Oracle SOA Suite 12c Released - Administration Highlights
26 Jun 2014 by Simon Haslam (in General)
Today Oracle has released SOA/BPM Suite 12c - see the official Press Release. This is quite a big event: it may be hard to believe but SOA 11g was released well over 4 years ago now and, though in reality Oracle has delivered significant amounts of functionality in "Patch Sets"*, this release has still been a while in the making.
Over the coming weeks you will no doubt hear about the drivers for SOA 12c in numerous places, but apparently they are:
If you're a production SOA infrastructure designer or administrator I suspect it is the last of these drivers that will be of most interest to you. In this post I'll focus on new features which I have either been playing with, or that have caught my eye, though I expect I will have missed a few!
Improved SOA Dashboard within Fusion Middleware Console
Whilst SOA 11g has an EM dashboard that allows you to look at instances and faults the issue many customers face is that at some point, usually after the system has been in production for a while, the performance of these pages deteriorates. There are a few reasons behind this but usually it is a combination of data volumes in the middleware repository and the dashboard doing queries you don't necessarily need. Oracle has provided a couple of options, such as caching data, but really these have just been stop-gaps.
With 12c Oracle has re-designed the dashboard much more around what the administrator needs to do - primarily with errors and faults. This "management by exception" approach, along with the new Error Hospital screens, seems a more administrator-centric approach and, being driven by focussed searches, so should have much better performance.
Fusion Middleware Console's Enhanced Authorization Model
Whilst on the topic of FMC, there are situations for SOA where you want some users to have more limited access to FMC. For example, you may have some BPEL processes that have faulted where you might want a junior administrator to work with a business analyst (perhaps a specialist who works with one of your partners who provides service APIs, say, for credit card payments) to recover those faults and retry those process instances. The new fine grained access model will allow such an administrator to have just the permissions they need to do their job. Whilst I haven't tried this feature yet it does look promising and is a sign of a maturing platform.
Managed File Transfer (MFT)
BFT is a newly developed software component used, as its name suggests, for providing a more robust mechanism for handling the distribution and processing of files (e.g. over secure FTP) especially for tracking and securing them, and for handling retries. Oracle has previously demonstrated this (relatively quietly) at OpenWorld, but now that SOA 12c has been released I'm sure it will get much wider publicity. This is another product which falls under the "industrial SOA" moniker - whilst files transfer mechanisms have been around for almost as long as networked computers, their usage shows no sign of declining - once because it was the lowest common denominator mechanism of getting data from one computer to another, now increasingly part of B2B interactions and especially with large payloads (for example if you need to send a medical image from one hospital to another).
Enterprise Scheduler (ESS)
ESS is a product that has been migrated from Fusion Applications and offers a wide range of scheduling targets, with the ability to call all sorts of web services and other jobs (e.g. did I remember seeing ODI ones?). I haven't looked at this yet but every customer I've worked for has had scheduling requirements and I can see the benefits for managing them in an application-centric way.
Here's a feature I like, and think will be very useful for customers looking to optimise licence usage on their SOA infrastructure. With SOA 12c you now have the choice of a number of configuration profiles which control the available functionality, and consequently resource consumption. For example, the lightest is probably "BPEL-ONLY" which is BPEL, core SOA infra and a partial set of adapters, through "SOA FOUNDATION ENTERPRISE" which is pretty everything excluding B2B, Healthcare and BPM, and "SOA CLASSIC" which is everything, i.e. including BPM. Note that MFT (and possibly ESS) are separately installed products so I assume aren't currently managed under profiles.
Repository Creation Utility (RCU) Enhancements
Some readers may have seen me present, along with Lucas Jellema, Ronald van Luttikhuizen and Guido Schmutz, a few of our SOA 12c beta experiences at Jurgen Kress' Partner Community event in Malta earlier this year. The topic I focussed on then was RCU enhancements.
Firstly RCU now maintains a table (in <prefix>_STB), alongside the one in SYS, to keep track of what schemas (and with what prefixes) have been installed in a database. This STB table is then used by the SOA Configuration Wizard to save you having to re-key this information and is much more convenient.
A very nice new feature is that RCU gives you the choice of "SMALL", "MEDIUM" or "LARGE" repositories and then applies some of the tuning and maintenance options we used to have to set up manually in SOA 11g. For example for medium and large repositories it will set create some tables as partitioned (note that you will Database Enterprise Edition and Partitioning Option licences for this).
OTN Free Developer Licence
One final snippet I was reminded of yesterday - and that my friend Pete Lorenzen spotted earlier this year - SOA Suite is covered by the free OTN "WebLogic" development licence (http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/licenses/wls-dev-license-1703567.html). In short this means developers can develop and test commercial software using Oracle SOA Suite on their own PC (or VDI desktop) provided it is single user only. This is an extension to the Free OTN WebLogic licence which I have previously discussed. It is a very sensible move by Oracle, who hopefully recognise that tracking and paying for development licences is a complete pain for customers.
SOA/BPM 12c is a big release and there are many aspects that I haven't even touched on here (the full integration of OSB springs to mind). I hope this post has given SOA administrators a flavour of what 12c brings behind some of the more feature-driven headlines.
Here are some quick links if you'd like to try out SOA Suite 12c for yourself:
OTN JDeveloper 12.1.3: http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/developer-tools/jdev/downloads/index.html
OTN Oracle SOA Suite 12c (12.1.3) http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/middleware/soasuite/downloads/index.html
Note for all production deployments you should use software downloaded from the Oracle Software Delivery Cloud (aka e-Delivery): https://edelivery.oracle.com/
(at the time of writing SOA 12c wasn't yet available on SDC but I expect it will be soon)
*Aside: I heard at the Middleware SIG last week that "Patch Sets" will be called "upgrades" in future. That would make a lot of sense but we'll see...