fusion" jamboree nearly two years ago.

Complicating the picture further is the ambitious decision to merge many features across the 11g and Fusion middleware and application family.

There are now so many integration points and promises - especially around the (gulp) "mashups" between its software demonstrated at OpenWorld - it seems everything is now moving on all fronts at the same speed... slowly.

It's the position Microsoft found itself in a few years back with Windows Longhorn. That, too, was to be integrated with other yet-to-ship planned new products, such as the next edition of SQL Server.

It's refreshing that Oracle, who's long been competing with Microsoft in the areas of email, business applications and databases, has found a new area to spar with its rival, having bested Microsoft's "sometime in six months" shipping window by committing to the dates of between 1 January and 31 December. ®

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