Monday, 1 September 2008

Wrap-Up of the SOA Partner Community Forum August 2008

Last week I went, as many others, the Oracle Soa Partner Community Forum at Cap Gemini in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

It was an interesting week. Although I must say that for me the most interesting was that I did not hear any significant different than I learned past two weeks. I wrote an article with some follow ups recently about the BEA acquisition of Oracle. The original one is being resyndicated here, what is something that I'm pretty proud of (sorry). So I'm quite pleased that what I stated before is still standing.

But I want to add some conclusions to the story.

There is some discussion about the position of the Oracle ESB. Is it going to be BEA's AL Service Bus? But what about the Oracle SoaSuite ESB? Well, I learned now explicitly that when you search for a standalone ESB, than the Oracle ESB, fka AquaLogic Service Bus (BEA's Service Bus) is promoted. The Oracle ESB is going to be around as a mediator in the SoaSuite 11g. I would certainly take good notice of the pricelists and discuss with your Oracle Sales Rep. Because, I would be curious about the pricing of the ESB's. Probably you would have to pay for the new Oracle ESB, while, if I understood correctly, when you would use the current SoaSuite10g ESB standalone (without BPEL, OWSM, etc.) you get it free. Provided that you have an Enterprise Edition License of Oracle AS 10g. So I would wonder if the SoaSuite Mediator (the former SoaSuite ESB) in 11g will have a separate line on the pricelist.
Since I'm a technical consultant, and the pricing-policies of Oracle (and probably other vendors) is something like "higher-math" don't take my word for it.

AIA and SoaSuite10g/11g
Oracle's Application Integration Architecture was also promoted during the Forum. I think it's a very interesting subject. Also when you can't use a pre-built Process Integration Pack (PIP) the AIA Foundation Pack could provide you a lot of plumbing, like error-handling, that prevents you from having to break your brains on. Unfortunately I don't have experience in implementing a custom integration using AIA Foundation pack , yet. But I would recommend it only if you plan to build a large integration from scratch. If you've done a lot allready with the SoaSuite or you plan to do just some small ESB integrations than it would probably be too expensive or at least take too much time to learn and to put in place. Than you'll be faster with a doing an own implementation. But it mainly depends on your requirements.

One thing I couldn't get asked, although I raised my hands several times, is how AIA is going to embrace SoaSuite 11g. AIA now heavily depends on the capabilities of SoaSuite 10g. I'm curious on how AIA is going to use SCA for example. But there are also several PIP's ready. Migrating them to SoaSuite 11g will gain a lot of knowledge that other SoaSuite 10g customers will be interested in!

Another thing I read between the lines is that SoaSuite 11g is not expected at OpenWorld but somewhere in Fiscal Year 09. That is somewhere between now and may 31st 2009. Together with the fact that AIA is still relying on 10g, I dare to say that SoaSuite 10g will be around for quite a while. Don't be affraid to invest in SoaSuite10g. I think that it is a good, reliable product.

Weblogic Application Server
On Thursday I attended a workshop on Oracle WebLogic 10.3. Unfortunately the labs were mainly about creating some J2EE projects using Weblogic Workshop (which is a packaging of Weblogic addons on Eclipse). Although it was nice, and although I lost time strugling with a VMware image, I was mainly interested in how Weblogic was different from Oracle AS. It was nice to see that, from my perspective, Eclipse and JDeveloper are more or less the same in user-experience and functionally. Eclipse looks nice and I was pleased to have somewhat the same user-experience I have with JDeveloper. Of course this is a matter of taste, some pure-java-adepts might disagree. The thing is that JDeveloper will be Oracles main J2EE development platform. And that's fine with me.

Regarding Weblogic, I haven't been able to see in what way it's better than Oracle's OC4J. Both support the J2EE and in theory they both should support properly designed J2ee-applications. In fact most of the Oracle Soa products are interchangeable, running on both OC4J and Weblogic. So the differences will be in the way reliability, manageability and grid-functionality are implemented. So I was browsing a little through the html-interface. The labs relied on the starting and stopping of the Weblogic J2EE server from Eclipse. More or less like JDeveloper that is shipped with a standalone OC4J container. I was not too enthousiastic about the web-interface. I couldn't find the particular JSP's and Webservices of my deployed applications (I found the EAR's). In fact I ran into a locking problem between Workshop and the Weblogic web interface.
I'm very curious about the Enterprise Manager integration, the starting and stopping and maintenance of the Weblogic Server. But I think I'll wait until Oracle comes with a Universal Installer that installs SoaSuite11g with a WebLogic Server. Beause I think that's the moment it is interesting for customers that are new to Weblogic too. About the same thing more or less counted for BPEL Process Manager in the past.

Oracle Coherence
The last thing I want to remark from the Soa Partner Forum was the presentation of Dave Chappel about Oracle's Data Grid, implemented by Oracle Coherence. I heard the "expanded" presentation on the OGH meeting in De Meern on monday eavening first. To be honest, I took some time to "land" with me. I understood the principles, but I struggled with the consequeses for the implementation of Services (BPEL PM, ESB, Webservices). But it is a very interesting technology. Not at least because it is not only a Data grid but a Compute Grid as well. You can store data (like parse xml-messages) in the grid but also let the Grid perform methods on it. See also the blog of Lucas Jellema on it.

It occurred to me though that it is interesting for pretty specific implementations however. There is quite some custom-building involved. At the moment I think it is primarily interesting when having to do orchestrations with a lot of data enrichment and data-mutation based on business rules using custom services. It would be more interesting in the future when the SoaSuite can be plugged on to Coherence in a way that BPEL PM, ESB and Oracle Rules Engine is using the same data-objects in Coherence. Coherence could be used as a high-available and highly-performant (since in-memory) dehydration store.

All togehter it is a product that you'll going to here a lot more of I ex[ect. Something to watch out for, because it will grow in importance. Especially with an increased integration with the other Oracle products.

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