Simon Haslam's Oracle Fusion Middleware blog

OOW 2013 Summary for Fusion Middleware Architects & Administrators

This September during Oracle OpenWorld the weather in San Francisco, as you see can from the photo, was exceptionally sunny. The dramatic final few days of the Americas Cup sailing competition, being held every day in the bay, coincided with the conference and meant that there was almost a holiday feel to the whole event.

Here's my annual round-up of what I think was most interesting at OpenWorld 2013 for Fusion Middleware architects and administrators; I hope you find it useful and if you think I've missed something please add a comment!

 Howard Street flags at OpenWorld 2013

WebLogic and Cloud Application Foundation (CAF)

The big WebLogic release of the year has already happened a few months ago with 12.1.2 so I won't duplicate that here.

Will Lyons discussed the WebLogic and Coherence roadmap which essentially is that 12.1.3 will probably be released to coincide with SOA 12c next year and that 12.1.4, the next feature-rich WebLogic release, is more likely to be in 2015. This latter release will probably include full Java EE 7 support, have enhancements for multi-tenancy and further auto-scaling features to support increased density (i.e. more WebLogic usage for the same amount of hardware). There's a new Oracle Virtual Assembly Builder (OVAB) out already and an Oracle Traffic Director (OTD) 12c release round the corner too.

Also of relevance to administrators is that Oracle has increased the support lifetime for Fusion Middleware 11g (e.g. WebLogic 10.3.6) so that Premier Support will now run to the end of 2018 and Extended Support until 2021 - this should remove any Oracle-driven pressure to upgrade at least.
 

Java Mission Control

Java Mission Control (JMC) is the HotSpot Java 7 version of JRockit 6 Mission Control, a very nice performance monitoring tool from Oracle's BEA aquisition. Flight Recorder is a feature built into the JVM which records diagnostic events into, typically, a circular buffer which can then be used for historical analysis, particularly in the case of a JVM crash or hang. It's been available separately for WebLogic only for perhaps a year now but, more significantly, it now includes JVM events and was bundled in with JDK7 Update 40 a few weeks ago. I attended a couple of interesting Java One sessions on JMC/Flight Recorder and have to say it's looking really good - it has all the previous JRMC features except for memory leak detector, plus some enhancements around operative sets and ECID filtering I think.

Marcus also showed how you could add your own events into flight recorder by building your own event class - they are then available for graphing alongside all the other events in JMC. This uses a currently an unsupported/undocumented API, but it's also the same one that WebLogic uses for WLDF events so I imagine it is stable. I'm not sure quite whether this would be useful to custom applications, as opposed to infrastructure services or ISV packaged applications, but it was a very nice demonstration.

I've been testing JMC / FR enabling on several environments recently and my confidence is growing - it feels robust and I think could very soon be part of my standard builds.

 Marcus Hirt at his Java Mission Control Flight Recorder Deep Dive session
Marcus Hirt, Oracle - Java Mission Control FR Deep Dive

SOA, OSB & BPM

Deployment to mobile, and cloud integration, seems to be driving most products these days and SOA is no exception. The keynotes included demonstrations of SOA integrations with ADF Mobile interfaces, as well as new cloud adapters starting with, of course, Salesforce.com. Clearly coupling cloud services into your own in-house IT presents a host of new challenges for administrators but centralising access into adapters, which are an established means of handling interface transformations within SOA, makes a lot of sense.

(Adaptive) Case Management is an attractive extension to BPM that came out earlier this year with 11.1.1.7 and so an important subject. It really allows Oracle to make in-roads into the less structured parts of business where traditional, more rigid process driven systems are not very suitable. It seems to me that this is another string to the BPM bow so we might all see more of these systems over the next few years.

Oracle have been talking about SOA 12c coming out in 2014. Unlike the fairly dramatic change from SOA 10g to 11g with the OC4J/ESB WebLogic/ALSB/SCA transition, SOA 12c will be more of an evolution. Some changes, such as being able to use JDeveloper to work on OSB projects, have been on the SOA roadmap for some time, but there are other interesting features which look like they could be very interesting, like the Managed File Transfer service which aims to turn file handling into a much more robust and controllable process.

Cloud

As you probably expected there were plenty of cloud announcements at OpenWorld, mostly lots of new services (and I'm only thinking of the technology services rather than apps-related ones). For example, there will be services for documents, BI, mobile, as well as some kind of marketplace.

Most notably for us though is that Oracle now plans to get into Infrastructure as a Service, and one of its offerings will be WebLogic as a Service / Java as a Service (I heard it being called both during OOW - here I will call it WebLogic as a Service as that is clearer to me).

For a moment let's consider to Oracle's Java Cloud Service, launched just over a year ago, and which I have tried out. With the Java Cloud Service you do have a Java EE application server environment (at present WebLogic 11g so Java EE 5), coupled with web tier and security, in which to deploy your applications. It is however a very tightly controlled environment - there's a restricted console onto the system, whitelists of what libraries you can deploy, limited database options and no command line access, for example to look through logs. The whitelists in particular make deploying existing software tricky. I can't see how it would be suitable for most established WebLogic users who appreciate the power and flexibility of the product.

In contrast, Oracle's WebLogic as a Service will be real, hands-on, high performance WebLogic system but running on Oracle's hardware in their data centres. They will offer multiple service tiers depending on how much control you want yourself or how much you want Oracle to manage the platform for you (see image). Our management unit remains the WebLogic domain and I can imagine deploying to WebLogic as a Service would be relatively painless. To me it sounds like, providing the pricing it right, it could be very attractive especially for test environments (where virtualisation first took off).

Thomas Kurian - OpenWorld 2013 keynote - WebLogic as a Service

Then there are other "as a Service"s, in particular database, which will give again give you your own database instance (pluggable presumably) and much more control/flexibility than just the schema access previously available in the Database Cloud Service.

Finally as far as relevance to middleware administrators goes, Oracle is now offering Compute as a Service. This will mean virtual machines with which you can do what you like; Oracle's equivalent to Amazon Web Services EC2. There will be some pre-built images and I assume an option to rent licences. For me this was the most baffling announcement - it's not at all obvious how Oracle can offer commodity virtual machines more cost effectively than Amazon, Google, Rackspace and dozens of mature cloud players. That said, one comment I heard was that if you were using Oracle software on-premise and/or in the Oracle Cloud, but needed some cloud compute resource for some other purpose maybe you (and Oracle) would prefer to keep it all from one provider, so maybe there are some specific use-cases for it. 

Miscellaneous technical tidbit: what was apparent is that Oracle's acquisition of Nimbula, on OpenStack style cloud management product, is likely to play an impotant part in both Oracle's public and private cloud offerings over the next few years with, I expect, changes in OVM and OVAB, and so everything that uses them (Exalogic, the new OVCA and so on).

Microsoft-Oracle Partnership!

A somewhat surprising cloud announcement earlier this summer was a partnership between Oracle and Microsoft. In fact Microsoft had a very prominent slot in the Tuesday keynote at OpenWorld. What this means is that Microsoft's Azure cloud service can be used to run Oracle products including middleware. They apparently already have images including JDK and WebLogic, reading to run. One little snippet that I hadn't expected was that you could even run Oracle Linux as the OS! Plus this means Oracle is fully supporting, and allowing licence partitioning presumably, on an x86 hypervisor (Hyper-V) that isn't Oracle VM (albeit only as part of Azure)... which is interesting.

Microsoft - Oracle Partnership: keynote at OpenWorld 2013

Mobile & Internet of Things

These topics are getting lots of attention at the moment. Development aside, more of Oracle's products are supporting RESTful interfaces, and web sockets/HTML5 is now available in WebLogic, but I don't think it has much of an impact from a middleware administration perspective. Likewise the whole "internet of things" (machine to machine communications and so forth) seems to be about connection proliferation, data volumes and security rather than doing anything particularly differently. But I might be wrong

Hardware, including Oracle Database Appliance

These days Oracle infrastructure administrators are quite likely to have some involvement with Oracle hardware, so it's worth keeping an eye on what's going on there.

Firstly, there was an announcement by Larry Ellison in the Sunday keynote about a new SPARC machine with lots of memory, though that's presumably intended for database consolidation.

A few weeks ago Intel announced a "V2" version (Ivy Bridge-EP) of the E5-2600 processors which I tweeted (@simon_haslam), rather than blogged about. I have to say I was a bit surprised as it's both the expected lithography shrink (to 22nm) but also a core increase (up to 12 cores per socket... yes, 12!). Oracle have already announced a new 1U server - the X4-2 - which will use it, increasing the maximum cores on the server to 24 and maximum memory to 512GB (using 32GB Load Reduced DIMMs) but I don't think the products are available yet. Presumably this will become the new compute node building block for Exadata, Exalogic and ODA but I didn't go to any sessions talking about that so I'll leave that up to you to decide (please leave a comment/link if you heard more!). This time the Oracle server announcement seemed only just after the Intel one so it wouldn't surprise me if it is several months before Oracle starts shipping the high specification variants of servers (e.g. they're not on the Oracle Store yet).

As readers of the blog will know over the last year I've been spending a lot of time on Oracle Database Appliance (ODA), and its WebLogic / Oracle Traffic Director templates (I even had a presentation with Oracle on it at the conference). There were no new announcements on this particular product, but I did attend some sessions where very enthusiastic ODA owners were talking about it. I had imagined that people would only buy 2 or 3 of them but actually over time their ODA estates seem to be growing to 10 or more boxes. Of course we can debate the architectural merits of consolidation, private cloud and so on, but maybe something that "just works" or is "good enough" is more attractive than we tend to think.

There was other hardware on show, including the new Oracle Virtual Compute Appliance (OVCA) which is the first Oracle product to include software defined networking (which runs on top of InfiniBand) that it acquired with Xigo. I'm still not quite sure what to make of that as compared to Exalogic, with the latter still seeming to be the way to go for the highest performance for WebLogic and Coherence, especially when hooked through to Exadata (OVCA IB cannot be extended to Exadata - you have to go through 10 GbE).

ODA stand at Oracle OpenWorld 2013 

Summary

OpenWorld was a busy as ever for me, and probably the 60,000+ other delegates. Many of the product releases relevant to middleware had actually already been made earlier in the year, which actually is very useful as it gives you chance to digest the information in smaller chunks, allowing OpenWorld to be an opportunity to find out more. Of course this blog post only scratches the surface of what Oracle was talking about at the conference, and even within middleware there were several areas I didn't explore (most notably SOA Governance, WebCenter or Identity Management).

I hope this round up has been useful. Whilst I've been discussing announcements here, as I tell anyone who is visiting OpenWorld for the first time, its real value is talking to other people whether that's your peers over coffee, Oracle staff on the DEMOgrounds, technical types in the exhibition halls, and speakers after interesting sessions.

 Einstein looky-likey on a stand
A chap who probably could have absorbed all that information far better than me,
but for some reason chose to spend his time on a stand having his picture taken!

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