RealTime IT News

'Hot Pluggable' One Key For Oracle Middleware

NEW YORK -- Oracle is leaving nothing to chance in making sure it gets the message out that it is a serious contender in the middleware market along with giants like IBM, BEA Systems and Microsoft.

Armed with partners and customers, Oracle President Chuck Phillips and fellow executives descended on New York today to spread the gospel of Oracle Fusion Middleware, the company's plans for providing viable service-oriented architectures (SOA).

SOAs are the next-generation distributed computing methods that are expected to light the way for billions of dollars in new revenue streams for software vendors.

"We've gone from the monolithic applications, to the client-server world, then into tier 2 architectures," said Phillips, summing up the evolution in computing. "The shift that we're going to now is to service-based architectures and it will be as big as anyone of those shifts, but potentially more for enabling a business."

Fusion Middleware is marked by three characteristics, according to Phillips: comprehensive, unbreakable and hot pluggable.

What Phillips means by comprehensive is that the Fusion Middleware architecture covers all of the SOA bases, from the back-end databases, middle-layer application servers, and out to the portal GUI where end users view their IT assets and business processes.

It features such applications as a Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) engine, which orchestrates business processes; business activity monitoring (BAM) to keep an eye on those processes; and perks like real-time collaboration and content services.

Unbreakable is something Oracle has preached since 2001. But it is every bit as important today, as customers require more and more security and reliability as they use middleware-powered SOAs to exchange information across the Web.

Hot-pluggable architecture is perhaps the most significant departure from what rivals IBM, BEA and Microsoft are doing in terms of SOA. Oracle Fusion Middleware consists of modular component software that runs on a range of popular platforms and interoperates with middleware technologies and business applications from IBM, Microsoft and SAP.

While the end goal of an SOA is to let applications work across the Web regardless of the types of technology involved, Oracle is putting this theory into practice.

For example, current hot-pluggable capabilities within Oracle Fusion Middleware include support for third-party message queue products and Microsoft .NET and Active Directory.

In a demonstration, Thomas Kurian, senior vice president at Oracle, showed how a BPEL process can trigger and purchase and fulfillment order.

The order ran into a snag and couldn't be filled by one particular supplier, so the computer was able to use Oracle BAM tools to locate another supplier and make the deal happen.

Kurian said the ability to change a business process in mid-transaction is the key to having an agile business that can change on-demand.

Oracle has been touting Fusion Middleware for a year, and discussed it in detail at OracleWorld two weeks ago. But the comprehensive presentation showed just how far Oracle has come from the days of monolithic, siloed applications that couldn't work with products from other vendors.

This interoperability signals a key shift in computing architectures, as it says to the world that a company has enough confidence in its technology that it is willing to make its products work with software from rival vendors vying for a big piece of middleware pie.

Oracle is taking the gamble to win share in a middleware market where Gartner sees promise in the Redwood Shores, Calif., company, placing it in a leadership position in its famed "magic quadrant."

"We have this issue where ... we've been known as a database company for many years, and over the last year we've made a little bit of noise in applications, so people tend to look at our applications business now," Phillips said.

"But the area, ironically, where we're not as well known is in middleware. Things are changing, and middleware has become a lot more important to our strategy."

Phillips said that despite growing 33 percent from last quarter and posting sales of roughly $830 million over the last 12 months, Oracle doesn't get much attention for its middleware.