As Published In
Oracle Magazine
September/October 2009

COVER FEATURE


Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g

By David Baum

Complete. Integrated. Hot-Pluggable. Best-of-Breed. The Foundation for Innovation.

Middleware technology has evolved, from simple programming gateways for linking software applications to comprehensive platforms that govern the creation, deployment, and use of many aspects of our information systems. As IT has diversified, Oracle Fusion Middleware has grown, becoming stronger and richer and offering more solutions—and possibilities—to businesses than ever before. Based on the proven principles and standards of SOA, grid computing, and Enterprise 2.0, Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g is a unified, hot-pluggable foundation for building and deploying modern applications that transform the way businesses operate.

Collect America is a prime example of this transformation. An asset-management company that specializes in the purchase and subsequent liquidation of charged-off credit card debt, Collect America relies on a network of franchises, which handle collections using Collect America’s software systems and work standards.

Collect America previously used a legacy system to target its efforts and manage the debt collection process. The system supported only a linear workflow, with no ability to dynamically alter the liquidation path or support diverse asset types. In search of a better solution, Collect America Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Jennifer Briscoe and her team evaluated commercial asset recovery software packages. They also took a hard look at what it would take to build a custom solution using a SOA.

“During an extensive cost analysis, in which we compared an open source enterprise service bus and BPEL with the Oracle Fusion Middleware family, we determined that it would be cheaper and more effective to deploy Oracle Fusion Middleware,” says Briscoe. “We were looking for innovation, not just automation, and that’s what Oracle provides.”

Collect America is implementing Oracle WebCenter Suite, Oracle Service Bus, Oracle BPEL Process Manager, Oracle JDeveloper, and Oracle Application Development Framework (Oracle ADF), all key components of the Oracle Fusion Middleware family. The company also participated in an Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g beta program to avail itself of Oracle’s most advanced middleware technology.

Briscoe describes the Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g beta testing experience as “a phenomenal partnership” that allowed Collect America to leapfrog ahead with new technical capabilities. “We met with the Oracle ADF product managers every week. Overall it was an unbelievable success and a great testimony to Oracle’s customer support,” she says. Collect America ended up with a stable, cutting-edge platform. The portal-style system includes Web 2.0 features to stimulate collaboration among franchises, such as instant chat technology for exchanging best practices. Collect America also provides statistical information to all franchises so that each can review its performance against stated goals as well as an online payment mechanism.

“We now have a rich user interface that sits atop our service-oriented architecture,” says Briscoe. “Our software platform offers guidance by applying a grading algorithm to each account. It gives our franchisees an edge and helps direct their efforts—something that commercial off-the-shelf packages don’t offer.”

Briscoe divided the two-year development project into seven iterations with tangible deliverables and milestones. Oracle helped the company pull it off—on time and within budget.

“It was a [US]$20 million project, and we were within our estimates by 3 percent,” Briscoe says. “That’s a testament to the strength of Oracle’s integration tools, because we didn’t have to spend a lot of time doing the plumbing. We could focus on the business logic. From Day One, we knew exactly how many hours it would take to build each particular service.”

And because of the maturity of Oracle Service Bus, with its extensive suite of database connectors and adapters, Collect America didn’t have to spend time writing integration code to interface its custom application with nearly 20 outside vendors. “We got most of that functionality right out of the box with Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g,” Briscoe says.

The company further accelerated the development cycle by using many out-of-the-box Oracle ADF widgets. “They have Ajax capabilities built in, which allowed us to create a very rich user interface in a very short period of time. The interface is written entirely in JavaServer Faces and Oracle ADF,” she says.

As the debt-collection system enters full production mode, having a SOA makes it easier to develop new interfaces to franchises and contingent debt providers. “Each company has its own system-integration requirements and reporting requirements,” says Briscoe. “Oracle SOA Suite makes it about 30 percent faster to set up the interfaces.”

Oracle Consulting helped Collect America install the Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g suites in a clustered application server environment. “Application clustering gives us a higher degree of uptime, resilience, and redundancy,” Briscoe says.

In addition, Collect America is in the process of moving all of its software development lifecycle artifacts into Oracle Universal Content Management, including design documents, use cases, and functional specifications. Oracle Fusion Middleware content management offerings span management of Web content, documents, records, images and processes, and information rights. (Also, an attachments framework enables users to attach documents directly to customer, employee, or supplier records.) Collect America also uses the Oracle Identity and Access Management Suite for authentication and authorization.

Ultimately, about 50 in-house franchises will use the Oracle-based debt-collection system, for a total of about 2,500 users, along with 300 to 400 outside franchises. “The initial deployment to two of our franchises went unbelievably well,” Briscoe says. “We had 100 percent uptime throughout our entire alpha phase, which is unheard of.”

Collect America plans to use Oracle WebCenter Suite to enable franchises to customize the look and feel of its online payment module. This will be possible even though it is based on central code on the back end. “Where do they want their logos? What types of text do they want to display? Oracle provides a very simple drag-and-drop interface to customize the portal for each company,” says Briscoe.

Thanks to revenue diversification and increased efficiencies stemming from the new platform, Collect America expects a 1 percent increase in overall revenue. “That’s where the strength of our Oracle platform really comes into play,” Briscoe says.

A Platform for Secure Collaboration 

Oracle Application Integration Architecture Glues It Together


Powered by Oracle Fusion Middleware and built with an open, standards-based foundation, Oracle Application Integration Architecture is an application-independent framework that enables organizations to use the applications of their choice—including Oracle, custom-developed, and third-party applications—in order to create composite business processes unique to their businesses.
 

“Ultimately, it’s all about the business process, whether it’s pay-to-procure, order-to-cash, or other industry-specific processes that our customers want to automate,” says Hasan Rizvi, senior vice president of Oracle Fusion Middleware development. “That’s where Oracle Application Integration Architecture comes in.”
 

Oracle Application Integration Architecture offers prebuilt solutions at the data, process, and user interface level. All Oracle Application Integration Architecture components are designed to work together in a mix-and-match fashion and are built for configurability. Oracle Application Integration Architecture saves time, effort, and cost, compared to building integrations from the ground up, and helps companies realize the value of a SOA at an accelerated pace.
 

“Because Oracle Application Integration Architecture is a solution built on Oracle Fusion Middleware, it brings together domain-specific, workflow-specific process and data models,” says Rizvi, “so that IT organizations can deliver a complete process-level integration solution with minimal effort.”

According to Hasan Rizvi, senior vice president of Oracle Fusion Middleware development, Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g helps organizations respond more nimbly to change; improve insight into business operations; mitigate risk; and better connect with customers, partners, and workers in a collaborative environment. “We have designed the software to enhance interaction among virtual teams and take advantage of social networking constructs—not just for transactional content but for unstructured content as well,” he says.

That’s a perfect description of what motivated the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer to adopt Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g. As an independent organization funded by the federal government to accelerate action on cancer control for all Canadians, the Partnership brings together cancer survivors, patients and families, cancer experts, and government representatives to implement the first pan-Canadian cancer control strategy.

“We are working with individuals and organizations across the country who want to improve the cancer system through a coordinated approach,” says Lee Fairclough, vice president of knowledge management at the Partnership. “To do this, we need to make sure that knowledge is shared effectively and that people have a way to easily connect with others involved in relevant projects and initiatives—especially since so much of our work happens virtually.”

To fulfill its information-management objectives, the Partnership developed a portal called Cancer View Canada. “The public-facing component of Cancer View Canada enables users to find trusted information and local resources, including a comprehensive registry of all clinical trials available in Canada as well as information about support groups,” Fairclough says. “In addition, those working within the Canadian cancer community will benefit from shared tools where they can connect, collaborate, and share cancer knowledge with one another.”

The Partnership built Cancer View Canada with help from Oracle partner Deloitte, a professional services firm. The development team began by compiling existing policy and legislation information into a searchable database using Oracle Universal Content Management. 

Snapshots


Collect America

www.collectamerica.com
 Location: Denver, Colorado
 Industry: Financial services, asset management
 Employees: 200, with 2,500 application users
 Oracle products and services: Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g, Oracle Database, Oracle WebCenter Suite, Oracle JDeveloper, Oracle Application Development Framework, Oracle Identity and Access Management Suite, Oracle Enterprise Content Management Suite, Oracle Data Mining, Oracle Service Bus, Oracle BPEL Process Manager, Oracle Universal Content Management, Oracle Consulting
 

Canadian Partnership Against Cancer

www.partnershipagainstcancer.ca
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Industry: Healthcare, public service
 Employees: 65
 Oracle products: Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g, Oracle Database, Oracle Real Application Clusters, Oracle SOA Suite, Oracle WebCenter Suite, Oracle Identity and Access Management Suite, Oracle Universal Content Management, Oracle Secure Enterprise Search, Oracle WebLogic Server

“We deployed Oracle Universal Content Management as both an online content management repository and a collaboration document repository, in conjunction with Oracle WebCenter Suite,” says Paul Saker, Deloitte technical lead for the Cancer View Canada project. “Portal users access all this information through user interaction components. This is the front door for Oracle WebCenter Suite Spaces 11g, which handles the collaborative aspects of the system.”

The resulting collaboration comes in different sizes and at different times. “Oracle WebCenter Suite supports virtual interactions for large initiatives that involve many organizations in multiple provinces,” says the Partnership’s Fairclough. “[Through Cancer View Canada,] we use Oracle collaboration tools to establish communities and encourage interactions between meetings. This helps people stimulate ideas before they come to events and provides a forum to continue discussions and codevelop documents afterwards.”

Technology has changed collaboration for sites such as the Partnership’s Cancer View Canada, and, in turn, collaboration is driving the technology. According to Jim Murphy, a research director at AMR Research, yesterday’s portals were simply the face you put on your applications, but today portals are deployed to make virtual teams more efficient and enable new types of social networking strategies. “A lot of organizations are using portals not just to aggregate information but to integrate business processes and encourage collaboration,” he says. “They rely on middleware frameworks to enforce SOA standards, and they borrow from Web 2.0 principles to make the user environment more compelling.” Portals typically include a framework of related capabilities to enable personalization, integration, and security, he adds. “It’s all about making it easier for people to find, compile, and share information.”

Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g enables the Partnership to accomplish these goals within a secure enterprise environment that spans portals, process managers, application infrastructure, developer tools, enterprise content management, and business intelligence. (Oracle Fusion Middleware business intelligence offerings span enterprise sources and applications and include integration with Oracle’s Hyperion performance management applications and enhanced integration with Oracle Essbase.)

“Formerly, for example, health professionals had to visit individual Web sites of cancer agencies, governments, or other sources to find information they might need,” says the Partnership’s Fairclough. “Now information has been compiled in easily searchable repositories, and we’re looking to use the rich set of tools to look at innovative ways of keeping them up-to-date.” 

Next Steps


 READ more about Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g

 DOWNLOAD Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g

 EXPLORE the Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g launch center

To achieve these data-capture and alert capabilities, the Partnership’s Cancer View Canada portal infrastructure relies on key components of the Oracle Fusion Middleware family, including Oracle Identity Manager to provision users, Oracle Internet Directory to manage user accounts, and Oracle Access Manager to authorize access to applications and content repositories using a single-sign-on process. All of the user interaction components run on Oracle WebLogic Server in a clustered environment, while metadata content is stored in an Oracle database supported by Oracle Real Application Clusters.

In the future, the Partnership plans to use video and social networking technologies to maximize the Cancer View Canada experience and tailor information to users. “We want to offer a cohesive experience with very similar functionality for all of our different areas,” Fairclough says. “Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g helps us build cohesion without being overly concerned about developing particular connections and interfaces.”

Fairclough acknowledges the technical prowess of the team and the tools they had at their disposal. But she has a different metric for measuring success: reducing the impact of cancer and saving lives.

“Our goal is to improve the quality of life for people living with cancer and to reduce the number of patients dying from cancer—or being diagnosed with it in the first place,” she says. “Cancer View Canada supports this vital mission by giving us a comprehensive view of what exactly is going on in cancer control in Canada. We are changing the way people work and have created a flexible platform for improving cancer control.”

 

An Executive Perspective on Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g

An interview with Thomas Kurian, executive vice president of product development at Oracle

Oracle Magazine: What does Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g offer today’s businesses?
 

Kurian: Today’s middleware environments do much more than merely connect disparate information systems. Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g is designed to help companies move their applications and business processes to an internet-based architecture. Whether you’re a small company, a midsize company, or a large company—and no matter what industry you’re in—every enterprise software system is going through this transformation. Customers need a modern technology platform to run their applications and business processes in an internet environment. That’s what Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g provides.
 

Oracle Magazine: How does Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g support SOA solutions?
 

Kurian: Most organizations have many types of information systems, including mainframe systems, enterprise resource planning [ERP] and customer relationship management [CRM] applications, and custom-developed applications. They struggle with integrating these systems in productive ways. For example, they may want to take an order that came into their CRM system and route it for fulfillment through their supply chain and collect the money for the transaction in their financial system. This entails automating a business process workflow and synchronizing the data between these systems. SOA allows systems to communicate with each other using standards—it makes systems much easier to integrate. Today organizations are using SOA for a variety of needs including Web-enablement of their legacy systems, automating business processes in different parts of their organization, and synchronizing data between two or more systems.
 

Oracle SOA Suite, a component of Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g, allows organizations to connect applications using Web services. It is a unified suite based on standards such as JMS [Java Message Service], all WS [Web services] specifications, service component architecture, Business Process Modeling Notation [BPMN], and BPEL that solves many types of integration problems. Oracle SOA Suite enables organizations to integrate data between systems using ETL [extract, transform, and load]; to allow systems to communicate with others in real time using messaging, routing, transformation, and business rules with an enterprise service bus; to bring together people, systems, and information in complex business processes and human workflow; and to monitor business events and optimize business processes in response to these events. It provides packaged connectors to a large number of enterprise applications and enterprise systems and is the foundation of Oracle Application Integration Architecture.
 

Oracle Magazine: What is Oracle WebCenter Suite?
 

Kurian: Oracle WebCenter Suite is Oracle’s enterprise portal and social computing toolset. Oracle WebCenter Suite 11g provides three important benefits to customers. First, we recognized that Web sites, enterprise portals, and rich internet applications were converging rapidly. In the past, developers had to choose different toolsets and frameworks for each of these, but Oracle WebCenter Suite 11g gives them a powerful drag-and-drop assembly toolset to build all three styles. Second, it provides a browser-based environment to allow users to customize a Web site and to contribute business intelligence reports, task dashboards, documents and rich media, and business applications to it. Third, it provides a rich set of social computing technologies to allow users to share information with other users through a portal.
 

Oracle Magazine: How does Oracle WebCenter Suite 11g accommodate social computing and Web 2.0 technologies?
 

Kurian: Oracle WebCenter Suite 11g lets people use Web 2.0 technologies in conjunction with the information they’re collecting from their enterprise systems— a trend we call Enterprise 2.0. For example, let’s suppose that a sales executive wants to share some information about sales opportunities with the members of his sales team. Instead of e-mailing a business intelligence report with these opportunities that soon become out of date, Oracle WebCenter Suite 11g provides the sales executive with an out-of-the-box team Web site. The sales executive can add team members to the team site and publish the business intelligence report to it. The report can be delivered as an RSS feed so that team members know when new information is published. Recipients can ask questions about that report through an embedded discussion forum, and people can reply by starting a chat session. Useful documents can be tagged and linked from the team site and discussion forums, and shared tasks and events can be used to bring people together. We’ve even made it easy for people to personalize these systems and tailor the experience for groups or communities of users. As a result, Oracle WebCenter Suite 11g brings people, processes, and information together.
 

Oracle Magazine: What does Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g offer developers and independent software vendors [ISVs]?
 

Kurian: Developers and ISVs favor Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g because we integrate all of the components they need in a single technically unified middleware suite—application server, enterprise service bus, business process management, business intelligence, content management, and enterprise portal—in one cohesive environment. We take care of integrating the infrastructure so developers can focus on building applications.
 

We also provide a single unified toolset with visual or drag-and-drop assembly to make developers productive when building applications with the platform. Furthermore, Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g is engineered around popular standards, so the applications work in multivendor environments and can be easily ported as requirements change. All the components of Oracle Fusion Middleware share a common security and identity management layer. This gives you a central place to define users, map them to roles, and manage access control. We’ve also made significant enhancements to Oracle Enterprise Manager to provide a unified way to provision, monitor, diagnose, and manage all of Oracle Fusion Middleware from a single browser-based console. More than 5,000 ISVs and 40,000 system integrators today use Oracle Fusion Middleware—there is a huge amount of interest from them in Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g.
 

Oracle Magazine: What’s new in terms of development tools with Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g?
 

Kurian: We have introduced three new capabilities with Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g. First, we’ve combined all of the aspects of developing applications into a single integrated Oracle JDeveloper environment. Software developers don’t have to keep switching tools to build applications. For example, they can in a single environment design their database schemas, write their Java EE [Java Platform, Enterprise Edition] programs, build an Ajax User Interface, create Web services from their Java EE programs, and model workflows that tie these services together—completely visually and completely based on standards.
 

Second, we’ve also introduced application lifecycle management to allow developers working on projects together to organize tasks such as project management, defect tracking, source control, and dependency management, and to collaborate with each other. Our application lifecycle management system is open so you can plug in your favorite open source technology or third-party products as well.
 

Third, we’ve included a library of about 200 components for developing rich internet applications. These components enable developers to deploy sophisticated user interfaces in JavaScript and Ajax without having to write custom JavaScript code. For example, if you want to combine information from an enterprise application with a contact list that happens to be on Facebook, there’s no programming required. You simply drag and drop these social services into your applications. So it’s very easy to mix traditional applications with social computing and social services.
 

In addition, for developers who want to use Eclipse, we are introducing a brand-new version of Oracle Enterprise Pack for Eclipse with a number of Eclipse add-ins that target Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g.



 

Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g: What’s New?


Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g is a complete, integrated, hot-pluggable, and best-of-breed middleware stack. Here is a look at what’s new in some of the platform’s major components.
 

Oracle SOA Suite 11g. This unified process platform simplifies the design, development, management, and monitoring of business processes and offers a complete range of SOA capabilities from development to security and governance. New features include

 

  • Native service component architecture designer, which improves the productivity of developers who are integrating systems or building composite applications and business processes
  •  

  • Oracle Enterprise Service Bus, which enables integration of business applications with rich graphical tooling for connectivity, routing, and transformation on top of high-speed messaging
  •  

  • Modern business process management, which supports unified human-, system-, and document-centric business processes based on BPMN and BPEL standards
  •  

  • Complex event processing and business activity monitoring, which delivers real-time business visibility via monitoring, filtering, correlation, and analysis of business events
  •  

  • Cross-application, end-to-end instance tracking, which provides out-of-the-box visibility and audit trails across distributed, composite processes and applications
  •  

  • Centralized SOA governance and policy management


Oracle WebLogic Suite 11g. This suite, which includes Oracle WebLogic Server, provides a foundation to integrate and run other Oracle Fusion Middleware services. New features include

 

  • Oracle Fusion Middleware GridLink for Oracle Real Application Clusters, which optimizes integration between database clustering and application server clustering to enable improved availability and performance in clustered architectures 
     

  • Oracle Fusion Middleware Enterprise Grid Messaging, which provides an enterprisewide messaging backbone based on Oracle WebLogic Server Java Message Service 
     

  • Oracle Fusion Middleware ActiveCache, which allows Oracle WebLogic Server to easily and reliably store Web session state in an Oracle Coherence in-memory data grid for greater responsiveness and scalability in Web applications



Oracle WebCenter Suite 11g. This enterprise portal platform enables users to build and manage online business communities that help capture and strengthen relationships between people, processes, applications, and information. New features include

 

  • Oracle WebCenter Suite Spaces, a prebuilt social networking solution that supports end-user communities to increase productivity, communication, and efficiency
  •  

  • Oracle WebCenter Services, which provides a number of social computing services, including tagging, linking, recent activity, RSS, ratings, and activity graphs
  •  

  • Oracle Business Dictionary, a role- specific library of enterprise applications, business intelligence (BI), business processes, enterprise content, and information that can be used by IT and business users to create executive dashboards
  •  

  • Oracle Composer, a declarative, browser-based tool that enables end users and developers to create, share, and personalize applications, portals, and social computing services


Oracle Developer Tools. This collection of tools includes Oracle JDeveloper and Oracle Application Development Framework (Oracle ADF) 11g Release 1, Oracle Enterprise Pack for Eclipse, Oracle TopLink, and more. New features include

 

  • Oracle Metadata Services, which provide customization capabilities to allow applications and processes to be customized at runtime without having to write any code
  •  

  • Oracle ADF desktop integration, which extends an Oracle ADF application to Microsoft Excel to perform bulk data manipulations
  •  

  • Oracle Team Productivity Center, which brings application lifecycle management tools to Oracle JDeveloper
  •  

  • Open application lifecycle management, which allows developers to bring together a variety of technologies to manage the development process across the application lifecycle


Oracle Content Management 11g. This complete enterprise content management platform spans management of Web content, documents, records, images and processes, and information rights. New features include

 

  • Open Web content management, which enables Web developers to embed content for viewing and updating in context directly into Web-based applications with just two tags
  •  

  • An attachments framework that enables enterprise application users to attach documents directly to customer, employee, or supplier records
  •  

  • Oracle Imaging and Process Management, which leverages Oracle BPEL Process Manager and the Oracle Universal Content Management repository
  •  

  • Desktop integrations that promote usability and include Microsoft Office integrations, use of productivity nodes, and metadata pop-ups in Windows Explorer
  •  

  • Oracle Distributed Document Capture, which supports single sign-on and multiple provisioning directories and is fully translated and accessible


Oracle Identity Management 11g. This fully integrated identity management suite delivers single sign-on and access management for all Oracle Fusion Middleware products. (See “Oracle Identity Management 11g—Innovations in User Management.”)
 

Oracle Fusion Middleware business intelligence solutions. Comprehensive enterprise BI tools deliver a full range of analysis and reporting capabilities for data that spans enterprise sources and applications. Some of these features include

 

  • Integration with Oracle Essbase, which brings multidimensional online analytical processing analysis to Oracle’s BI tools
  •  

  • Integration with Oracle Enterprise Performance Management Workspace, which provides users with a single point of entry, single sign-on, and common navigation across Oracle performance management applications, BI applications, and BI tools


 


David Baum ( david@dbaumcomm.com ) is a freelance business writer based in Santa Barbara, California.

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