Friday, July 3, 2009

Oracle Fusion 11g Middleware: Executed according to plan

This guest post comes courtesy of Tony Baer’s OnStrategies blog . Tony is a senior analyst at Ovum. His profile is here. You can reach him here.

This week's announcement by Oracle of the rollouts of Fusion Middleware 11g is a bit anticlimactic in that the details are pretty much according to the plan that came out exactly a year ago today. Although the Fusion stack is comprised of multiple parts, internally developed and acquired, the highlight is that it represents the fruition of the BEA acquisition. Oracle had Fusion middleware prior to acquiring BEA, but there’s little question that BEA was the main event. WebLogic filled the donut hole in the middle of the Fusion stack with a server that was far more popular than Oracle Containers for Java EE (OC4J). Singlehandedly, BEA catapulted Oracle Fusion into becoming a major player in middleware.

Oracle largely stuck to the previously announced roadmap for convergence of BEA products, with the only major surprises being in the details. As planned, Oracle incorporated WebLogic as the strategic Java platform, JDeveloper as the primary development environment, dual business process modeling paths, with master data management, data integration, and identity management driven largely by Oracle offerings with some added BEA content.

Although the Oracle Fusion product portfolio came from far more diverse sources than BEA (as Oracle was obviously a more aggressive acquirer), the result is far more unified than anything that BEA ever fielded. Before getting swallowed by Oracle, BEA had multiple portal, development, and integration technologies lacking a common framework. By comparison, Oracle has emphasized a common framework for mashing the pieces together.

That’s rooted in Oracle’s heritage for developing native tools and utilities, dating back to the Oracle Forms 4GL and the various utilities for managing the Oracle database;

It’s an outgrowth of the mentality at Oracle that good is the enemy of best, and that what Oracle is building is a platform rather than discrete products.

the tools were sufficiently native that they typically were confined to Oracle shops. But that approach to native tooling morphed with development of a broader framework that is optimized for Oracle platforms. It’s an outgrowth of the mentality at Oracle that good is the enemy of best, and that what Oracle is building is a platform rather than discrete products.

It’s an approach that also makes Oracle’s tagline of Fusion being standards-based as being more nuanced. Yes, the Fusion products are designed to support Oracle’s “hot pluggable” best of breed strategy to work with other vendors products, but for designing and managing the Fusion environment, Oracle has you surrounded with native tooling if you want them. Call it a subtle pull for encouraging customers to add more Oracle content.

That explains how, 6 – 7 years ago, Oracle began developing what has become the Application Development Framework (ADF) as its own model-view-controller alternative to the Apache Struts framework that it previously used in early versions of the JDeveloper Java tool. That approach has carried through to this day with JDeveloper, which provides a higher level, declarative approach to development that would not fit with traditional Eclipse IDEs. And that approach applies to Oracle Enterprise Manager (EM), which does not necessarily compete with BMC, CA, HP, or IBM Tivoli in application management, but provides the last mile of declarative deployment, monitoring, and performance testing capabilities for the Fusion platform.

Bringing together the Oracle and BEA technologies resulted in some synergies where the value was greater than the sum of its parts. A good example is the pairing of BA’s quasi-real time JRockit JVM with Oracle Coherence data grid, a distributed caching layer for Java objects. In essence, JRockit juices up performance of Coherence, which is used whenever you need higher performance with frequently used objects; conversely, Coherence provides a high end enterprise clustered platform that provides an excellent use case for JRockit.

As noted, while the broad outlines of Fusion 11g are hardly any mystery, there are some interesting departures that occurred along the way. One of the more notable was in BPM where Oracle added another option to its runtime strategy for Oracle BPM Suite.

Make no doubt about it, the Fusion 11g migration was a huge reengineering project, involving nearly 2000 development projects and over 5000 product enhancements. So it’s a shame that Oracle did not take the opportunity of re-architecting its middleware stack by migrating it to microkernel architecture, with OSGi being the most prominent example.

Originally, Oracle BPEL Process Manager was to be the runtime, requiring BPM users to map their process models to BPEL, essentially an XML-based sequential programming language that lacks process semantics. A year later, OMG is putting finishing touches to BPMN 2.0, a process modeling notation that has added support for executable models. And so with release of 11g, Oracle BPM Suite users will gain the option of bypassing BPEL as long as their processes are not that transactionally complex.

Make no doubt about it, the Fusion 11g migration was a huge reengineering project, involving nearly 2000 development projects and over 5000 product enhancements. So it’s a shame that Oracle did not take the opportunity of re-architecting its middleware stack by migrating it to microkernel architecture, with OSGi being the most prominent example. Oracle WebLogic Server is OSGi-based, but the BPM/SOA stack is not. Oracle remains mum as to whether it plans to adopt a microkernel architecture throughout the rest of the Fusion stack.

So why are we all hot and bothered about this? OSGi, or the principle of dynamic, modular microkernels in general, offer the potential to vastly reduce Java’s footprint through deployment of highly compact, servers that contain only the Java modules that are necessary to run. The good news is that this is potentially a highly economic, energy-efficient, space efficient green strategy. The bad news is that it’s not enough for the vendor to adopt a microkernel, as the user has to learn how to selectively and dynamically deploy them.

But as we just noted, OSGi seems to have lost its momentum of late. As we noted, in our Ovum research last year, we believed that OSGi was going to become the de facto standard for Java platforms as IBM and SpringSource fully migrated their stacks, and as rivals were providing at least tacit support. A year later, Oracle’s silence is deafening.

As we noted last week, Oracle’s pending acquisition of Sun adds some interesting dynamics to the plot, as Sun has continued to speak on both sides of its mouth on the topic: supporting OSGi for its open source Glassfish Java platform, while putting its weight behind Project Jigsaw that aims to redefine Java modularity as JSR 294. Unfortunately, announcement of Fusion 11g has not cleared up matters.

This guest post comes courtesy of Tony Baer’s OnStrategies blog. Tony is a senior analyst at Ovum. His profile is here. You can reach him here.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Aster targets mid-market with budget-conscious, massively parallel data warehousing appliance

Big data. Small budget. That’s the message Aster Data Systems is sending with its latest product launch.

Aster, Redwood City, Calif., this week rolled out the first-ever massively parallel (MPP) data warehousing appliance priced at the $50,000 mark. Finding opportunity in the global recession, Aster is aiming to fundamentally change the economics of data warehousing and business intelligence (BI) by providing a compute-rich appliance on a lower-cost architecture that, Aster says, is also cheaper to administrate and operate.

That's a big promise and one that, if it pans out, may indeed ripple through the $20 billion-plus data warehousing industry, of a few hot growth areas in IT. Only about 10 percent of data warehousing deployments are at the high-end, opening a potentially large market for Aster and its supplier brethren to win over on value-oriented offerings in the mid-market.

Should Oracle Be Worried?

Should Netezza and Teradata be scrambling to roll out a lower cost solution to compete with a scrappy Aster? Teradata has been seeing some wins lately – the State of Ohio, Ruby Tuesday, Hunan Telecom and RealNetworks are some of its newest clients. Netazza has also picked up a few new clients, including WIND Telecom, Esselunga, and Telcel. Oracle, of course, is serving much of the Fortune 500. A recent Forrester report put Teradata, Oracle, IBM and Microsoft at the head of the market, with Netezza, Sybase and SAP noted for niche deployments.

Other warehouse solutions are also being driven into the market, by such vendors as Greenplum. [Disclosure: Greenplum is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts]. At the higher end of appliances, Oracle and HP teamed up last year on the Exadata appliance for Oracle warehouse workloads. [Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts]. If the Oracle buy of Sun goes through, we may see other appliance and warehouse packing permutations from Oracle.

For now, Aster is coming out with its lower-cost competitive solution dubbed MapReduce Data Warehouse Appliance – Express Edition. Aster is seeking to level the playing field on the data warehousing entry front, and that message should resonate well with companies that need an entry-level solution that doesn’t compromise on power. Aster – and it won’t be alone -- clearly sees a sweet spot with companies that are value-conscious and growth-minded.

“The Aster MapReduce Data Warehouse Appliance changes the economics of MPP data warehousing appliances by enabling an entry point of $50K for the most compute-rich, analytically-expressive data warehouse appliance on the market,” says Mayank Bawa, CEO of Aster Data. “This contrasts directly with an entry price of $500K for appliances from Teradata, Netezza, and Oracle. With a huge number of data warehouses under one terabyte, this entry pricing now democratizes data warehousing and fast, rich analytics, and brings the power of data within the reach of departments and enterprises, big and small.”

The Big Data Trend

The “Big Data” trend is growing. Although most data warehouses are still under one terabyte, Aster is betting more companies are beginning to see the light on the need for a viable database platform to scale and provide high-speed analysis. MPP data warehouses are often regarded as the most scalable, best analytic performance, highest availability, and most flexible in the data warehousing world. The problem is cost, and complexity of the manpower needed to wring the value from such systems. Many organizations can’t afford a high-end MPP data warehouse or appliances, or find the staff to man them.

Data volumes and complexity continue to explode, and we can expect more as unstructured web data, mobile device data and the need for better BI into dynamic markets to continue to meld into a thorny data management problem. Appliances fit the bill well due to the ability to directly tune the software specifically to the workload (and hardware platform), and further best exploit parallelism and MapReduce approaches.

Throw another monkey wrench into the mix: I expect to see more “data warehouse as a service”-type entries, whereby the entry level moves to the cloud.

Data volumes and complexity continue to explode, and we can expect more as unstructured web data, mobile device data and the need for better BI into dynamic markets to continue to meld into a thorny data management problem.

Remember batch outsourced processing? What’s the difference? Cloud-based warehousing also sets up the ability to mix and match data set joins in the cloud in novel BI extraction and analytics tag-teams. It’s not so far-fetched and could produce a whole new reason to get your data (or subsets or metadata instances) into a/the cloud.

This week, Aster is pushing the on-the-ground deployment envelope with the MapReduce Data Warehouse Appliance Express Edition on general warehouse productivity and applicability. Aster’s secret sauce is its approach to parallelism in the data warehouse, the company says. The way Aster goes at parallelism makes it possible to for the data warehouse to run on commodity-grade hardware, albeit with aforementioned appliance tuning.

The appliance pre-packages the Aster nCluster analytic database software on Dell hardware and gives companies the option to include MicroStrategy’s BI software for up to one terabyte of user data. That's an attractive bundle for the small- to mid-sized business. Aster promises significant improvement in analysis speeds by leveraging a MPP architecture – even for smaller data warehouses.

Aster isn’t leaving large enterprises out of the cost-savings equation, of course. The company also launched Aster MapReduce Data Warehouse Appliance – Enterprise Edition in sizes ranging from one terabyte to one petabyte of data.

(BriefingsDirect contributor Jennifer LeClaire provided editorial assistance and research on this post. She can be reached at and

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Oracle closes in on 'any'-ware with debut of middleware behemoth 11g suites family

After nearly a 20-month gestation period, Oracle today announced the arrival this month of the next generation of its sprawling middleware family, the long-anticipated Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g.

Billed as a "complete, integrated, and hot-pluggable" middleware set of suites, the new software infrastructure offerings, which the Redwood Shores, Calif. computer giant previewed in November 2007, bolsters functionality, integration and business intelligence (BI) benefits across its vast product portfolio, including new capabilities for Oracle SOA Suite, WebLogic Suite, Web Center Suite, and opening debut for Identity Management as a suite.

With the spoils of the BEA acquisition now fully baked into the mix -- and with anticipation for what the pending Sun Microsystems buy brings -- Oracle is well on its way to obviating the middleware moniker. Perhaps we should call it "anyware."

The glaring missing link now, however, is the cloud element of Oracle's destiny. With such a broad infrastructure, data lifecycle, and apps/services development portfolio -- not to mention deep hooks into Oracle's burgeoning business applications offerings -- the only needed outcome to fulfill is the "any" in "anyware." That must include a fluid sourcing, hosting and business model future -- the nearly obvious Oracle Cloud.

Now that it's here, the 11g continental conglomeration must be the gateway for the enveloping 12c, as in "c" for cloud. You don't need to be an oracle to factor that clear and necessary path to the future.

Meanwhile, terrestrial Oracle also announced today that its middleware remains the company's fastest growing business with 90,000 customers worldwide, including 29 of the Dow Jones' top 30, 98 of Fortune's 100 Global, and 10 of the top 10 companies in major industries.

Enhancements across the platform of platforms in the Fusion Middleware 11g include:
  • SOA Suite, a unifying system of human and document-centric processes and an event-driven architecture (EDA) with a complete range of SOA capabilities from development to security and governance. Deployed on the Oracle application grid infrastructure, the SOA underpinnings are optimized for building and integrating services on private and public clouds.

  • WebLogic Suite (including WebLogic Server) adds new features, including Fusion Middleware GridLink for Real Application Clusters and Fusion Middleware Enterprise Grid Messaging. Fusion Middleware ActiveCache also enables rapid scale-out to meet changing user demand and system load.

  • WebCenter Suite provides a broad set of reusable, out-of-the-box WebCenter Services components that can be plugged into any type of portal – intranet, composite application, Web-based community – to enhance social networking and personal productivity.

    • Composer, a declarative, browser-based tool, makes it easy for both end-users and developers to create, share, and personalize applications, portals and social sites.

    • WebCenter Spaces, a new pre-built social networking solution, enables end-user driven, created and managed communities (Group Spaces and Personal Spaces) to increase productivity, communication, and efficiency.

  • Identity Management delivers the first components of a fully integrated Identity Management suite and features deeper integration with other Fusion Middleware solutions, as well as new features such as Deployment Accelerators, Universal Federation Framework, and a modern unified user interface based on Oracle’s Application Development Framework (ADF) Faces.
Fusion Middleware 11g also builds on the previously announced Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g strategic development tools including JDeveloper, Application Development Framework, and TopLink.

One of the key take-aways from 11g is the infusion of BI and analytics across the portfolio. That will also be a key of any cloud-based offerings from Oracle. Comprehensive BI as a service may very well be the killer application of cloud approaches.

Of the still standing middleware field -- IBM, Microsoft, Software AG, Red Hat/JBoss, Progress, TIBCO, SAP and Sybase -- only a few will be both able to get the "anyware" in terms of product breadth and of cloud delivery. [Disclosure: Progress and TIBCO and sponsors of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Oracle has sewn up its field brilliantly via its organic and aquisitions-fueled growth of the past decade. With Sun and its ID management, file system/directory, storage, Solaris community, and speedy silicon, the path to cloud seems inevitable and closer than most thought for Oracle. Incidentally, control of Java is more a strategic weapon than an enabler.

Oracle still needs more total governance (don't we all!), a PaaS play, and a whole lot of globally established and cutting edge, cloud-delivery data centers in place humming along. Oh, and the transition from a licensed to subscription commodity services business models won't be any much easier for Oracle than Microsoft. Has to be done, however.

But, as usual, Oracle will stride like the Rhodes Colossus the build, buy and partner spectrum of opportunity to attain a gobal cloud delivery capability. Nothing but the best will do, of course. Oracle has just about everything else in place, that's abundantly clear.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Oracle adds zest to SQL Developer with standalone data modeling tool, stirs the SQL market pot

Oracle has paved the way for developers to more easily build data models that create and update existing databases. The Oracle SQL Developer Data Modeler, which integrates with Oracle SQL Developer, arrived today as a standalone tool that supports logical, relational, multi-dimensional and data type modeling.

Oracle, Redwood Shores, Calif., had originally released a free version of the tool as an "early adopter" release. The full version is now available for $3,000 per named user. The new tool features multi-layered design and generation capabilities to produce conceptual entity relationship diagrams (ERDs) and transform them to relational models. Users can build, extend and modify a model as well as compare with existing designs.

The whole SQL databases and associated tools and modeling ecosystem is ripe for tumult. My best guess is that Oracle's pending Sun Microsystems purchase will provide offense via MySQL, and the associated community, to target the Microsoft SQL Server franchise.

Oracle can both keep tabs on the MySQL evolution while under-cutting Microsoft. Good work, if you can get it. Oh, and they can attract more middleware sales as they seduce the developers and deeply snare the operations folks.

On the other big future directon, to the cloud, modeling and managing data become the points of the arrow to attacting more sticky data into your cloud. We're ready seeing this in business process modeling as IBM is giving away such tools via BlueWorks. The enticement? To bring more process meta data and rules execution to Big Blue's cloud.

My expectation is that Oracle, HP, IBM, Red Hat, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft will begin to offer more "free" cloud-based enticements to enterprise developers and archirects that 1) hurt their competition whenever possible, and 2) solidify their respective advantages to create long-term cloud customers. Then repeat, extend, and solidify. [Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Remember when free and open source software began to disrupt the staus quo, and the large enterprise vendors could no longer ignore it? They played the same way. IBM, for example, embraced Linux (to hurt Microsoft and also sell more commodity hardware) and Apache web servers (ditto). But IBM did not open source DB2 or WebSphere.

We'll see the same picking and choosing -- tactical and strategic -- of what is "free" or not, cloud-based or not, rationalized on a similar pattern of combined offense and defense. The good news is that the enterprise architects and developers will have more good choices, lowering costs, and be able to play the beheamoths off of one another -- just like with open source.

Perhaps we need to call the cloud thing ... Any Source.

Back to Oracle and its maneuvers in the SQL space ... The capabilities of the new data modeler include:
  • Visual entity relationship modeling, which supports both Barker and Bachman notations so developers can switch between models to suit the audience’s needs or create and save different visual displays

  • Forwarding of engineering ERDs to relational models, transforming all rules and decisions made at the conceptual level to the relational model, where details are further refined and updated

  • Separate relational and physical models that enable users to develop a single relational model for different database versions or different databases.

  • A full spectrum of physical database definitions, supporting physical definitions such as partitions, roles, and tablespaces for specific database versions for multi-database, multi-vendor support
Oracle SQL Developer Data Modeler is generally available today and can be downloaded from the Oracle Technology Network (OTN).