Oracle readies SOA Suite preview with single install

Oracle within two weeks plans to offer a developer's preview of Oracle SOA Suite 10g Release 3, which features a single-install procedure for all components.

The suite packages Oracle Fusion Middleware products for use in deploying SOA. Already available in a beta version, the developer offering is deemed fully functional by Oracle and serves as a preview of the general release due this fall. It will be accessible for download on the Oracle Technology Network Web site (http://www.oracle.com/technology/index.html).

The Oracle SOA Suite features Oracle's BPEL Process Manager, Web Services Manager, Business Activity Monitoring, Enterprise Service Bus and Business Rules. An abbreviated version, for use with Oracle's own application server, lacks the ESB and Business Rules products because they are already in the application server.

Oracle officials meeting with InfoWorld editors at the company's Redwood Shores, Calif. headquarters this week hailed the single-install capability.

"We have customers using [the components of the suite] together, but you didn't get a single-click install experience," that the new suite features, said David Shaffer, vice president of Oracle Fusion Middleware.

Analysts described Oracle's SOA suite as a way for the company to link different technologies it has acquired with its own software. Web Services Manager, for example, features technology from Oblix whereas BPEL Process Manager has Collaxa code in it.

"It's clear that Oracle has the right idea but the challenge is making sure that it [the suite] lives up to its promise. Oracle bought a number of different companies and they're rolling all these products together," said Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst at ZapThink.

Oracle and other companies with SOA suites, such as BEA Systems and Sun Microsystems, may be overdoing it, said Shawn Willett, principal analyst at Current Analysis. "There may be too much in them to make them practical," he said.

SOA is a user architecture unrelated to a specific project, Willett said. Architectures are developed over time, he said. "People usually don't re-architect their entire IT system just all at once."

Although Oracle is including its ESB in the suite, the company cautions that an ESB is not tantamount to an SOA, and that other tools are needed, also. "There's a lot of people who say SOA equals ESB. I would say if you make this equation, you're probably in trouble," said Markus Zirn, a senior director for product management at Oracle.

The company, meanwhile, is sticking to its guns about the concept of SOA 2.0, a term recently floated by Oracle and Gartner to describe event-oriented, closed-loop SOA. The appearance of the term, however, incited opponents to start an online petition (http://www.mwdadvisors.com/resources/stop-the-madness.php) against the new terminology, believing creation of a new buzzword to be counterproductive.

The general release of Oracle SOA Suite is priced at US$50,000 per CPU when used with Oracle's application server, and US$65,000 per CPU for use with other application servers.

Oracle officials this week also noted other developments:

-- An AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) render kit is being developed to make it easier to use AJAX programming with Oracle Application Server. "Developer costs and training has been a big pain point for our customers," said Ted Farrell, Oracle chief architect and vice president for Oracle Fusion Middleware and Tools. Farrell, however, is not necessarily sold on the push for more scripting languages. "To me, we don't need more languages. What we need to do is be smarter with what we have," Farrell said.

-- Oracle officials place the company's annual middleware revenues at about $1 billion, roughly equal to rival middleware vendor BEA.

-- Oracle has coined an acronym, OPAL, for Oracle, PHP (PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor), Apache and Linux, to describe Oracle's equivalent to the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, Perl/PHP) stack.

-- Company officials said 22 percent of its middleware customers use the software with a non-Oracle database.

-- An Oracle executive reported no change in the company's nonsupport of the NetBeans open source tooling platform championed by Sun Microsystems. Earlier this year, Sun officials cited Oracle's acknowledgment of NetBeans (http://weblog.infoworld.com/techwatch/archives/005050.html) as a victory, but Oracle did not actually commit to using it. That has not changed. "I think if we saw enough market demand that customers who are using our middleware are expressing the desire to use NetBeans, we might take a look at that," said Oracle's Rick Schultz, vice president of Oracle Fusion Middleware. "We haven't seen enough market demand."

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