Fusion confusion, and anger, for Ellison
Audience smack down
OpenWorld Larry Ellison got testy with customers during his OpenWorld keynote open mic session Wednesday, as he fielded question after question from those confused by Oracle Fusion and angry at paying too much for his software.
Oracle's chief executive verbally took down one delegate for haplessly suggesting money spent on Microsoft Office finds its way into the coffers of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to fight disease and poverty.
And, he told another customer who'd ripped chips from his server just to pay his Oracle license to basically put up and shut up, because things ain't getting cheaper.
All that within an hour of the celebrity CEO being introduced by a genuine celebrity - Billy Joel. "I want to bring up the real star of the show," the baseball-capped Joel told blinking and clapping OpenWorld attendees.
It was all a million miles away from the carefully cultivated PR image of papa Ellison, the doting CEO who on Sunday night eschewed the teleprompt for a clutch of A4 notes and donned reading glasses to recount stories from the early days of Oracle, at the Moscone Centre.
Three days later, though, with Oracle spinning the same messages again and again on Fusion and Application Integration Architecture (AIA) but not giving anything away whatsoever on features or launch dates, delegates wanted some answers.
Only minutes before, Oracle's aggressive chief executive had given audience members the vaguest of product commitments.
Out of a family of more than 300 applications spanning seven suites and with 18 products in middleware, Oracle will during the first half of 2008 - two years after it started talking about Fusion - ship three applications. All are in CRM.
Those applications are called sales prospector, sales references and sales tools, which Ellison described as "business intelligence for the sales person" and - it transpired - were those shown during senior vice president of CRM OnDemand Anthony Lye's demonstration the previous day given, rather suspiciously, minus any name or ship dates.
Biting his lip and "trying to be conservative", Ellison told OpenWorld: "I fantasize about it coming out even earlier in the first half [of 2008]."
There was no word on availability for Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g or JDeveloper 11g.
Those most concerned over the lack of facts appeared to be customers running PeopleSoft, Siebel, or JDE - companies bought by Oracle during its three-year spending spree.
Asked when Oracle will produce Fusion applications for PeopleSoft and specifically PeopleSoft HR, Ellison said the applications Lye had demonstrated would work with PeopleSoft ERP and there were "no new" product dates to announce.
What's the roadmap for the second-generation of Fusion applications? "The first generation of Fusion is coming in 2008. We don't know what the second generation of Fusion is. I'm not sure what you mean," Ellison replied.
Which databases will Fusion support? Turns out, that'll depend on the application and your line of business. If you are in financial services and you use Microsoft's SQL Server, for example, you're shit out of luck. If you're on IBM's DB2, you might be OK - but that depends on whether IBM also buys into Fusion.
"You have to talk about specific applications," Ellison said. "Fusion in financial services supports DB2 and Oracle. We made a decision... We are clearly going to support Oracle. We are going to support IBM. We've asked IBM to put certain security features in DB2 that make it easier to support DB2 and we are in the middle of those negotiations."
So much for the "standards-based, open" SOA architecture we'd heard so much about. Suddenly things aren't looking so open and you're relying on Oracle's stack.
The last Fusion marketing myth centered on the unresolved question of whether Oracle, PeopleSoft, JDE and Siebel will live on or be merged into one Fusion suite combining the best of the best over time. "Will you 'Fusionize' every single application so people still have the choice to stay on Oracle, Sieble or PeopleSoft?"
"We will have a Fusion version for every application," Ellison replied. "So you're moving off these brands?" came the follow up. "No, well yes - by 2025."
To quote Ellison from his Sunday night gig, you couldn't make this up.
Then came licensing. In the wake of Oracle VM this week, "will you reconsider licensing, because with every feature Oracle is becoming expensive"?
The problem, according to Ellison, is not Oracle's per-user or per-processor charging or its fiendishly confusing calculations - it's you, the customer, who's stupid for having lots of little licenses and for not buying in bulk with one license.
"We'd much rather sit down with a customer and agree a company license - use as much as you need. Unlimited License Agreement (ULA) is our preferred license agreement.
"People used to think ULA was the prerogative of large customers. That's not the case. We are doing ULA with medium and smaller customers. Please talk to your Oracle sales person about going away form per processor or per person," Ellison advised.
This would be the ULA Gartner has warned customers over.
And, sorry if you've had to remove CPUs from your server because it's too expensive to use Oracle, as one audience member admitted, because it's too complicated for Oracle to re-work the numbers. "I agree there are certain cases where people swap out the processor," Ellison sympathized. "If you are on a very old machine, that's probably one scenario our licensing policy doesn't consider."
However, change to make everyone in all scenarios happy is "so enormously complex it's impossible to implement".
The lowest point in Ellison's working of the room, though, had to be when the billionaire CEO put one timid speaker in his place, not for not getting Fusion, not for not liking Oracle licensing, and not for disliking the fact he has to gut his server just to keep Larry's BMW-sponsored racing yacht afloat.
It was for "feeling happy" that some of the money he spends on a Microsoft product will help "fight disease" through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
"Let me respond," Ellison said cutting the customer off before moving on. "Bill Gates was very generous. He gave a lot of Microsoft stock to the foundation a long time ago and they sold the stock... If you think, when you buy a copy of Microsoft Office tomorrow, that the money is going to some guy in the Andes you're very much mistaken."
See you at OpenWorld 2008. ®