Consolidation: The Road to Exalogic and Exadata

By Khusro Khalid

Part of the Oracle Experiences in Enterprise Architecture article series

Published August 2011

"We couldn't have made as clear a business case without the Oracle Consulting teams, including the Oracle Enterprise Architecture development program, Oracle Advanced Customer Services, and the Oracle Insight program. They determined what we had and how to reframe it in our new reference architecture." – Chris Brewer, Vice President of Platform Technologies, PHH

Enterprise architecture can play a crucial role in helping organizations to consolidate and standardize their IT infrastructure and to eliminate the technology silos that they have amassed over the years. But developing a new architecture is different from developing a new application or information system. In addition to implementing the technical requirements, you must devise a set of guidelines and establish IT principles that pertain to all information systems, business processes, applications and data constructs across the enterprise.

This is a crucial time for enterprise architecture since it considers how the business is changing, what the future state architecture will look like and how to align specific technology strategies with the high-level business objectives of senior management.

Oracle's work at PHH is a case in point. PHH delivers business solutions to its clients through two subsidiaries: PHH Mortgage, which provides private-label mortgage solutions to financial institutions and other companies, and PHH Arval, which provides fleet management services to corporate clients and government agencies.

PHH has been enormously successful in these areas, with an overriding business strategy that has positioned the company for success in both areas. But where IT is concerned, each division grew up autonomously. As CIO Jeff Bell eyed the future, he knew that PHH would be best served by consolidating the information systems from these two divisions into a shared services environment that spanned the entire enterprise.

There were three phases to the project:

  1. Establish a Common Technology Platform-a flexible IT environment that can accommodate rapid changes in the business environment
  2. Consolidate existing applications and databases and devise a master data management (MDM) strategy
  3. Deploy new business applications, with an initial focus on finance and HR, then gradually accommodating CRM, business intelligence, and other domains.

Architectural Decisions

PHH engaged the Oracle Enterprise Architecture team to provide high-level guidance to realize this vision. In conjunction with internal enterprise architects, they spent about four weeks building a practical roadmap linking the high-level business strategy to the desired future state architecture. These activities were structured and facilitated by the Oracle Architecture Development Process (OADP). The EA team sought to leverage the current architecture as much as possible to mitigate risk, reduce costs, and meet the project schedule. One of the most critical artifacts developed during this engagement was a holistic roadmap that defined a variety of intermediate milestones and assessed the organizational impact of this transformative endeavor.

The objective when defining a current state architecture is to discover the customer's key requirements and then assess their ability to meet their stated business objectives. During this phase, EAs typically develop a set of recommendations based on four primary inputs:

  • Business Objectives and Strategies
  • Architecture Principles
  • Current State Analysis
  • Reference Models and Architectures

The next step is to create a strategic roadmap that structures the development effort going forward. For PHH, this meant directing IT pros as they broke down the Common Technology Platform into multiple work streams: Hardware Infrastructure, Database, BI, Data Warehouse, SOA, Systems Management, Security, Enterprise 2.0, Sybase Migration, and Mainframe Modernization.

Technology Selection

Once these work streams had been defined, the focus of the engagement shifted from strategic IT alignment to tactical project enablement. For example, the main business driver for the Hardware Infrastructure work stream was to consolidate equipment and reduce costs. PHH had so much legacy hardware that they were running out of space in the data center. They determined that consolidating their databases, infrastructure and applications into Oracle's pre-engineered database and middleware platforms-Exadata and Exalogic-would greatly simplify the data center topology and hardware footprint. However, selecting Exalogic and Exadata was never a given-nor was any Oracle technology, for that matter. The Oracle EA team discussed general needs apart from any particular vendor solutions before getting down to the level of specific products and technologies. If an existing technology was working well, the enterprise architects helped them figure out how to integrate that technology with the future state architecture.

Business Drivers

PHH used the Oracle Enterprise Architecture Framework to help define a business architecture, technical architecture, information architecture, and application architecture. For example, the Mortgage Services division wanted to establish a new technology platform for simplifying and accelerating mortgage processing. First the EAs examined all of the applications that currently support these efforts-some packaged and some home-grown-to create a consolidated information model of the enterprise. Then they established the technical platform, with attention to the optimal database servers, application servers, storage environment, and so forth. This effort ultimately led to discussions about Exalogic and Exadata.

The framework is currently being used to help guide decisions for each technical work stream. For the database work stream, PHH decided to convert several Sybase databases to Oracle databases and consolidate more than a dozen stand-alone databases onto the their new Exadata platform. This consolidation simplifies management and strengthens security by encouraging common skill sets and enforcing repeatable administrative processes. In particular, it aligns with the overall shared services model. Oracle helped PHH conduct detailed cost justification studies to compare the differences in datacenter space, energy costs, software licenses, etc., making a compelling business case for this consolidated database footprint.

Evolving Role of EA

Today the EA effort has matured considerably. PHH now has a governance model that requires an internal enterprise architect to participate at the inception of each project and have a say in how to proceed. These enterprise architects are gaining greater recognition to help guide the business as well as to hold line-of-business managers accountable to corporate strategy and business value. Previously they mainly got involved once a project reached the design stage, but now they are involved in the early decisions, so they have a say in how to best fulfill the business requirements. EAs guide managers based on their knowledge of the technology stack, architectural roadmaps, and other artifacts.

"The Oracle Enterprise Architecture engagement helped to reassure us that we were in line with what the overall industry was moving towards with enterprise architecture," says Nathan Smith, Director of Enterprise Architecture and Chief Architect for PHH Corporation. "EA is now a prerequisite for all of our transformation issues. It drives the overall governance, helps build the road map and assures alignment between business and IT. Oracle has been our EA mentor and facilitator. They have been very informative to help us make sure that our tactical decisions are aligned with the overall reference architecture and future state architecture."

For additional information about PHH and their Exadata and Exalogic product implementation, see:

Khusro Khalid is a Director of Enterprise Architecture at Oracle Corporation.