A Perfect Connection

Oracle helps Ciena link critical Agile and Oracle E-Business Suite systems.

by Ann C. Logue, November 2009

Ciena is well into its second decade of providing networking equipment and services to customers with enormous networks: global telecommunications companies, stock exchanges, government agencies, and major research universities. These clients cannot operate without their networks; they rely on Linthicum, Maryland-based Ciena for the programmable hardware and carrier Ethernet that keeps customers’ business components working in sync and generating operational efficiencies.

So the status quo was not an option when Ciena’s IT staff started seeing problems with a custom-built integration connecting Oracle’s Agile product lifecycle management (PLM) applications to Oracle E-Business Suite. Oracle Application Integration Architecture—which provides solutions that help orchestrate the Agile-based business processes across the enterprise applications—offered a potential solution. When James Donley, vice president and CIO at Ciena, investigated this option, however, he found that Oracle didn’t have a prebuilt connection for the design-to-release process that would connect the two applications. Fortunately, Oracle was looking to build one, and Ciena’s unique integration issues made it the perfect candidate for a new program designed to bring enterprise IT challenges closer to Oracle’s developers and integration partners. Although working with this “early adopter” program added time to the project, it saved Ciena money and gave the company extensive access to the Oracle development teams—and to the sort of prebuilt integration the network specialist required.

“We had the luxury of having something broken,” says Donley, a seemingly contrary motivation for Ciena to embrace the program. Yet today, the company can deliver better service to its customers and has lowered IT overhead by leveraging Agile Product Lifecycle Management Integration Pack for Oracle E-Business Suite for Design to Release, the process integration pack (PIP) developed with Ciena’s input.

Holding the Line
Getting enterprise software to work together and applications to communicate effectively over a network is often an enormous challenge. If components come from a variety of firms, IT systems can run the gamut from complicated to cryptic. Even if all components come from the same vendor, differences in versions, customizations, local preferences, and internally developed programs can all throw off operations.

As companies rely on data to make critical decisions, managers need to access information relevant to their job role, as quickly as possible and in a usable format. Simplified integration improves business processes to increase the visibility of accurate enterprise information. But it can also highlight additional integration issues that hinder visibility. If it is discovered that each application speaks a slightly different language, different groups in the organization may label their data differently, making it difficult to synthesize and use enterprise information. “In large organizations, especially those that grew over many years or through acquisitions, this is very painful,” says Joe Barkai, practice director at IDC Manufacturing Insights in Framingham, Massachusetts.

Ciena’s management found itself in exactly that situation. Ciena’s growth is powered by acquisitions and the demands of large telecommunications customers. In fact, the IT group has been known to grow 30 percent quarter over quarter in busy times—but this growth is not predictable or steady. Ciena needed the ability to increase the flexibility of its business processes to improve integration. “When we do an acquisition, we’re looking to get that data cleaned up and in the right place, out of the gate,” Donley says.

But due to Ciena’s mix of products, much of Donley’s effort was focused on keeping the applications running at peak performance. “When we took a look at how much our application development staff was actually supporting the interfaces, stitching these things together, it was easily 10 percent of our time either maintaining integrations or fixing problems from integrations,” says Mark Temple, applications manager at Ciena.

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