As Published In
Oracle Magazine
May/June 2014

COVER FEATURE

  

Ground Control

By David Baum

 

Oracle Cloud Application Foundation solutions launch your cloud applications.

As cloud computing moves out of the early-adopter phase, organizations are carefully evaluating how to get to the cloud. They are examining standard methods for developing, integrating, deploying, and scaling their cloud applications, and after weighing their choices, they are choosing to develop and deploy cloud applications based on Oracle Cloud Application Foundation, part of Oracle Fusion Middleware.

Oracle WebLogic Server is the flagship software product of Oracle Cloud Application Foundation. Oracle WebLogic Server is optimized to run on Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud, the integrated hardware and software platform for the Oracle Cloud Application Foundation family.

Snapshots


 Reliance Commercial Finance

Industry: Financial services
Headquarters: Mumbai, India
Employees: 2,000
Oracle Products: Oracle Enterprise Manager, Oracle Exadata, Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud, Oracle WebLogic Suite, Oracle Advanced Customer Support Services

 

 VRSG

Industry: IT services/government
Headquarters: St. Gallen, Switzerland
Employees: 270
Oracle Products: Oracle WebLogic Server, Oracle Database, Oracle Exadata Database Machine, Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud, Oracle Real Application Clusters

 

 TUI Travel Accommodation and Destinations

Industry: Travel and leisure
Headquarters: Palma de Mallorca, Spain
Oracle Products: Oracle WebLogic Server, Oracle Coherence, Oracle Database, Oracle Exadata Database Machine, Oracle WebCenter Content, Oracle JDeveloper, Oracle JRockit

 

Many companies, including Reliance Commercial Finance, are adopting this middleware infrastructure to enable private cloud computing and its convenient, on-demand access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources.

“Cloud computing has become an extremely critical design factor for us,” says Shashi Kumar Ravulapaty, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Reliance Commercial Finance. “It’s one of our main focus areas. Oracle Exalogic, especially in combination with Oracle WebLogic, is a perfect fit for rapidly provisioning capacity in a private cloud infrastructure.”

Reliance Commercial Finance provides loans to tens of thousands of customers throughout India. With more than 1,500 employees accessing the company’s core business applications every day, the company was having trouble processing more than 6,000 daily transactions with its legacy infrastructure, especially at the end of each month when hundreds of concurrent users need to access the company’s loan processing and approval applications.

To address these issues, Ravulapaty looked to Oracle and its Oracle Cloud Application Foundation technologies. By consolidating nine servers onto a single Oracle Exalogic platform, Reliance optimized transaction throughput for its core applications and accelerated the overall speed of processing loan transactions by up to 30 percent.

“Previously, after 300 or 400 users were logged in, getting the next session was a challenge,” recalls Ravulapaty. “Oracle Exalogic is built for these kinds of challenges, especially when used in combination with Oracle WebLogic Server. Now we can support 500 concurrent sessions with no trouble—and have tested the system for as many as 5,000 users.”

In addition, Oracle Cloud Application Foundation technologies enable Reliance to save significant time on provisioning and deploying new servers.

The applications on Oracle Exalogic, in particular, are very fast—and simpler to maintain.
Christian Manser,
Head of Operations and Architecture, VRSG

“Business users formerly had to wait at least six weeks to receive a new server and then another two weeks to have it installed,” says Ravulapaty. Now, using cloud functionality from Oracle, they can provision applications in just a few clicks and deploy them in less than a day.

Oracle Cloud Application Foundation enables Reliance to utilize public and private cloud services, anchored by a common middleware infrastructure. “Because Oracle uses open, standards-based middleware technologies, once you standardize on that foundation within your own data center, with your own private cloud, it is easy to integrate public cloud services,” Ravulapaty explains.

For example, Reliance utilizes Oracle CRM On Demand, a public cloud service that is integrated with the company’s core on-premises lending systems and contact center applications. “We have two public cloud services and one on-premises private cloud that work together in an integrated fashion,” Ravulapaty continues. “Having everything based on Oracle Cloud Application Foundation gives us the flexibility to integrate public and private cloud services.”

Ravulapaty touts the inherent efficiency of Reliance’s new IT infrastructure: only two people manage the core information systems that support 2,000 people in 45 locations. What’s the reason for such an efficient operation? According to Ravulapaty, Oracle Exadata, Oracle Exalogic, Oracle WebLogic, and many other parts of the infrastructure can be managed through a common Oracle Enterprise Manager console.

This consolidated perspective has also enabled Reliance to resolve bottlenecks in its business processes, such as critical batch processes that previously took nearly 11 hours to complete. “One key batch process for loan approvals took 652 minutes to run,” Ravulapaty adds. “After we ported our information systems to Oracle engineered systems, it only took 61 minutes.”

Public Foundation

According to Mike Lehmann, vice president of product management at Oracle, while the Oracle Cloud Application Foundation name is relatively new to the Oracle Fusion Middleware family, its fundamental application server, in-memory data grid, and web server technologies have been tested and proven for many years. “Clustering, virtualization, and administrative automation allow organizations to scale their Oracle Cloud Application Foundation–supported applications incrementally and adjust resources to meet business priorities, bolstered by advanced methods for cloud deployment, management, and security,” Lehmann notes.

These cloud capabilities are especially popular among public sector organizations such as VRSG, a nonprofit organization that provides private cloud services to 260 municipal agencies in the German region of eastern Switzerland. Known to Swiss citizens as Verwaltungsrechenzentrum AG St. Gallen, VRSG has developed e-government applications to support taxation, residency management, land use, facilities management, accounting, and other administrative functions for these Swiss municipalities.

Application development, integration, and hosting is VRSG’s main business. Looking to the future, Christian Manser, head of operations and architecture at VRSG, and his colleagues anticipated the need for greater application hosting capacity, particularly for their resident management software application, which includes information about Swiss citizens.

To support these requirements, VRSG decided to modernize its technology stack using Oracle Cloud Application Foundation. First it developed Java Platform, Enterprise Edition (Java EE) applications and migrated them to Oracle WebLogic Server in an Oracle Exalogic application server environment. Then it upgraded its database assets to Oracle Database 11g and installed them on an Oracle Exadata platform.

“We needed a high-performance, multitenant environment that could support numerous agencies and customers,” says Neil Swart, database administrator at VRSG. “We compared Oracle’s hardware and software systems against IBM mainframe and commodity Intel x86 systems. Our tests confirmed that our applications ran best on Oracle Exalogic and Oracle Exadata over an InfiniBand network.”

Oracle Java Cloud Service


Many organizations look to cloud-based development platforms to build and deploy new applications quickly. Using these platforms may save an IT department weeks or even months of development and deployment time. But what if application usage escalates beyond the constraints of the chosen infrastructure? How do you integrate public cloud applications with on-premises applications? Is there any guarantee of cloud-based application performance?

Oracle designed Oracle Java Cloud Service to alleviate these concerns by enabling businesses to take advantage of a proven, standards-based infrastructure for implementing cloud applications, complete with integrated security and database access. Each Oracle Java Cloud Service instance is built using Oracle WebLogic Server and hosted on Oracle Exalogic, an engineered system optimized to run Java applications, Oracle Applications, and other enterprise applications.

As a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment, Oracle Java Cloud Service includes subscription-based pricing; self-service provisioning; and access to reliable, scalable, and elastic cloud environments. Organizations can use Oracle Java Cloud Service to build new Java applications or extend software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications deployed in Oracle Cloud.

“The idea behind Oracle Java Cloud Service is to provide an enterprise-grade platform to develop and deploy business applications in the cloud,” notes Mike Lehmann, vice president of product management at Oracle. “It’s a proven strategy for developing and deploying applications without the cost and complexity of managing the underlying middleware, database software, and infrastructure hardware. By utilizing this cloud service, businesses can maximize productivity, with instant access to cloud environments that support any Java EE application.”

Oracle Java Cloud Service supports popular development frameworks such as Oracle Application Development Framework, Spring, Hibernate, and EclipseLink. It integrates with commonly used integrated development environments (IDEs) including Eclipse, NetBeans, and Oracle JDeveloper. Oracle Java Cloud Service instances are created with just a few clicks, and deployed applications use Oracle Database Cloud Service as their underlying database.

Choosing the best solution, VRSG deployed the new Oracle-based infrastructure at two data centers approximately 10 km apart. VRSG uses Oracle Data Guard to synchronize these mirrored environments in an active/active failover architecture.

“We leverage the complete power of Oracle Exalogic and Oracle Exadata in both locations, with one site for development, training, and acceptance testing and the other for production,” explains Manser. “Both environments can easily be switched from one site to the other.”

The foundation of the VRSG infrastructure is now a private cloud that allows hundreds of agencies to leverage economies of scale while maintaining autonomy in overall governance. By utilizing highly efficient cloud-based applications and services, these organizations are able to focus on their core charter of serving the public.

VRSG’s residency management application and most other e-government applications rely on Oracle Cloud Application Foundation, and the Oracle technology is delivering better performance and manageability. “Performance improved across the board,” adds Manser. “The applications on Oracle Exalogic, in particular, are very fast—and simpler to maintain.”

Cached Foundation

When TUI Travel PLC, one of the world’s leading travel services companies, decided to aggregate all of its customer-facing business applications onto a single application server platform, IT leaders rallied around a common theme: standardization.

“I like to standardize,” says Facundo Rua, head of technology for Activities, Transfers & Experiences at the Hotelbeds division of TUI Travel Accommodation & Destinations (A&D), a sector of TUI Travel PLC. “I don’t want to deal with multiple types of application servers and caching solutions.”

This philosophy of standardization became especially important as the company grew and expanded its operations. Rua realized that using open source application servers at Hotelbeds could be too costly and complex to manage. In addition, the division’s middle-tier database cache could not adequately support web traffic during busy periods, such as holiday weekends.

After a rigorous evaluation process that included analyzing the total cost of ownership of Oracle WebLogic Server 12c versus open source application servers, the Hotelbeds division decided to migrate its entire application ecosystem to Oracle WebLogic Server.

Additionally, TUI Travel opted to replace its open source caching systems with Oracle Coherence 12.1.2, the in-memory data grid of Oracle Cloud Application Foundation. According to Rua, Oracle Coherence significantly outperformed other caching systems during transactional tests prior to implementation.

Hotelbeds’ business operations require the efficient management of large volumes of information. One important business operation involves transferring passengers to and from airports, hotels, and other destinations—a service that TUI Travel A&D provides to travel agencies and tour operators.

“We needed to restructure our transfers product to offer more-efficient door-to-door service,” explains Rua. “Previously we only offered 8,000 transfer routes, but we wanted to expand that number based on GPS coordinates so we could offer virtually limitless door-to-door service. This expansion would support our objective to increase our transfer sales by 100 percent during the current fiscal year.”

Rua and his team created an Oracle Coherence grid to store point-to-point transfer information. “Once we receive GPS coordinates from a customer, we are able to offer the product and selling price to or from that precise location,” explains Rua. “The information is created in Oracle Database and pushed into Oracle Coherence using the Oracle Coherence GoldenGate HotCache feature. Instead of just 8,000 fixed routes, we now can support an infinite number of routes based on any GPS coordinates.”

Buoyed by the success of the Transfers project, Rua and his team decided to use Oracle Coherence to cache information related to its activities and rental car businesses as well.

Next Steps


LEARN more about
 Oracle Cloud Application Foundation
 Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud

 WATCH Getting Started with the Oracle Java Cloud Service

“The results were amazing,” continues Rua. “Previously we could process 400 requests per second at peak load. With Oracle Coherence we can handle 3,000 requests per second or more, and we are seeing response times between 7 and 15 milliseconds. It is a true performance breakthrough.”

Scaling these applications is easier as well: Rua estimates that TUI Travel A&D can support a 50-fold increase in traffic with its Oracle infrastructure. “Without the capacity to support 50 times more traffic and respond to 3,000 or more requests per second, meeting our growth objectives would have been impossible,” he notes. “Standardizing on Oracle WebLogic has simplified our IT environment and allowed us to deploy new applications more quickly. We have been able to provide services that our customers didn’t have before. Being able to provide access to these services in milliseconds has been amazing.”

Concluding Foundation

As organizations implement cloud environments to host critical business workloads, scalability, reliability, availability, and elasticity become more and more important. “It all comes together in Oracle Cloud Application Foundation,” concludes Oracle’s Lehmann. “Hundreds of thousands of customers run their workloads on Oracle Fusion Middleware products, and even if they aren’t yet implementing clouds, Oracle enforces standards that set up customers for successful cloud deployments down the road. That’s how these middleware products will continue to evolve.”


David Baum is a freelance writer who specializes in the intersection of science, technology, and culture.



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