Oracle Takes Open Approach To SOA

By Bob Violino

Oracle has been developing and marketing products and technologies for service-oriented architecture since 2001 and a steady stream of SOA-related developments has allowed the company to build a comprehensive set of SOA-related products.

Oracle's aim is to deliver a comprehensive, "hot-pluggable" SOA platform. The company says it offers the solutions customers need to transform their existing IT infrastructure to a service-oriented architecture-including service development, routing, integration, service orchestration, policy management, security, deployment and access, according to a spokeswoman.

All the components of the Oracle SOA platform are built on open industry standards that enables it to interoperate with existing IT systems, "thus protecting and enhancing the value of the customers' existing IT systems," she says. Oracle's SOA products can be deployed on top of other Java Application Servers that include IBM WebSphere and JBoss.

Today, Oracle is seeing adoption of its SOA software across all geographies and industries. "These customers range from small companies of less than 500 employees to Fortune 5," says Ashish Mohindroo, product director for Oracle Fusion Middleware. Oracle's SOA products are components of the broader Oracle Fusion Middleware product family.

Among the organizations using Oracle's SOA software are ABN Amro, Aloha Airlines, Cisco Systems, Deloitte Consulting, EDS, the Federal Aviation Administration, Giant Eagle Grocery Stores, Northwestern University, Qualcomm, and Subaru of America.

The centerpiece of the company's SOA offerings is Oracle SOA Suite, which consists of Oracle Enterprise Service Bus (ESB), Oracle BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) Process Manager, Oracle Business Activity Monitoring (BAM), Oracle Business Rules Engine, Oracle Web Services Manager and Oracle JDeveloper.

ESB provides standards-based integration of data and enterprise applications within an organization and with trading partners.

BPEL Process Manager, a part of Oracle's Fusion Middleware product family, is software that enables enterprises to assemble disparate applications and Web services into business processes.

Oracle BAM is a tool for building interactive, real-time dashboards and proactive alerts for monitoring business processes and services.

Oracle Business Rules Engine makes processes and applications more flexible by enabling business analysts and non-developers to define and modify business logic without programming.

Oracle Web Services Manager, another component of Fusion, is software for managing the operations of Web services and the interactions between these services.

And Oracle JDeveloper is a free integrated development environment that simplifies the development of Java-based SOA applications and user interfaces with support for the full development life cycle.

Next: What's Next

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What's Next

Looking ahead, Mohindroo says three major trends are driving SOA innovation.

One is the move toward a "shared services infrastructure." This refers to a common set of services that are shared across multiple departments and organizations within and across the enterprise. For example, customer information that crosses multiple departments: human resources, finance, marketing, sales, etc.

Another trend is the emergence of extreme transaction processing (XTP)-or the ability to deliver mainframe quality of service using lower-cost server clusters. This enables large-scale business transactions and is a requirement for complex event processing and distributed in-memory data caching.

The third trend is the growing use of "information as a service," or delivering information access to complex, heterogeneous data sources as reusable services.

Industry analysts and customers say Oracle is effectively addressing the SOA market through its own products and its work with business partners. "Over the last few years, Oracle has invested a great deal and built a SOA software business larger than many of its rivals," says Ian Finley, research director at AMR Research.

Because Oracle has based its business applications on its SOA middleware, "Oracle application customers will necessarily become Oracle SOA customers," Finley says. He says the reason for this is that most Oracle applications require Oracle's SOA middleware at a certain version level. "When customers upgrade to that version level, they have to install parts of Oracle's SOA middleware in order to continue to run their applications. Oracle doesn't necessarily charge for the middleware, but the fact is those customers have become Oracle middleware customers and they need to build or buy skills to manage it. Once they have those skills, Oracle middleware becomes a natural choice for future middleware purchases."

The burden then falls on competitors to show why the customer needs a second set of SOA software, Finley says. The combination of strong products, substantial market share and its application advantage gives Oracle a chance to dominate the SOA software market in the future, he says.

Judith Hurwitz, president and CEO of consulting and research firm Hurwitz & Associates, says Oracle's strategy has been to build or buy a complete SOA environment so that organizations have one place to go for SOA. "The premise is SOA is complicated, so if you can go to one vendor [and] they can do it all, then you're going to be better off," she says.

Move Inc., operator of, a real-estate search engine, and, the official site of the National Association of Realtors, went to Oracle for help with its SOA implementation. Move is using BPEL for application integration development, ESB to virtualize Web services, and Web Services Manager for Web service security.

"Oracle has acquired a number of technologies over last few years and [has] integrated these technologies to work with each other very well," largely due to a standards-based approach, says Mike Remedios, CTO of Move.

Oracle is "using the same technologies and embedding them into [its] acquired application," he says.

For example, he says, Oracle's Application Integration Architecture packs provide integration between Oracle Application and products from Siebel, which Oracle acquired in 2005. The "future roadmap of Oracle applications have SOA at the center," he says. "This shows their commitment to the SOA."

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