Oracle keeps aggressive pace with new app server

The linchpin to Oracle's Fusion middleware, Oracle Application Server 10g Release 3 features advanced SOA capabilities, a new rules engine, and tighter integration.

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At Oracle OpenWorld today in San Francisco, Oracle Corp. advanced its service-oriented architecture (SOA) middleware platform with the introduction of Oracle Application Server 10g Release 3, a key component of the Oracle Fusion middleware, and the technology foundation for the company's Project Fusion initiative for next-generation technologies, applications and services.

Coming on the heels of Oracle Application Server 10g Release 2, which became generally available in July, Release 3 offers tighter integration and adds a new rules engine, advanced security and support for SAML 1.0 and 2.0, a more robust enterprise service bus (ESB), enhanced interoperability and open source support, and integration of Oracle Web Services Manager with Oracle BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) Process Manager.

Enhancements to Oracle JDeveloper and Oracle Application Developer Framework include support for Java 5.0 and Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) 1.4; JavaServer Faces (JSF) and Struts-based development; and Enterprise Java Beans (EJB) 3.0.

Release 3 supports WS-I compliance and standards such as WS-Reliable Messaging, WS-Security, WS-Federation, Web Services Metadata, Web Services Invocation Framework (WSIF) and REST (Representation State Transfer) Web Services. And Release 3 will be certified with a spate of open source software including Spring, Apache Struts, Apache Axis, Apache MyFaces, JUnit, CVS (Concurrent Versions System) and Eclipse.

It is a comprehensive, broad product line, and Oracle continues to add to it at a very aggressive pace.
John Rymer
Vice PresidentForrester Research Inc.

"This release is about integrating a lot of diverse technology into a single platform, on the SOA side and the application development side and the UI side," said Ted Farrell, Oracle chief architect and vice president of application development tools. "We're trying to reduce the number of concepts. We have a concept of services, a concept of the way things get managed -- it's all the same. They all get secured the same way. Tight integration makes a huge difference in the cost of ownership."

Release 3 is a move toward digesting its recent acquisitions, said Anne Thomas Manes, vice president and research director at the Burton Group, Midvale, Utah. Oracle is "expanding and improving its product set, and integrating better. The integration of Web Services Manager with the BPEL engine is a good thing." In addition, Manes said, "the Web services technology is simpler, smoother and easier to use."

While Oracle has had ESB functionality, "the ESB was not well defined," Farrell said. "This ESB centralizes the technologies we had into a single solution. … We filled in the blanks. This is a full comprehensive ESB."

However, Farrell stressed that while Oracle views an ESB as "critical for SOA, it's a piece to a much bigger solution."

What is "very, very important" among the new features of Release 3 is the rules engine, according to John Rymer, a vice president at Forrester Research Inc., Cambridge, Mass. "This is a sleeper category, but it's a really important category for these products [SOA middleware]. People will use this platform to build composite applications, wire together services, portal interfaces, etc. The problem is when you do that kind of work the applications tend to change a lot. Rules allow you to externalize the business logic that automates policy and decisions so you can change them when you need to."

Rymer said rules will become a critical capability "with so many vendors now supporting composite applications. Oracle is one of two platform vendors [the other is Microsoft] that have rolled out a rules engine as part of its platform." This puts Oracle "in a leadership position," he said.

In a comparison Forrester did last year among the major middleware suites, Oracle came out on top, Rymer said. "It is a comprehensive, broad product line, and Oracle continues to add to it at a very aggressive pace. They had the broadest footprint/feature set, and were the most integrated."

Where Oracle is lagging, however, is in organizing its applications business to support its SOA platform, Rymer said. And with its announced agreement last week to buy CRM applications vendor Siebel Systems Inc., Oracle has even more to digest.

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"We would expect [Oracle] to create business functions as Web services based on their application portfolio and executed on the SOA platform; they haven't even talked about it. They're more internally focused on how to get the next generation of applications off [the] ground than on adding application assets to the SOA platform."

In this regard, Rymer said, SAP AG is ahead of Oracle. "They've got a strategy, and they're organized. Their first several hundred services will be available next year."

Manes said Oracle also needs to move forward with the IBM/Microsoft Web Services (WS*) suite of specs. "They haven't done anything with WS-Trust or WS-Secure Conversation. They should be supporting WS-Policy but they're not yet because it hasn't been submitted to a standards body. If you're not working with IBM and Microsoft, you're going to be left behind."

Oracle Application Server 10g Release 3 is expected to be available by May 2006.

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