ORACLEWORLD: Integration focus of new Oracle app server

SAN FRANCISCO – Oracle Corp. on Tuesday unveiled a planned major upgrade of its application server that adds integration components to enable enterprises to use the product as a platform for application-to-application, business-to-business, and Web services integration.

Oracle9i Application Release 2 Version 9.0.4 is intended to enable companies to leverage the middle tier as a single hub for integration. For example, an enterprise deploying both PeopleSoft Inc. and Oracle applications and a third-party database can utilize the application server to unify processes across the three disparate products, Oracle said.

“The application server now becomes the hub,” so users do not have to resort to point-to-point integration, said John Magee, Oracle vice-president of application server and tools product marketing, in Redwood Shores, Calif.

New capabilities include a Web-based tool set to manage EAI, B2B, Web services, business process management, and business activity monitoring. This eliminates the need for proprietary programming skills, according to Oracle.

Also featured is support for the J2EE Connector Architecture (JCA) 1.0 specification for integration between application servers and enterprise information systems such as ERP, CRM, and legacy systems.

Web services protocols are supported such as SOAP, UDDI, and WSDL. Specific industry protocols also are backed in the new application server. EDI is supported for document exchange, RosettaNet Inc. for high-technology manufacturing, UCCNet Inc. for retail enterprises, and Health Level 7 for the health care industry.

Oracle Application Server Release 2 Version 9.0.4 is scheduled to ship in the first half of 2003.

Oracle also announced Tuesday that the TD Financial Group is using Oracle9i Application Server and its portal technology to create an IT-focused corporate intranet.

With 40,000 potential users, the portal’s focus is on IT content management, giving employees a single location to do everything from submitting questions to the helpdesk to getting statistical analysis on IT projects, said Adam Thackeray, portal administrator and IT analyst with TDit, in Mississauga, Ont.

The new Oracle system is replacing an older Oracle Web DB solution. Well over 90 per cent of the necessary portal data is stored on one Oracle database, Thackeray said. “It is a lot easier to administer since it is all in one place.”

Senior vice-presidents, who wanted one centralized repository for corporate IT data, drove the 18 month project. A fair bit of time was spent going through the portal’s content deciding what needed to go where. New content had to be added while old content, no longer deemed necessary, had to be deleted. TDit is already an Oracle shop so choosing an Oracle solution was the logical choice, Thackeray said. “We weren’t willing to try a third-party solution which may or may not work,” he said.

Thackeray said he likes the portal’s functionality, performance capabilities, power and third-party support. He also likes the fact the portal is driven from an Oracle database, enabling database functionality (Oracle’s strength) to be passed on to the portal.

In the portal market this close relationship between vendor core competencies and portal strengths is common, said Joshua Walker, research director with Forrester Research Inc., in Cambridge, Mass. Oracle’s portal solution has excellent database functionality, while Microsoft’s is more geared toward document management. The former is not as strong as Microsoft on the front-end while Microsoft is not as strong on the back-end, Walker said,

Warren Shiau, software analyst with IDC Canada in Toronto, said it tends to be easier when there is vendor consistency when installing a portal solution. But this was not the case at TDit.

Even though the solution was kept within the Oracle family, the implementation was not all smooth sailing, Thackeray said.

The migration from the older system to the 9i Application Server driven portal was quite difficult, Thackeray said, especially from the test phase to production. There were numerous bugs and glitches that had to be dealt with during the move. “We didn’t expect the amount of bleeding that we had,” he said. The bugs slowed the migration down dramatically at times since Thackeray had to spend time on the phone with senior Oracle technicians in Canada and the U.S. It created an environment that was “quite strenuous some days.”

Blood, sweat and tears aside, Thackeray was happy with the help Oracle offered during the migration process. If TD Financial Group decides to roll the portal solution out to the entire company, Thackeray said they would “seriously look at Oracle.”

– With files from IDG News Service