There are several ways you can get your hands on E-Business Suite. The first, probably under lots of supervision, is while at work. Your workplace may have several instances in place, ranging from test, dev, QA, a mirror of production, and of course, production. The installed database is likely to be created from a fresh install, or an out of the box EBS installation. If not fresh, there is the canned Vision Enterprises (VIS) starter or learning database. Keeping VIS around requires one or more computers, which can be a significant investment, especially if running a split node (two or more) architecture.
A second way to get your hands on EBS is to install it yourself on a home computer. This installation effort either works or it does not. Really, there is more to that statement than meets the eye. If it works, you either installed R12, for example, on a supported platform/environment, such as on a spare(?) Windows 2003 Server Standard Edition R2 machine (yes, you can get server level versions of Windows for free, obviously not for production purposes, just like you can get Oracle software). Another popular OS setup involves some distribution of Linux. Oracle Enterprise Linux (version 4 or 5) is pretty easy to install, but there is some trade off against your home resources.
If you have a single computer, part of your hard drive will be formatted for something other than Windows, and the installation process will grab a significant chunk of free space. How much it should grab can be controlled, so it helps to know ahead of time how much space is consumed by what it takes to lay down the Linux OS and what EBS will use (see the installation guide for exact amounts, but on the order of 160GB or so for everything). If you have an older laptop, it is pretty easy to install a 250GB hard drive, and the data transfer software can be purchased fairly cheap (plus a new external case for the old drive, which you can always use to restore your computer to the point in time before the hardware change).
Once all of that is taken care of, another variation from normal is how your computer boots, specifically, which OS it starts with. Be sure to get your primary OS first on the list because if you have to boot from a remote session (you have several seconds to choose which OS to boot, but you have be in front of the terminal to override the default), you wont be able to get back to that environment. Again, software ranges from free to relatively inexpensive to manage the boot process. If you decide to wipe the Linux or non-Windows OS from your hard drive, be sure to get the master boot record (MBR) reset to be Windows only.
Okay, hassle, I know it. How about a company that gives you free access over the Internet? You are free to do with whatever you can do as the operations user. Plus, you can logon to three or four instances, each at a different release or update. Want to check out the latest (or close to it) version of EBS, or do you need to see what things were like several updates ago? For example, XML Publishers interface (look and feel) in release 12 is a bit different from how it appears in 11.5.9 and 10.
The downside is that any and all work youve done to date will be lost during a refresh. Another is that the modules you see today may not all be there afterwards. Overall, that is a very small price to pay for free Web access. Who provides this service?
Solution Beacon provides this access free of charge. You fill out a short registration form (your name, email address and your CSI), wait a few minutes for a confirmation email (which contains your username and password) and off you go. All in all, not a bad deal, unless you do not have a CSI.
For the later versions of EBS, you can choose to use Suns JRE plug-in instead of Oracle JInitiator. If you elect to use the JRE plug-in, you will be prompted to download a file and install it. Pretty easy to do, and its nice to say good-bye to Oracle JInitiator.
Additionally, Solution Beacon publishes books related to the care and feeding of E-Business Suite. I downloaded (one of the delivery options) a book on 11.5.10 and was very impressed by the thoroughness of how well the book covered so many topics in so few pages. The cheesy picture on the cover of the book I could do without, but whatever. One of the salient features of the book is its detailed description of the technology stack.
I mention this because it helps you understand why the later releases of EBS are using very dated versions of other products, with Forms & Reports being one such example. Given how much goes on internally, you can begin to appreciate the obstacle Oracle faces in software development.
Although you would be passing on the immense fun to be experienced when installing and using EBS on a home computer, being able to use EBS for free (and multiple versions) is an excellent deal, especially given the fact that later releases of EBS include almost every option under the sun as opposed to an older model of installing only what youre licensed for. So, not only can you experiment with the modules youre licensed for, you can also poke around in the ones youre not.