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Phillips: Oracle may support rival databases

Decision is coming on specifics of the "Project Fusion" push to meld acquired products with Oracle software. Photos: Phillips opens OpenWorld

SAN FRANCISCO--Oracle may make a decision as early as March on whether to support multiple databases in its "Project Fusion" release, which will combine acquired products with its own applications.

Charles Phillips, Oracle's co-president, said Monday that its Project Fusion council, a group set up to oversee the integration of products picked up from its purchases of PeopleSoft, Siebel Systems and others, is considering the question.

"It shouldn't take a year to make a decision. Maybe in six to nine months, we'll make a decision on whether to support multiple databases," Phillips said at the Oracle OpenWorld customer conference here. "We're already talking to customers and have been talking to customers, so we have some of that input already."

click to view photos of Charles Phillips

For companies weighing the merits of moving forward with Oracle's fully integrated Project Fusion release, when it makes its debut in 2007, the answer may prove crucial. A number of Oracle's customers use database software from other companies, such as IBM's DB2. That's especially true for those clients Oracle scooped up when it bought rival PeopleSoft and for those it will acquire through its pending merger with Siebel Systems.

Oracle formed the Project Fusion strategy council to solicit and review customer input on the question of support for multiple databases, as well as other areas of concern in the project. Project Fusion is dedicated to melding Oracle's own applications with products picked up in its acquisitions. These also include business software makers Retek, ProfitLogic and J.D. Edwards, which PeopleSoft had bought before it, in turn, was purchased by Oracle. The first Project Fusion components are set for release in 2006, but the major components aren't expected until 2007.

Customers who want to stay on IBM's DB2 will be able to do so until a final decision is reached on Project Fusion, Phillips said.

One Wall Street analyst, who asked not to be named, was skeptical that Oracle would allow multiple databases to be supported in Project Fusion. "I don't think there's any way Oracle will do this. Database accounts for about 80 percent of their revenues," the analyst said.

While it hasn't made a call on databases yet, Oracle did announce on Monday that it plans to enable its , which allows disparate applications to talk to each other.

Oracle is aware of the growing importance of middleware, Phillips said.

"Some people at Oracle feel middleware will surpass the database (in sales)," he said, noting the way applications are being rolled out is having an affect.

Phillips said Oracle will offer lifetime support to those customers unwilling to move off their current applications, such as PeopleSoft, and upgrade to Project Fusion. The software maker had previously told PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards customers that it would discontinue support for those companies' applications after 2013.

"For the last 10 (percent) to 15 percent of customers who may not want to upgrade, this (lifetime support) is important to them," Phillips said. He noted that customers who want lifetime support are generally more interested in receiving bug and security fixes than in upgrades to software.