As recently as 2002, Oracle’s
applications pitch was all about the suite: an integrated set of applications
with a single, consistent data model. By contrast, the message at Oracle OpenWorld 2004 was all about integration. Oracle
announced enhancements to E-Business Suite 11i and Application Server 10g that
together create an end-to-end integration infrastructure.

Oracle still believes the
suite approach is best for those companies that can get there. But these
announcements indicate that it realizes not all businesses can migrate their current systems to a single, integrated suite;
and those that can may require years of effort to do so.

“There are very few
companies that can be running just a single application suite,” said Ron Wohl, former Executive Vice President for Applications
Development, in his keynote address. “We have to be as open as possible to
running alongside everybody else in your environment.”

Wohl identified four main integration challenges facing

  1. Integration of applications within an enterprise
  2. Business to business integration
  3. Managing complex business processes that affect
    multiple systems
  4. Monitoring business processes, whether in-house
    or involving trading partners.

Oracle’s integration
includes components that address the above challenges. These
components include Oracle Integration InterConnect,
Oracle Integration B2B, Oracle BPEL Process Manager, and Oracle Business
Activity Monitor.

Oracle Interconnect: Enterprise application integration

acts as an Enterprise Service Bus
(ESB), connecting applications to each other using industry standards for
technology and transport. It uses Oracle Application Server 10g plus over 250
adapters, each of which provides either connectivity or data transformation.

Integrating applications
from different vendors has been costly in the past, for two main reasons:

  • The connectivity and data transformation rules
    were hard-coded in applications, which were highly customized and required
    rewriting (and re-testing) when applications were upgraded; and
  • The interfaces were point-to-point, requiring
    redundant coding.

Oracle’s model reduces cost
and complexity by going to a “hub and spoke” design. Just as airlines
reduce route complexity by having hub airports, Oracle has created a standard
data view. Oracle maps each application view to the standard view. Changes in
one application require only remapping that one “spoke”; other
mappings are unaffected. Oracle calls these mappings, “integration

Further, these mappings are
implemented in a metadata repository, not in code. Updates to the mappings can
be made at the metadata level, instead of time-consuming and error-prone code
rewrites. The repository is searchable interactively and can be discovered by
third-party integration tools.

The adapters fall into
several categories:

Transport Adapters–are low-level, Internet standard protocols such as FTP, HTTP/S, and
email (SMTP).

Messaging Systems Adapters–connect to message queuing and delivery systems such
as Oracle Advanced Queuing, IBM’s WebSphere MQ (formerly MQ Series), and Java Message
Service (JMS).

Database Adapters–enable connections to relational databases like Oracle, Sybase,
Informix, IBM DB2, and Microsoft SQL Server.

Mainframe Adapters–connect to legacy systems such as IBM CICS and IMS.

Application Adapters–map and transform data between the common data view
and specific application views. Among the vendors whose products are supported
are Peoplesoft, SAP, Siebel, JD Edwards and Oracle’s
own E-Business Suite.

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Oracle Integration B2B: Business-to-Business tools

Oracle Integration B2B uses
Oracle InterConnect for connectivity and data
transformation, then adds industry-standard protocols for exchanging data
between trading partners. B2B adapters implement message formats that are
widely used in specific industries. Adapters for UCCnet
and AS/2 are built in, and others can be purchased separately, such as:

  • Healthcare:
    Health Level 7 (HL7) and HIPAA.
  • Government: ebXML, EDI X.12 and EDIFACT
  • Manufacturing: RosettaNet
  • Financial
    Services: Accord, SWIFT

In addition, Oracle
Integration B2B includes wizards for easily provisioning and maintaining B2B
relationships with trading partners. The adapter also includes secure
communication features such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), security
certificates, and digital signatures.

Business Process Execution Language: Orchestrating complex processes

Process Execution Language
(BPEL, pronounced “bipple”)
is an emerging standard for orchestrating Web services both within a company
and among multiple companies. Originated as a merger of Microsoft’s XLANG (used
in its BizTalk Server) and IBM’s Web Services Flow Language (WSFL), it has
since been turned over to the industry group Organization for the
Advancement of Structured Information Standards
(OASIS) and has broad
vendor support.

Oracle’s implementation is
called BPEL
Process Manager
, or BPEL-PM. In Application Server 10gR2, it is integrated
with the JDeveloper 10g development environment.
Using BPEL Designer, BPEL Process Manager’s GUI tool, you can create process
flows that are synchronous or asynchronous, and which include conditional

One unusual feature of BPEL
Process Manager is that it uses native BPEL as its storage format; it doesn’t
translate the BPEL into another “internal” format. As a result,
process flows created with BPEL Designer can be edited with any other
BPEL-compliant tool, or even manually with a text editor. Once edited, the
changes will be reflected in BPEL Designer as well.

Oracle’s BPEL engine is
designed to work with Oracle Application Server 10g, but due to its
standards-based implementation, other J2EE application servers can be used as
well. Release 10gR2 includes support for JBOSS, IBM WebSphere,
and BEA WebLogic.

Business activity monitor: Tying it all together

Oracle’s E-Business Suite
has a business event driven architecture, and the number of events exposed
increases in 11i.10 to over 900. An event is a change in the state of the
business, such as the creation, update or deletion of a document in the system.

Exposing business events is
especially significant because it allows companies to customize their business
processes without customizing the software itself. A typical trap in the past
has been customizing a purchased application, only to have to make those
changes again when upgrading to the next release of the package.

However, in an event driven
architecture, the applications can be extended rather than customized. External
code that responds to defined events can achieve the same results as
previously, but the vendor-supplied software remains “off the shelf”
and straightforward to upgrade.

Business Activity Monitor
(BAM) receives events from any of the Integration pieces–Oracle E-Business
Suite, Oracle InterConnect, Oracle B2B or BPEL
Process Manager. BAM can then aggregate these isolated events into
decision-making information.

BAM can capture simple
events, or combine them into composite events. Various calculations can be
performed on composite events to create metrics and Key Performance Indicators
(KPIs). For example, simple events may be correlated
to each other to create a composite event. Those simple events that have not
yet been matched can be reported as exceptions for investigation and action.

Events and metrics can be turned
into charts using the built-in visualization engine. The results can be
displayed to users in configurable, role-based dashboards that track the KPIs most interesting to each job role. The bar, pie and
radar charts defined in the dashboard always contain the latest picture of the
business activity.

For alerting, two levels of
threshold can be defined for each metric. When thresholds are crossed, alerts
can be sent via any of the Application server’s delivery methods, such as
email, fax and mobile (SMS).

The bottom line

Organizations have three
routes to take to integrate their applications, according to Wohl. “If you’re a medium-sized company, the most
practical and best way to get there might be simply to deploy the various parts
of our E-Business Suite that are appropriate,” he said. For larger
companies, the new integration features in 11i.10 and Application Server 10gR2
enable EAI via InterConnect, data exchange via B2B,
orchestration via BPEL-PM, and monitoring via BAM. And a new product line, the
Oracle Data Hub, enables companies to integrate at the data level, without
using any of Oracle’s process integration at all.