The show is over, the visitors are on their way home. The process of digesting the announcements, roadmaps and rumors – confirmed or not – can proceed in full swing. What has become of last year’s plans, what are this year’s plans (for next year and beyond) and what has materialized in terms of Oracle’s product portfolio. For everyone, the answers to these questions and the conclusions will be somewhat different – depending on focus, expectations and requirements. However, some conclusions will be shared by most who attended Oracle Open World 2012.
Without a doubt, some of the important themes were and will be: cloud – and at respectable distance – the next generation of database technology (12c) and of engineered systems (Exa… X3-v2), of mobile availability of both standard applications (Fusion Applications and other Oracle Applications products) and custom Portals and applications (through ADF Mobile on iOS and Android)
Facts and Opinions
The Facts may seem the easy part – since these are more or less objective – but as soon as interpretation and clarification enter the fray , the absoluteness of the facts is not assured. For example around availability: is the Oracle Cloud available – or is it not? Fact: some organizations (100s) make use of SaaS offerings. Facts: 10ks of users that applied for access to the Java Cloud after OOW 2011 have still not gained access to it.
The biggest thing by far for Oracle this year (past, present and future) is the Cloud. For several reasons, including competition (defensive) and opportunity (offensive), Oracle wants to be in the cloud as quickly as possible – with a full stack offering. Its USPs will be the completeness of the stack (IaaS, PaaS and SaaS including the Social Platform for the Enterprise) and the ability to move from on premise (Oracle software running locally) to the cloud and back. Where Oracle’s software is involved (PaaS on Database, WebLogic and Fusion Middleware) Oracle may be able to compete on price as well – as the price one charges for software can be quite flexible. Through the SaaS offering, Oracle makes the difference on functionality as well as price – since no one else can offers that same software – Fusion Applications – from their cloud.
One other innovative offering from Oracle: if you want all the benefits of the cloud – pay per use model, no upfront investment, fully managed infrastructure and platform – but you cannot have the data leave your premise, for example because of regulatory reasons – you can have Oracle bring the cloud to you. The exact same offering of the Oracle Cloud, managed by Oracle, running within your firewall on your premise. Given that Oracle has the hardware, the software and the service organization to manage it all, they can easily extend their Cloud offering with this service – but that would not be easy for anyone else who does not have the full stack. Here is a real differentiator for Oracle.
Fusion Applications have 400 customers. 100 will be live by end of October. Of these, a substantial percentage (over 65%) run on the cloud. Note: recent SaaS acquisitions Taleo and RightNow are included in these numbers. Only a small percentage runs through Oracle OnDemand (managed services with bring your own license) and another small but slightly larger segment runs Fusion Applications on premise. Fusion Applications R5 will be made available sometime in October 2012. Integration into Fusion Applications of the Oracle Social Network is one of the main focus areas right now – as is making parts of the data and functionality from Fusion Applications available on tablets and mobile devices. To that end, a REST style API is exposed for the Fusion Applications.
Another major innovation for Fusion Applications is the next generation of User Experience – the improved, simplified look and feel that runs well on both tablet and browser-on-desktop.
Exadata X3 (X3-2 and X3-8) is the new generation Exadata machine. The main focus for this generation is on memory. Up to 26 Tb of memory (largely Flash) can be supported in the machine – allowing for much faster IO operations. It looks like after a few years where the I/O speeds could not keep up with the processor power, we will now see the CPU once again becoming the bottleneck for queries and other serious operations. F40 flash cards are used, with 1.6TB of flash per cell. The version of the Exadata storage server software shipping with the X3 systems will be 18.104.22.168.0, which contains the “flash for all writes” cache. The X3-2 should now also support Oracle Unbreakable Enterprise Linux Kernel. The Exadata machine will be available in an 1/8 rack configuration at $200k. This should bring it well in reach for many smaller businesses.
Database 12c is around the corner, obviously. Many sessions during Oracle Open World – from keynotes and general sessions to technical deep dives and Hands On Labs – described 12c features and themes in detail. However, the availability of the software itself is not expected before the end of the calendar year. The key feature of 12c – touted by Larry Ellison himself – is the notion of the pluggable database: one (root or container) database with all the generic elements of an Oracle Database that encompasses between 1 and 200 pluggable databases. Shared between all databases are the data dictionary, the UNDO area and the administration effort. Private to each pluggable database is the definition of application’s database objects and obviously the data itself. Through the concept of Pluggable Database, operations to for example create, clone or upgrade a database have become a lot easier and very much faster (since these operations only involve the non-generic parts of an Oracle Database). Because the Pluggable Databases are really independent database one the one hand that share a lot of resources on the other, the number of databases that can run on a single piece of hardware is much larger than until now. Clearly through this mechanism Oracle will be able to offer its database cloud service in a much more resource efficient way (multi tenant at the platform level rather than the application level) than otherwise would have been the case. The same thing applies of course to on-premise infrastructure – i.e. the private cloud.
Some interesting comments on 12c in the area of Flashback (from session CON8511): Oracle contemplates making Flashback Data Archives (the Total Recall option) available in every edition (SE, XE, EE) of the database instead of an extra cost option. Also support import/export of flashback data archive, the programmatic construction of the flashback data archive and the support for SQL 2011 Valid Time Temporal Modeling are very interesting messages.
Speaking of data – in addition to Big Data (first brought into the lime light by Oracle at OOW 2011) now Oracle also coins the term Fast Data. Both Big and Fast Data deal with large volumes of data. However, Fast Data is meant to describe cases where near real time conclusions need to be derived from the data – subseconds to a few seconds ‘latency’. Fast Data typically deals with events – small, structured and timestamped packets of data. Complex Event Processing (better indicated as complex processing of simple events) is the technology that does Fast Data (analysis). BigData handles equally large or usually even larger volumes of data that may be quite unstructured – like Tweets – and from which the urgency of deriving results is not as high – minutes or even longer. For signaling trends during a presential debate, Fast Data and CEP are required. For the post debate after the commercial type of analysis, BigData is more what we would be looking for. To surf the wave of Fast Data – Oracle is rebranding the CEP product it has been shipping as part of the EDA Suite (Event Driven Architecture) and as component of the SOA Suite under a new name and as a separate SKU (stand alone unit on the price list; it is to be called OEP – Oracle Event Processor.
Over the last years, Oracle has adopted ADF – Application Development Framework – as the technology for virtually all of its products – turning ADF into Advanced Dog Food as it were. From Fusion Applications to Enterprise Manager and run time tools such as the SOA Composer and the Golden Gate monitor as well as end user frontends including WebCenter Portal – everything is built using ADF. One of the advantages of this approach is that because ADF is embracing HTML 5 and support for tablets (including multi touch and gestures) – as a result all products based on ADF are automatically enabled for tablet usage. Furthermore, application extensions that need to run on mobile devices using native device capabilities and/or in off-line mode, can now be developed using ADF Mobile. An extension of ADF, developer skills and many existing application artifacts can be reused for the creation of ADF Mobile applications. With the release of ADF Mobile imminent, we will quickly see many Oracle products – already based on ADF – with (partly native) mobile extensions running on Android and iOS.
The recent release of ADF Essentials allows organizations to use ADF for design and deployment without license charge – for example on open source stacks such as Linux, Apache Tomcat, MySQL and ADF Essentials (LAMA as opposed to the well known LAMP stack). This may well bring more developers with an all Java/JEE background (i/o an Oracle history) to the ADF framework (if only for the somewhat higher rates that ADF developers can charge because of the higher productivity the framework allows them to achieve).
ADF applications can be deployed on premise as well as on the Oracle Cloud Java Service that runs WebLogic with the ADF libraries pre-installed. This Cloud environment allows JDBC connection to the Oracle Database Cloud.
Apart from the support for Tablet and Mobile devices, the every evolving set of Data Visualizations continues to amaze. Around the corner (probably first half of 2013) are the release of components such as Sunburst (which could be described as a hierarchical pie chart), Time Line, TreeMap and Diagram:
A recurring theme, ever increasing in importance, is the notion of Customization of Business Applications. This applies both to the design time customization that ISVs (product vendors including Oracle itself) can use to easily create editions of their applications that are fine tuned for specific regions, industries or user groups either in the factory or on site as well as to the run time customizations that super users can apply to running applications. Especially the latter category allows users with very little technical background to have substantial and agile influence on the look and feel and the behavior of the application. Oracle continues to evolve this capability – shortly introducing the ability to create and customize business components at run time as well as more tools for managing the meta-data that describes the customizations. Also the ability to customize the business process – steps, logic, decision points – at run time are rapidly evolving. One area of dearly needed customization is around business events: whenever the cloud based SaaS application produces certain events (moves data through certain states), other cloud based or on premise application may need to get notified. The configuration of such cross-cloud notification is an area of customization that is relatively new. The next figure shows the CRM Composer – supporting this type of customization:
Both ADF and WebCenter as well as BPM and SOA Suite have facilities such Composers around customization at run time.
Fusion Middleware 12c has not been announced – nor has its intended release schedule been unveiled. The closest I got to an indication is sometime in 2013, apparently not very long before OOW 2013. The current 11gR1 line is the one used by Fusion Applications – for quite some time to come. There will be a PS6 (??early in 2013??) and a PS7 (??Spring 2013??) that offer quite a bit additional functionality – perhaps some things that were intended for 12c that now are back ported to the 11gR1 line in order to make them earlier available to both external customers as well as to Fusion Applications. Especially for ADF, WebCenter and BPM there are substantial improvements in PS6 and PS7. Note: WebLogic Server is at its final release in the 11g line – release 10.3.6 is the last of its kind, to be supported until 2017. No new development takes place on this EE5 based container. The 12c release – initially published in December 2011 with support for JEE 6 – is where the action is. WLS 12c is the foundation for all FMW 12c components.
Already a star a few years back during JavaOne, REST has finally made it center stage during Oracle Open World. RESTful services – simple, URL and HTTP based services, usually with JSON for the payload rather than XML or a binary format – are important in two main areas. One is the management of the cloud: (almost?) any API published for accessing and manipulating the Oracle Cloud environment from outside the cloud is published as a REST-style service. The second area is Mobile: mobile devices are much better equipped at dealing with JSON based services for data retrieval and the execution of operations than with XML services (verbose, expensive processing). ADF Mobile thrives on such services for example. In addition to the REST ful APIs in Fusion Applications, WebCenter and many other products, support for both publication and consumption of RESTful services is added to APEX and ADF as well as Oracle Service Bus and SOA Suite (in the 12c time frame).
One of the highlights in many of the Fusion Middleware presentations and keynotes this year was BPM – Business Process Management. BPM was acquired by Oracle in 2008 as part of the BEA acquisition. Initially, the 10g release was overly exciting. In spring 2010, the 11g release set BPM on the path to full integration in FMW and leveraging the 11g world of features and infrastructure. Ever since, the evolution has continued fairly rapidly, with last year’s Feature Pack (August 2011) as previous milestone – that was later shipped in PS 5. During this conference, the new elements in PS 6 and beyond were demonstrated. And they are quite stunning.
The free Process Accelerators will serve as ready to use business process implementations, reference implementations and building blocks. Support for Adaptive Case Management (more flexible, agile and user driven process execution) is coming in PS6. The Process Composer will be extended to also support Simulation as well as provide more modeling and collaboration features. Using the new Process Player, processes can be test-ran from the Process Composer- executing only the non-draft activities. The new Web Forms feature makes it possible to create simple forms to collect and present data to the end user executing a human activity in the process. As long as a human task does not need to work with data from other resources (database, web services) but only needs the data already available in the process, a Web Form can be a simple and sufficient user interface. PS 6 will also introduce Instance Revisioning. This allows selected process instances to be migrated to a new version of the Process (and others to continue processing as is). The use of Business Rules will be enhanced and simplified, including easier Rule Testing and Dynamic Binding of Rules in flexible processes. The Business Process Workspace is enriched as well – to show a better process audit trail and easier search for process instances.
Beyond PS6 – PS 7 and later on 12c – BPM keeps on evolving rather rapidly. Integration with Oracle Social Network, enhanced content integration, support for Business Architecture modeling (longer term alternative to Oracle BPA Suite), Mobile Support (and RESTful APIs that can also be used to develop custom user interfaces), dynamic task management, template based CEP pattern detection (business author for event processing), better readable and easier to understand business rules and more process analytics.
Note: on October 16th – AMIS organizes the free Review from Oracle Open World 2012 event – see http://www.amis.nl/event-inschrijving/?event_id=53 for details.
Oracle Ninja on Exdata X3-X2 and X3-8: http://blog.oracle-ninja.com/2012/10/oracle-announces-exadata-x3-2-and-x3-8/
New UX experience on Fusion Applications: https://blogs.oracle.com/VoX/
Oracle Blog Fusion Middleware Strategies Driving Business Innovation – https://blogs.oracle.com/fusionmiddleware/entry/hasan_session and the associated YouTube stream: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=clsKGiBIB9Q
Jan van Zoggel’s blog entries on Oracle Open World – http://jvzoggel.wordpress.com/tag/oracle/