The Oracle Australia and New Zealand Middleware and Technology Blog.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Same Old Architecture?

Is SOA oversold? Do vendors present it as a White Knight to all IT woes? Will it go the way of previous failed attempts to build a standard architectural model - things like CORBA, DCE etc. In short does SOA really stand for Same Old Architecture or Snake Oil Applied?

Each day we hear the trumpeting of vendor marketing machines promising a land of milk and honey to those who will simply plonk down some of their hard earned for a SOA license or three! I guess its easy to get caught up in the hype or become skeptical.

Oracle is clearly betting its business on SOA. In a recent article in Infoworld titled "Oracle's Ellison: SOA migration a slow process" Larry Ellison highlights the fact that SOA is an architectural revolution where the ultimate payback is in the 10-20 year timeframe. Jumping on this time-frame as a perceived failing the One Size Doesn't Fit All blog says that this proves that SOA is over-priced, over-promised and overkill. If you Google "SOA" and "skeptic" you will find plenty of other takers.

Who is right? Is the SOA phenomenon going to unravel and we will all look back in a few years time and laugh or will the skeptics be proved wrong?

I think its worth stepping back a minute and thinking about where we are and how we got here. Prior to SOA there was no such thing as a true industry consensus. CORBA, DCE and similar moves all amounted to a group of vendors trying to offset entrenched market power belonging to an IBM or Microsoft. The ideas in these architectures are good and many live on in SOA. However these movements failed. This was due to many reasons such as timing and complexity but ultimately due to the dilemma of trying to sell the idea of an "industry" standard when the largest and most important vendors were not participating.

Around 2000 things started to change. The Internet was in full swing. The idea of a simple set of standards that allowed the web to work in the Person-to-System mode (i.e. Web browser to Web Server) suddenly seemed to hold much promise for System-to-System communications too. The web had a data format (HTML) and protocol (HTTP) and it didn't really matter (that much!) which browser I used [IE, Netscape (remember that?)] or if the the web server application was written in Java, PHP, CGI or anything else it all just worked so easily and the benefits were so great.

Smart people started thinking "why don't we use this same mechanism for System-to-System communications". And so the idea of a Web Service was born - XML data, HTTP protocol. The language you implement the client or the server in - irrelevant. [I still have presentations from my days at BEA that used the term Web 2.0 to describe this System-to-System interoperability! - Maybe we are up to Web 3.0 now, or is it 4.0?] Now as time went by extra things needed to be added: security, context, transactions, addressing... and more. All these things mimicked ideas and techniques that existed in the worlds of DCE and CORBA.

Was SOA better than these in a purely technical sense - maybe, maybe not - its not really important. What is really important is that for the first time the main vendor combatants - Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, SAP, BEA, Tibco, ... agreed and because of this everyone else agreed that SOA was goodness and they would support it. And not just support it with their lips but with their wallets too. In Oracle's case this meant spending billions on the rebuilding of all of the acquisitions we have acquired. SAP is rebuilding its applications around SOA too. Microsoft is committed to SOA, as is IBM. Real dollars are being spent because customers want the interoperability between different vendors software components in the same way they have it in the building industry, the electronics industry and all other mature and responsible industries that truely serve their customers.

Its for this reason mostly that I believe SOA has legs and will last and will be the architectural platform on which future IT will be built. Think about it - if the largest purchases that organisations make - their applications - come as SOBA's (Service Oriented Business Applications) then doesn't that kind of dictate the internal IT architecture to a large degree. Don't forget that one of the key drivers for the success of the Oracle database was its use underneath all the major package application solutions.

Now lets return to the question we started with. Do vendors over-promise or over-sell SOA? Maybe but that happens with everything - its the nature of sales. It doesn't mean the concept is wrong. What if it takes 10-20 years to get to SOA heaven? Maybe that's the price we have to pay for building our IT systems in such a piecemeal, stovepipe fashion. There is a lot of untangling to do before we can start to move forward. One thing is clear though - the longer we procrastinate the more tangled the mess becomes and the greater the day of reckoning.

So some tips:
  1. Realistic expectations. Don't expect to install "SOA" and have it fix things for "free" that require human neural activity. At the end of the day it is a tool and not a solution. Applying the tool to the business problem creates the solution at the price of some thinking (sometimes quite difficult thinking). The same solution can be crafted with older, proprietary, simpler tools but it will lack openness and future flexibility of SOA.
  2. Don't try and boil the ocean. Start small. Pick a broken part of the organisation that upon fixing will yield a valuable result. The problem should not be of the "Hello World" variety nor should it be a "Boil the Ocean" type either. The first will be viewed as trivial the second is doomed to failure.
  3. Don't believe the all hype. Of course vendors will present their wares in the greatest possible light. That's only natural. Beware of over-promise. The corollary to this of course is that as SOA is an architecture and a long term journey the SOA tool you pick is more important than you might think. It needs to have synergy with your current investments like say your applications and this is more important than any current advantage in terms bells and whistles hype. It's also important that your SOA tool vendor will exist into the future. As we have seen in recent times that is not always as clear cut as what you might expect.
One last word - don't be overly skeptical either. I am a natural skeptic so I have to watch myself here too. However at the end of the day good companies, good ideas and good products last. SOA, in a sense, is the Same Old Architecture in that many of the ideas are evident in things going back 40 years or more - CICS, TUXEDO, DCE, CORBA, J2EE. This just proves the concept is persistent - and is true.

Thanks for stopping by.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Hi from Saul


my name is Saul Cunningham and many of you will have met me in my travels as I go about spreading the message of Oracle Fusion Middleware and in particular the SOA layers [which of course are the most important! ;) ]. I am the GTMI Lead for SOA and my main role is getting other people as excited about Oracle SOA as I am!

Speaking of excitement I believe Oracle is THE place to be as the industry consolidates. It is good to know you are with an organisation that has the muscle and vision to emerge at the end of this period when there is so much flux occuring and everyone seems to be wondering who will buy whom next. I have been at Oracle for nearly four years and the company I worked for previously (BEA) is the latest in a long line of acquistions that Oracle has made. The result of this is that not many companies have the breadth and depth of Oracle. Our goal is to be able to provide any customer the solution to any problem they might have. Of course bringing these acquisitions together is a challenge - a challenge that is being addressed by Oracle Fusion Middleware. Oracle really does "eat its own dogfood" - as our leader Larry Ellison is fond of saying - and the proof of that is in the eating! We are using the integration, process management and activity monitoring capabilities of the SOA Suite components of Fusion Middleware to bring all the applications together into one happy family known as Fusion Apps.

So its great to know that the area I represent - Oracle SOA - is key to Oracle's future. It means I can passionately believe in the product I represent. So if you have heard me speak about SOA, and Oracle's capabilities in this area, and wonder why I seem so excited by it - well now you know why.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Can your HR system be your central source of truth

If you have had any involvement managing employee's within IT, either in a File System, Database or a Human Resource Management Systems (HRMS) then no doubt the issue creating and deleting users has raised its head.

I have seen organisations that have such complex and manually intensive processes to bring on new employee's and grant access that it can take 6 weeks before that employee has access to all the relevant systems to simply be productive. Now you have the scenario of a new employee, eager to make his or her mark on the world. Wanting to show they mean business, only to be hamstrung by inefficient process's that stop them simply working. Let alone being productive.

The inverse of this is much worse, what happens if you fail to remove access to employee's when they leave an organisation. Could they still get access to critical systems, receive email, check the current accounts or download the latest marketing plan. If you think this is urban myth its not, in my career working for IT vendors i have personally experienced this. Of course i wont name the vendors but both are very established and have security credentials. Vendor A failed to remove me from a system of employee's that received Qantas Club Membership and kindly continued to pay for this membership after i left the vendor. Vendor B actually started paying me again after leaving the company for nearly a year, the outcome here was that my details didn't get removed from all systems involved with payroll. An upgrade on these systems resulted in Vendor B generously adding me to the payroll again. If only all past employee's had such generosity. These accounts that are not cleaned up when an employee leaves are often referred to as orphan accounts.

I am amazed time and time again when going into organisations how this problem isn't addressed. It is either deemed not an issue, to expensive to fix or more than likely they don't event know the problem exists. From experience i find that if an organisation has X employee's and that is in the several thousand. More than likely the number of orphan accounts is in the realm of 3 times X.

So what can you do to fix this ?, several options include
  • Review your manual process's
  • Implement a provisioning system - often referred also as Identity Management
  • Install an audit tool that will periodically review the accounts and identify the suspect accounts

One of the most elegant ways to rectify this is within HR. After all what department has a better grasp of who is employed and who isn't. HR employee's however don't have the admin skills to manage users within all the various systems. But it is possible to make HR the single source of truth. Then point your Provisioning system to the HR employee table. Once someone leaves an organisation and is deleted from the HRMS system then a automated workflow can be commenced that will trigger the provisioning system to start deleting all instances of this user.

The inverse of this can occur with employee's commencing, once they are identified within the HRMS system as commencing employment. The automated workflow can be kicked off, the provisioning system can identify what type of role the employee has and create the basic set of accounts so that person can be fully productive from day one.

Let me know your horror stories, or indeed if you have tried to set the HRMS system up as lead for provisioning and de provisioning.

Cheers - its 5pm on a Friday and "beer oh clock"

A Greener Oracle

We are a brighter, greener Oracle nowadays - the latest database requires less disk-space, half the power, half the cost and it runs faster with much more capability than ever before.


About the ANZ regional GTMi team

Hi welcome to the ANZ GTMi page,

As regional lead for the ANZ GTMi team i though it would be useful to explain what our focus is and how you can leverage the team.

Regional GTMi's support Oracles Technology and Fusion Middleware business by offering strategic direction around demand generation activities, thought leadership services to Oracle PR and being domain experts. Let me now introduce the team and our respective fields of expertise.

Barry Matthews - SAP on Oracle, RAC and Oracle Infrastructure
Carl Terrantroy - Database Security and Identity Management
Paul Ricketts - Enterprise Content Management
Saul Cunningham - Service Orientated Architecture (SOA) and Business Process Management (BPM)
Steve Williamson - Database Options

The team will strive to keep you abreast of our strategic directions within the Oracle Database world and Oracle Fusion Middleware. The best way for you to find out more is keep an eye out for upcoming events we will be running. All the events will be posted on this blog and you can come back and request more information on these events from the experts that will be running the actual event. Or if your curious about a concept we are discussing perhaps we can shed more light on it for you.

If you would like to know more about the ANZ GTMi team please email Carl Terrantroy .

I hope you find the content informative, and i look forward to your comments on this blog.

Carl Terrantroy
Director GTMi Technologies ANZ

Enterprise Content Management in 2008 and beyond...

It's been an interesting few years for ECM vendors around the globe, with numerous acquisitions and mergers taking place. We are seeing a great deal of consolidation in the market and this is surely only providing benefits to our customers - or is it?

The requirement for an organisation to store and manage structured (DB), unstructured (docs etc.) and semi-structured (xml) increases on a daily basis. Current estimates state that around 84% of information lives outside of the database - and this drives interest within an organisation like Oracle to get their ECM pitch right (which, incidentally, we have done).

John Batelle once wrote that "every day, we create and store more information (in the digital format) than has been stored for most of human history on paper". John was quoted in his book "the Search, How Google and its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Our Culture" - it is an interesting fact that electronic information is having such an impact on our lives and the IT industry as a whole. Historically, IT was more interested in providing the applications for the end-users - NOW, IT is more interested in working out how to store and manage all the information coming from these applications, and from a wide-diversity of other sources.

I presented a road-show around APAC during the middle-latter part of 2007 during which I spoke about changes I had experienced in my career. The topic that generated the most interest concerned the cost models of storing information in the mid-80's to today. Historically, storing paper in a warehouse was cheap whilst storing information digitally was expensive. I worked for the biggest consumer of on-line storage outside of government and IBM in the UK and we had the grand total of 128Mb of online available storage - held on drives that resembled a top-loading washing machine. I have more storage and computing power on my Blackberry in 2008!

Today, of course, on-line storage is dirt-cheap (one reason why EMC, IBM, HDS etc. are looking to add value through software acquisition and development) whilst warehousing paper is incredibly expensive and frowned upon by the tree-huggers. The costs involved in managing paper (retention, disposition etc.) are staggering and with the rise in demand for storage - only going to get higher and higher.

An interesting statistic, driven out of a published report sponsored by EMC is that by 2010, the demand for storage will outstrip availability/manufacturing at today's levels. This means that unless information management is addressed through intelligent systems such as ECM - manufacturing is going to have to step-up meaning a further drain on the world's resources. Storing information more intelligently means a reducing in duplication of information, appropriate retention and disposition based upon the information's lifecycle, virtualisation resulting in fewer physical servers using less air-con and power etc. etc. etc. We are a brighter, greener Oracle nowadays - the latest database requires less disk-space, half the power, half the cost and it runs faster with much more capability than ever before.

So what are Paul's predictions for the future.

Well, firstly I believe that ECM as a strategy within a customer's environment will move towards an implementation as a part of the data-centre infrastructure. Customers are looking for a unified content management (UCM) platform that truly allows any content from any source to be stored, protected and leveraged by the larger community. Realistically, as of February 2008, there are only 3 vendors in the marketplace that can truly provide this and Oracle is unique in its approach and software-focussed strategy. Our customers are not getting the hardware (storage and server) pitches that our two main competitors will drive - shifting physical boxes being their primary business.

Secondly, I think that we will see more acquisitions and/or mergers happening during 2008-2009. There are a number of tier-2 players in the ECM space that are ripe for acquisition and there are a number of hardware vendors that might look to expand their footprint within their own customer base through new initiatives around ECM and the intelligence these products bring to the storage or server environments. Tower, Vignette, Interwoven et al. fit firmly into this arena - potential suitors may include HP, Dell or Sun.

Thirdly, Open-Source ECM vendors like Alfresco are starting to gain significant presence in the marketplace. I had the pleasure of working with John Newton and the Alfresco team whilst I was based in the UK with Documentum and the guys really are the nicest people in the world with great vision and execution. This is demonstrated if you ever get the chance to meet the team and/or see the software in action. Organisations remain wary of open-source initiatives but I believe that the next 2 years will tell for product like Alfresco. With all of the consolidation happening in the industry, we here at Oracle welcome new and upcoming competition - particulary when driven by industry legends such as John and his team.

Finally, everybody has to consider the big M. Microsoft are making inroads into the ECM space through Sharepoint and other similar products in their line-up. It's interesting to still hear customers talk about Sharepoint enthusiastically - only to bow out of conversations when you raise ECM functionality outside of document collaboration. I am sure that M is working hard on developing their products to become truly competitive, tier-2 and 3 ECM vendors will suffer first and we may see some disappear. I am pretty sure that M will join us as a tier-1 vendor in the next couple of years - assuming their developers and product managers don't get moved onto the next big thing before then (what ever happened to Microsoft's HRMS, ERP and CRM initiatives anyhow?)

Roll-on 2010


Congratulations to Seamus Byrne...

who I found out this week has been appointed COO of eDiscovery Tools - a provider of solutions for the legal industry in dealing with searches/discovery within a customer environment, usually as a result of litigation.

eDiscovery Tool's products are successfully used by a Global 100 legal, government legal and service bureaus - their premium e-discovery software products process, analyze and manage electronically stored information (ESI) to help organisations discover all the evidence required during a litigation event for example.

I wish Seamus well in his new venture and look forward to working with him in the future.


3 weeks in and .........

It's been a grand total of 3 weeks since I joined Oracle from EMC - and already it feels like I've been here forever (in a good way of course!).

Oracle is a very interesting place to work, prior to EMC I worked for Documentum in the UK and there are so many similarities between Documentum and Oracle and so many differences between Oracle and EMC. Documentum, like Oracle, was a west-coast based software company that was an incredible amount of fun to work for. Annual kick-off events were always a showcase for our innovation as well as excellent opportunities to meet and network with colleagues from around the world. Software was the clear focus for the organisation and we had a flexible approach to sales and marketing that meant that we would adapt to rapidly changing market drivers. EMC is an east-coast storage giant, that happens to have moved into the software market through acquisitions of companies like Documentum and Legato amongst others. The first 18 months following acquisition were ok, but things changed and the changes made were drivers for my decision to look at the industry and see what I wanted to do next. I would guess that my story from EMC is similar in context to a lot of the Oracle employees who have joined this organisation through acquisition. The big difference here between EMC and Oracle is that we are a top-to-bottom software organisation that is well versed in acquiring organisations and assimilating technology. My advise, be patient and things will work themselves out.

Anyway, I was approached by Oracle with an offer to join and assume a new role within the GTMi (Go to market initiatives) team working for Carl Terrantroy. I joined on the 1st February 2008 and the last 3 weeks have been nothing short of enjoyable and interesting. I've met so may people who have had so many good things to say about the organisation. The products we develop and sell are second-to-none, my specialty is Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and we are certainly one of the leaders in the space from a number of perspectives - backing up the research undertaken by Gartner, Forrester et al.

My focus is content which encompasses Enterprise Content Management and Collaboration to name but a few initiatives. I will be driving campaigns within the ANZ region around these areas, working with marketing, channels, partners as well as the ECM team themselves.

You can find me on level 6 at North Ryde, stop by and say hello.


GTMi Content Events - 19-20 February 2008

This week I had the pleasure of attending my first marketing awareness events with Oracle. Oracle had arranged for a number of customers, partners and prospects to join us for lunch and hear from one of our successful implementation projects - QBE insurance.

The events were held at Quay restaurant in Sydney and Champions in Melbourne and were attended by around 150 people across both venues. Patrick Burke spoke enthusiastically about the reasons why Oracle was selected and the benefits already realised by QBE following our selection and implementation whilst Gary Boyd concentrated more in the web-content-management initiatives undertaken by QBE leveraging Oracle's technology.

Feedback from customers and partners that I spoke with during and after the events was extremely positive. Equally positive were comments about the venues, the quality of the events and the gorgeous weather laid on by Sydney and Melbourne.



Welcome to the GTMi team blog for Australia and New Zealand. This site will provide you with information about the team and its initiatives around the region. Additionally, we will be providing insights into each of our specialty areas.

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The GTMi team