Oracle Corp. has announced it will indefinitely support and enhance its J.D. Edwards (JDE) World and EnterpriseOne products -- welcome news to wary System i users regarding the future of the midmarket enterprise resource planning (ERP) software suites.
The news came alongside the rollout of a new release of EnterpriseOne (8.12), which features upgrades to customer relationship management, supply chain management, bid management, human resources, and three new modules for the food and beverage industries, according to Oracle. Core infrastructure has also been amended in XML in an aim to ease customer migration to the Fusion platform, the company's ERP initiative to integrate applications and customers acquired via PeopleSoft Inc., retail software maker Retek Inc., security firm Oblix and others.
For users of JDE software -- mostly System i but also including Windows and Unix shops -- the road of late has been bumpy. In 2003, JDE was acquired by PeopleSoft, and within weeks of completing the transaction, Oracle announced plans to purchase PeopleSoft.
As the future was indeterminate, IT department heads were forced to question the value of their ERP investment -- anxiety perpetuated as product planning was essentially in stasis until Oracle's hostile takeover was finalized in January of 2005. In the form of security patches and general updates and product releases to improve functionality, Oracle then had promised to support PeopleSoft and JDE suites until at least 2013.
That date wasn't much comfort to many business managers who know it can take years to swap applications. Additional worry surrounded moving from JDE to Fusion middleware because it also meant potential overhauls of their OS, database and server platform. The result: trepidation.
"This announcement has everything to do with System i," said Andy Klee, president of Klee Associates Inc. "IBM feels like they've lost something like 1,000 joint customers. For about six to 12 months, there was the uncertainty of iSeries under Fusion, with customers looking seriously at the question of 'what do we do if we love the iSeries, but Fusion doesn't support it in the way that it used to?' "
Such notions of hesitance were not lost on executives who know the repercussions.
"Oracle and IBM, we looked each other deep in the eye, and we said 'hey this is business for both of us here,' " said Mads Toubro, System i global sales and development executive for the Oracle line of products at IBM. "They [users] are looking for no disruption … and we want them to look to us as their vendors -- and not start on another path somewhere else." "Is it strategic to run on System i?" Toubro said. "It's been asked over and over recently. Obviously, there's still the execution left, but this announcement certainly answered that question right in the face."
Clay Ryder, president of Union City, Calif.-based Sageza Group Inc., agreed the announcement was good news for a lot of people, but regarding System i, IBM still has its work cut out.
"For now, it does appear that Oracle has not killed off J.D. Edwards as many speculated it would (and may still at some later point in time)," Ryder wrote via e-mail. "Continuing to grow support in the vertical is a good thing. More [software] support for vertical needs can translate into enhanced sales opportunities for a platform. The bigger trick right now for the "I" is to get sales up and going again post-product refresh."