Oracle E-Business Suite upgrade highlights its Fusion dilemma

A slew of upgrades in E-Business Suite 12.2.4 makes the question of adopting Fusion Applications more difficult, one analyst says

Oracle has pushed out a major update to its E-Business Suite of applications, in a move that underscores the company's challenge of meeting customer needs while also persuading them to adopt its next-generation Fusion cloud software.

E-Business 12.2.4 is now generally available and includes a wide array of enhancements to its many functional modules, tie-ins to some Oracle cloud applications and an overhauled user interface, according to Wednesday's announcement.

For the financial app, Oracle has made approval cycles faster and integrated the software with its Revenue Management Cloud application.

Updates to the procurement modules help workers shop for items more quickly, audit procurement contracts and place complex orders.

Other updates touch on E-Business Suite's order management, manufacturing, enterprise asset management, payroll and training modules.

User-interface improvements include a simpler home page; a universal header that gives access to frequently used functions no matter what page a user is on; and features for touchscreen tablets, such as larger buttons, Oracle said.

Fusion Applications were developed at great cost over a protracted period of time before becoming generally available in 2011.

Since then, Oracle has consistently said customers should adopt Fusion at their own pace, perhaps by trying out a module or two alongside their existing E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, Siebel or J.D. Edwards implementations.

While Fusion Applications can be run on-premises like those products, most customers are going with the cloud deployment model, perhaps due to the complexity of running them in-house.

Oracle has also downplayed the Fusion Applications brand name of late, perhaps to make them appear more unified with the cloud software it gained by acquiring Eloqua, RightNow and other vendors.

There are a few considerations in play as Oracle sales teams and customers juggle all these products, according to Forrester Research vice president and principal analyst Paul Hamerman.

For one thing, Fusion "is not a full functional replacement for EBS," he said. "EBS is a broad suite of on-premise ERP [enterprise-resource-planning] apps that cover manufacturing, asset management and other solutions for product-centric or asset-intensive industries. There are many industry use cases that Fusion wasn't built for as the core apps platform."

While companies in those industries "could use some of the Oracle cloud services around the edges," they would still need E-Business Suite or another core platform, he added.

Meanwhile, "Fusion is a better functional replacement for PeopleSoft and there is significant attrition in that base, moving either to Oracle Cloud or competitor products" such as Workday, Hamerman added.

Overall, the co-existence strategy Oracle has used to date can work, but real-time integration between its cloud and on-premises applications will be needed, he said.

The choice between sticking with E-Business Suite or adopting Fusion Applications becomes thornier as Oracle continues to make significant enhancements to the former, said independent enterprise software analyst China Martens.

"As a customer, why would I embrace Fusion if much of the usability and functionality is now on offer in the latest version of EBS?" she said. "It seems like Oracle needs to do more to lay out very specific scenarios and their benefits to really start to ramp up Fusion adoption."

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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