Cooperation between Oracle developers and partners embeds customer value into Oracle Validated Integrations.
by Alison Weiss
Change is the enemy of the IT professional. Anyone who manages enterprise systems knows any significant shift in a corporate computing platform—whether adding functionality, establishing new integrations, or upgrading an application—has the potential to be (at best) complicated or (at worst) disruptive.
But modern business demands continuous improvement and the ability to adjust with the market. Enterprise systems need to evolve, flex, and expand as business demands. Often this means adding purpose-built solutions created by Oracle partners. Fortunately, the Oracle Validated Integration program available through Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN) has a proven record of testing and promoting solutions that complement existing Oracle systems.
With hundreds of validated integrations spanning more than 16 Oracle products, customers can be confident that partner solutions that have earned Oracle Validated Integration status have been tested to work with Oracle Applications such as Oracle E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, and Siebel solutions, and Oracle Fusion Applications—and that the products work together as designed.
While Oracle Applications are always created with the best technology to support the broadest set of customers, Oracle management understands that no solution will meet every need of every customer. According to David Beschta, senior director of the Worldwide Alliances and Channels group at Oracle, third-party solutions can help address these needs.
Complementary partner solutions help extend the functionality of Oracle systems and support specializations in niche markets. Through the Oracle Validated Integration program, the integration between a partner solution and an Oracle product is thoroughly documented, evaluated, and tested by the partners and Oracle experts. “Customers ultimately have more confidence working with these partners,” Beschta says.
Increasingly, IT staff will need to manage cloud and non-cloud IT resources in the same environment, so third-party applications must be reliable and well integrated. A recent report from International Data Corporation, Worldwide Cloud Systems Management Software 2010–2015 Forecast and Trends, predicts that the worldwide cloud systems management software market will grow to US$2.5 billion by 2015.
“Oracle Applications often have been deployed in heterogeneous environments, but mission-critical hybrid cloud environments demand even more consistency and reliability,” says Susan Wu, group manager of Oracle Enterprise Manager. “With Oracle Validated Integration, we take the extra step to confirm interoperability, helping customers evolve their businesses into cloud-based infrastructures.”
Oracle product managers from a spectrum of product areas contribute to the Oracle Validated Integration program. Manuel Neyra, business development director for JD Edwards at Oracle, actively promotes the program around the globe.
“When we learn about a solution that is focused on key industries where a JD Edwards solution offers value to our install base, we tell the partner that we can help them get more visibility and better returns for the solution with Oracle Validated Integration,” says Neyra. “If they achieve Oracle Validated Integration on the latest release of JD Edwards, they can get more leads, and the Oracle sales team and customers will be more aware of their solution.”
Indeed, increasing sales and visibility are key benefits for any validated Oracle partner. But earning the designation takes commitment. Although the process may be slightly different from application to application, partners generally commit to a six-to-eight-week process that involves three steps: enablement, documentation, and demonstration.
The enablement step begins when partners join OPN at the Gold level and connect with the Oracle Validated Integration Knowledge Zone, a knowledgebase of resources that assist partners looking to achieve Oracle Validated Integration status. “From the start, meeting program-related criteria is important,” says Beschta. “We want to ensure that the partner is aligned with the broader OPN programs.”
In his support of the program, Neyra focuses his efforts on educating partners about integration best practices and getting them experience with Oracle development and integration tools. Mastering these elements reduces the burden, typically carried by the customer, of ensuring that a solution integrates smoothly with the enterprise.
Enablement can also mean insight into the Oracle development process. For example, prior to the spring 2012 release of JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 9.1 and JD Edwards World A9.3, the product team allowed Oracle Validated Integration partners special access to beta releases. “We wanted to make sure partners used the newest best practices and tools when updating their solutions to our latest releases,” says Neyra. “Their complementary solutions can take advantage of all the new features and functions delivered in the latest JD Edwards releases and help customers protect their investment in JD Edwards.”
The next step in the Oracle Validated Integration process is to complete documentation that ensures solution quality and accountability. Oracle Validated Integration partners must complete a set of technical templates that define the technical and functional aspects of the integration. The templates contain an extensive questionnaire, addressing how the solution was built and detailing the technology it uses.
With JD Edwards, partner developers must disclose if their solutions were built using the Application Toolset feature of JD Edwards Application Tools, the native architecture used by the Oracle JD Edwards development team to build the JD Edwards system. “If partners use this same toolset to build their solutions, a complementary solution will look, feel, and act like a JD Edwards application and provide a consistent end-user experience,” says Neyra.
The documentation phase also requires a test plan that details test or use cases that outline the business flows supported by the solution based on a partner’s experiences with customers.
Before moving forward, Oracle’s validation team reviews the documentation to ensure compliance with guidelines provided by product managers for each product. For JD Edwards solutions, Neyra and his colleagues do not go as far as to review code, but they will, for example, ask partners to provide a listing of objects to make sure the partner has followed naming conventions. The goal is to ensure that partners follow best practices to minimize the impact on a customer’s total cost of ownership.
The third step in the Oracle Validated Integration process requires partners to prove that their solution works with the complementary Oracle product as designed and documented. According to Beschta, this phase is handled remotely with a group of test consultants who review the partner test plans. “It’s basically a test execution of the solution to ensure that it works as the partner claims,” says Neyra. “If we see something out of the ordinary with the user interface, we’ll point it out or we may ask the partner, ‘Why did you do it this way?’ Then we’ll suggest that they may want to consider a new feature we just introduced in the latest release that they’re validating against and write or code a portion of the solution in a more optimal way.”
Expected growth of worldwide cloud systems management software market between 2010 and 2015 (Source: Worldwide Cloud Systems Management Software 2010-2015 Forecast and Trends)
Ultimately, if a partner has truly adopted Oracle best practices, the third-party integration should be so seamlessly integrated that it’s transparent to users. Neyra reports that his goal is to have complementary solutions that provide a consistent user experience and intuitive transition from Oracle applications to a partner complementary solution.
For Neyra and other product managers, the validation process is really about making sure the partner solution not only does what the partner documents, but also is built in a way that doesn’t raise the total cost of ownership for the customer. The key with programs like Oracle Validated Integration is to reduce integration costs when a solution is first implemented and over time when customers upgrade to Oracle’s latest releases.
The stated benefits of Oracle Validated Integration status include the right to display the program logo and create a solution data sheet to clearly substantiate an integrated solution’s value to Oracle customers. Partners can also issue an Oracle Validated Integration press release for wide distribution.
But Neyra reports additional benefits for partners. For example, partners establish a new level of cooperation and visibility with Oracle, and the solutions achieve greater awareness among Oracle sales teams. Also, by validating solutions against the latest product releases, partners stay abreast of developments and can target new opportunities to create additional solutions. “Partners have told me that the Oracle Validated Integration process gives them insight into how Oracle is building applications,” Neyra says. “Partners learn things they didn’t know before and can adopt them into development practices going forward.”
JD Edwards partners have a significant opportunity with the newest JD Edwards releases, which include new mobile applications built with Oracle Application Development Framework. Partners can now consider ways to extend the mobile applications or invest in creating additional mobile applications.
Those who work with Oracle partners believe demand for Oracle Validated Integration participation will continue to grow as 2012 progresses and partners continue to innovate and build complementary solutions that help customers solve business problems—with less risk. “It’s definitely a win for customers,” concludes Beschta. “Because they can have confidence that when they select a partner solution with Oracle Validated Integration, Oracle has done its best to ensure that the integrated solution is sound technically and functionally.”
Alison Weiss is a frequent contributor to Profit.
More and more independent software vendors (ISVs) take advantage of the Oracle Exastack program to rapidly build and deliver faster, more reliable applications. Since its introduction less than a year ago, hundreds of partners have joined the Oracle Exastack program and achieved designations. This rapid adoption is a testament to the importance and value both partners and Oracle place on these kinds of enablement resources.
Similar to the successful and long-standing Oracle Validated Integration program, the Oracle Exastack program has two levels: Oracle Exastack Ready and Oracle Exastack Optimized. To achieve Oracle Exastack Ready status, ISVs and other qualifying members of Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN) must demonstrate that they have tested and support their applications on the latest major release of Oracle Exadata, Oracle Exalogic, or their component products, including Oracle Database, Oracle WebLogic Server, Oracle Solaris, Oracle Linux, and Oracle VM. These products are unique in that they give partners a low-cost and high-performance infrastructure for database and application workloads across on-premises and cloud-based environments.
OPN members who have achieved the Oracle Exastack Optimized designation have tested and tuned their applications to deliver optimal performance, scalability, and reliability on Oracle Exadata Database Machine or Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud. Oracle Exastack Optimized also gives partners access to Oracle performance experts and Oracle labs around the globe to tune and test applications. The results are then reviewed and approved by Oracle experts.
“Partners are very excited about the Oracle Exastack program, and a lot of it is being driven by customers,” says Mary Hadinger, senior director of ISV programs and strategy and Oracle Exastack program manager at Oracle. “The beauty of this program is that it is dedicated to helping partners test, tune, and optimize their applications on Oracle’s latest technologies. This allows ISVs to deliver maximum performance and reliability, which in turn accelerates innovation and equips them to deliver superior value to customers.”
Partners interested in achieving Oracle Exastack Ready or Oracle Exastack Optimized status must be Gold-level members in OPN. According to Hadinger, partners with applications on the latest major releases can apply online for Oracle Exastack Ready status in about 10 minutes. Partners wanting to test and optimize their applications in an Oracle Exastack lab can expect to commit four to six weeks to earning Oracle Exastack Optimized status. More information about the program is available at bit.ly/AmJxPn.