As Published In
Oracle Magazine
May/June 2007

FEATURE


Journey to the Center of Fusion

By David A. Kelly

Discover how the standards, products, and features of Oracle Fusion Middleware support your service-oriented architecture. 

Oracle Fusion Middleware Regional Director Program


It takes more than technology to make middleware work effectively. That's where the Oracle Fusion Middleware Regional Director Program comes in. This global program identifies and works with independent technologists with objective viewpoints to help improve middleware.

"The program opens a dialogue between Oracle and external experts who can bring in the development community outside of Oracle to work on middleware architecture and the direction of middleware technologies," says Andrew Carr, senior director of product management, Oracle. "We want to build a new level of openness with the developer community."

The program seeks experts across the range of middleware technologies and development communities. These experts talk with their development communities and return feedback to Oracle.

In exchange, Oracle Fusion Middleware regional directors gain inside access to Oracle information, including private discussion forums and technical briefings with the Oracle product managers who are responsible for Oracle Fusion Middleware products. The regional directors also get access to beta programs, free software, and speaking opportunities at events.

Making the pieces of your enterprise infrastructure work together wasn't always easy. Proprietary and best-of-breed systems were cobbled together with proprietary, best-of-breed, and custom in-house middleware solutions. The result of this assembly was often a messy patchwork of applications that didn't always integrate, upgrade, scale, or perform as expected. But there is a middleware solution that turns the middle of your technology stack into the center of your business.

"For years, organizations have had to write a lot of 'glue' code to fit all their different systems and applications together," says Ted Farrell, chief architect and vice president, Oracle. "But now Oracle Fusion Middleware provides a comprehensive end-to-end solution. For example, it has integrated security built into the stack. So rather than having engineers write infrastructure code, a company can let Oracle Fusion Middleware take care of the base platform and services. That allows our customers to focus more on their business problems and their business logic and less on the technology."

Oracle Fusion Middleware is a portfolio of standards-based software products and services as well as an important underpinning for many organizations' migration to service-oriented architecture (SOA) and greater business and IT flexibility and agility. "Organizations are pursuing SOA and business process management to obtain better flexibility and better alignment between business requirements and IT infrastructures," says John R. Rymer, vice president of application development and architecture at Forrester Research. "If you're going to pursue the service-oriented architecture approach, you've got to have the appropriate tools and middleware to allow you to do it. In fact, SOA is probably the biggest factor driving new middleware purchases."

For Oracle customers, Oracle Fusion Middleware may not only be the fastest approach to SOA; with all its built-in services, it might also be the most efficient. "Oracle Fusion Middleware is basically an architectural platform for organizations to build and integrate enterprise applications on top of," says Oracle's Farrell. "It's based on open standards. The core application server is based on J2EE. It has a Web services stack to give you all the capabilities to communicate with and publish Web services running on a variety of platforms. It includes an enterprise service bus, which is how you communicate to the different services. These and other enterprise services enable organizations to build scalable, secure, reliable, and high-performing SOA-based applications."

Secure Custom Solutions

Having an integrated, extensible, end-to-end platform like Oracle Fusion Middleware is especially important when you have more than one job to do, as does Eric Marcoux, a senior consultant for Fujitsu Consulting in Quebec City, Canada, and an Oracle Fusion Middleware regional director.

Like most systems integrators and consultants, Marcoux is driven by his customers' needs. "Oracle offers solutions that help us provide security, integration, Web presence, and greater agility for our customers," says Marcoux. "In the past, we have used Oracle products for specific business needs, but today we're also using Oracle Fusion Middleware to integrate all of a customer's existing software and applications and open that customer up to exchange data with outside partners." 

Snapshots


Fujitsu Consulting

www.fujitsu.com
 Location: Quebec City, Canada
 Annual revenue: US$40.6 billion
 Oracle products: Oracle Database, Apache MyFaces Trinidad (formerly Oracle ADF Faces), Oracle JDeveloper, Oracle Identity Management

Cerner

www.cerner.com
 Location: Kansas City, Missouri
 Industry: High Technology
 Annual revenue: US$1.16 billion
 Oracle products: Oracle Database, Oracle Application Server, Oracle Internet Directory, Oracle Enterprise Manager

U.K. Forestry Commission

www.forestry.gov.uk
 Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
 Industry: High Technology
 Annual revenue: £123 million
 Oracle products: Oracle Database, Oracle Forms, Oracle Reports, Oracle Application Server, Oracle Portal, Oracle JDeveloper, Oracle Spatial, Oracle Partitioning

With so many companies wanting to expand their Web presence and automating their interactions with partners, suppliers, and customers, Marcoux is seeing a greater need for security.

"We're seeing more interest in security from our customers, which is why Oracle Fusion Middleware's Identity Management Suite is a great solution," says Marcoux. Particularly helpful is Oracle's support for the heterogeneous environments and complementary technologies. "What's cool about the product is its broad integration with [a customer's] existing products," he says. "It's very popular with many organizations because security is in such demand."

Marcoux, who has worked with Oracle Fusion Middleware technologies for more than six years, is tremendously excited about Oracle's middleware offering. "Oracle Fusion Middleware is a very different product from the one I started using years ago," says Marcoux. "It's very mature, robust, and easy to use, and it offers a huge range of functionality."

"With the Oracle ADF Faces [now Apache MyFaces Trinidad] framework, it's now possible to build and deliver rich internet applications in a fast and easy way. And by using the latest release of Oracle JDeveloper 10g, which transforms Java into a fourth-generation programming language, developers can be up and running faster," says Marcoux. As an example, Marcoux recalls helping a customer build and deliver a rich Web application in 90 days. "This is something I had never done before using any other technology," he says.

Expanding Capacity and Growth

Organizations are also using middleware and SOA to help them manage dynamic growth. Cerner, a leading healthcare information technology provider based in Kansas City, Missouri, has used Oracle technologies to increase capacity and enable rapid growth for its hosted services.

Over the past few years, Cerner has expanded its market by aggressively pursuing opportunities for providing hosted healthcare applications to local, regional, and national agencies and companies. For example, the scheduling of all healthcare appointments in the U.K. is done through Cerner's hosted services, based on more than 300 instances of Oracle Application Server (a key part of Oracle Fusion Middleware that lets enterprises develop, integrate, and deploy applications and Web services), 2,000 Citrix servers, and 600 Oracle databases. Cerner also uses Oracle Internet Directory, part of Oracle Fusion Middleware, for single sign-on.

With more than 180 customers, including very large organizations such as the U.K. healthcare system, one of the challenges that Cerner faces is ensuring high availability and fast response times. Dennis Avondet, senior technology architect at Cerner, says that one of the company's benchmarks is to ensure that Cerner's customers have "three nines," or 99.9 percent, availability and that the Oracle Application Server response stays within two seconds. To help meet those challenges, Cerner is using Oracle Enterprise Manager in conjunction with Oracle Fusion Middleware. 

Oracle PartnerNetwork and ISVs Support Oracle Fusion Middleware


By Fred Sandsmark

Independent software vendors (ISVs) play a crucial role in the success of Oracle Fusion Middleware by using it to integrate their offerings with Oracle's business applications and to build composite applications and cross-application business processes. To support this role, Oracle is expanding the technical services that are available to Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN) members who use Oracle Fusion Middleware and a service-oriented architecture (SOA) approach to integrate their ISV applications with Oracle Applications. Now Oracle experts around the globe can provide services and documentation, including architecture reviews and integration design reviews. ISV members of OPN can also access best-practices and how-to guides, all related to using Oracle Fusion Middleware as an integration platform.

More support is on the way. "We continue to add resources and programs that help ISVs build strong integrations to our applications," says Doug Kennedy, vice president of Worldwide Alliances and Channels at Oracle. "We've built a 'One-Stop Integration' for ISVs on OPN and are now augmenting this with expanded SOA partner technical services based on Oracle Fusion Middleware."

Some 300 ISVs have initiated or completed integrations to one or more of Oracle's business application families (Oracle E-Business Suite, Oracle's JD Edwards EnterpriseOne, Oracle's JD Edwards World, Oracle's PeopleSoft, and Oracle's Siebel) since the announcement of Oracle's Applications Unlimited initiative in 2006. Dozens of Oracle ISV partners are already using the new Oracle Fusion Middleware resources to integrate their applications.

For example, Acumence has integrated its Manufacturing Business Intelligence application with Oracle E-Business Suite, and Axiom Systems has integrated AXIOSS with Siebel Customer Relationship Management (Siebel CRM). Bottomline has used Oracle Fusion Middleware to enhance its integration with both JD Edwards and Oracle E-Business Suite, and CIPPlanner Corporation has integrated CIPAce with PeopleSoft Financials.

"Using Oracle Fusion Middleware, we quickly and easily migrated our existing application to an SOA," says Hari Padmanabhan, deputy managing director of 3i Infotech. 3i makes PREMIA, an end-to-end solution for insurance organizations. "The [Oracle Fusion Middleware] platform's comprehensive SOA and business process management capabilities enabled us to seamlessly integrate PREMIA software with Oracle E-Business Suite and Siebel CRM to create a comprehensive insurance solution for our customers."

"You need to have the full picture if you run a hosted environment like ours," says Avondet. "That's why we use Oracle Enterprise Manager to manage the systems, our application servers, and more. We can get much more proactive now."

The Oracle technology also helps Cerner effectively manage the growth of its server, database, and application costs. "Oracle Enterprise Manager allows us to maintain the same number of systems engineers working on our systems while we continue to add new clients. We can add systems and be proactive without dedicating additional resources," he says.

Greater Agility and Lower Costs

These days, even government agencies are being asked to deliver greater agility while reducing their costs. Take the scenario of the Forestry Commission in the U.K., which is responsible for managing more than 800,000 hectares (approximately 2 million acres) of forests and woodlands throughout Scotland, England, and Wales.

The Forestry Commission has different divisions with separate administrations in the three regions. Although the commission is split across those borders, it still needs to respond and manage its resources in a unified way. Its in-house-developed applications cover everything from online auctions to forestry grant payment systems for private woodland owners to the harvesting and marketing of timber.

An important consideration for the Forestry Commission, however, is making sure it has the flexibility to modify its applications to address changing regulatory requirements or business needs. To do that, the Forestry Commission uses Oracle Portal as the organization migrates toward a more services-based approach to delivering and updating applications.

"Our main migration effort with our custom applications is moving from Oracle Forms and Reports to using Java and JDeveloper to manage our applications," says Steve McKenzie, systems development manager, Forestry Commission. "We're basically following the same route that Oracle is following to migrate its applications to the Oracle Fusion approach."

Oracle's Farrell says that this approach is what Oracle Fusion Middleware is all about. "With Oracle Fusion Middleware, you can extend what you have without throwing anything away. You can take applications and start exposing functionality in them as services and then, using Oracle Fusion Middleware, wire up new business processes that use those services. On top of that, you can build new Web pages with rich internet technology for users to interact with. You can extend business into new areas without affecting the core business. Later you can revisit the legacy code and decide which pieces should be rebuilt on newer technologies and which ones are fine the way they are."

The benefits of such an approach are important to the Forestry Commission, especially since it must interact with three administrations while still having a single interface for customers. The Forestry Commission estimates that its Oracle Portal-based applications have reduced publishing time by 98 percent and ensured more-accurate information delivery.

"We need to be able to change more quickly than we have done in the past—the business moves more rapidly and you need to adapt your systems to take advantage of those changes," says McKenzie. "Oracle Fusion Middleware has the tools we need to enable us to easily integrate systems and deliver increased ease of use and greater extensibility for our partners in government."

Next Steps


 DISCOVER Oracle Fusion Middleware

 VISIT Oracle Fusion Middleware for Applications

 DOWNLOAD Oracle Application Server 10g

Looking to the Future

For most organizations, middleware and service-oriented architectures are an increasingly important component of their IT strategies. Not only can the right SOA middleware increase IT and business agility and flexibility, but it can increase the reliability, security, and performance of most applications.

Oracle Fusion Middleware also supplies the technology that underpins Oracle Fusion Applications. This provides two benefits, according to Oracle's Farrell: improved interoperability in the stack and a shortened learning curve for engineers. "It's a huge advantage to have this standardized technology suite that's also used by Oracle Fusion Applications," he says.

For most IT organizations, SOA is the future. For Oracle customers, Oracle Fusion Middleware and the Oracle technology stack are a great place to build that future. "Oracle's been very aggressive in adding features to the [Oracle] Fusion Middleware stack that support SOA," says Forrester Research's Rymer. "Oracle is investing in technologies that will help people capitalize on SOA. They see this as the future, and they're going after it." 


David A. Kelly (dkelly@upsideresearch.com) is a business, technology, and travel writer who lives in West Newton, Massachusetts.

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