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Oracle Information Architecture Explained


August 11, 2004
Mark Rittman
If you've been to an Oracle technology day recently, or read some of the articles in Oracle Magazine or on AppsNet, you'll probably have heard about "Oracle Information Architecture". So what is it, and how is it shaping Oracle's  product development and marketing?

Oracle Information Architecture is a model that describes how Oracle's products can be used to create a 'modern, real-time enterprise'. It uses the new 10g server technology (database, application server) together with the e-Business Suite and the new Customer Data Hub, with application development being carried out using JDeveloper and ADF. Oracle Information Architecture is Oracle's way of bringing its different product strands together, and positioning itself as the leading enterprise infrastructure software and business applications vendor. What it boils down to is a unified data model, and two of the hottest buzzwords in the industry at the moment, 'grid computing' and  'service-orientated applications'.

The foundation for Oracle's Information Architecture is a grid computing infrastructure where many servers and storage systems act as one large 'super-computer' to run your applications. This is achieved through Oracle Database 10g, Oracle Application Server 10g and Oracle Enterprise Manager 10g, which all have new 'grid technology' features. Oracle Database 10g's grid technology is partly based on enhancements to Oracle 9i's Real Application Clusters, and partly through the new automation features that manage storage and carry out routine tuning and administrative tasks. Application Server 10g similarly features technology to virtualise the mid-tier, presenting a group of separate servers as one J2EE application server to run your applications on. Enterprise Manager now comes with 'Grid Control' and 'Grid Repository' for storing and controlling grid resources, and a number of agents for monitoring all servers and applications.

The next element of Oracle's Information Architecture is the Enterprise Data Hub, a centralized repository that keeps information synchronised throughout the organisation. This is where the unified data model comes in, with an Oracle database being used to store the data and, in the first instance, the new Customer Data Hub being used to clean up and manage all an organisation's customer data. Customer Data Hub is the first of several planned data hub applications, and uses the customer tables in e-Business Suite to hold its data. A point to note here is that this enterprise data hub is not just aimed at Oracle applications - it's an open data model and APIs are available so that it can be integrated in with best-of-breed applications and other bespoke applications, the idea being that Customer Data Hub, and the Oracle database, become with one store of customer data for all a customer's applications.

Sitting above the grid computing foundation, and using the enterprise data hub, is the Real-Time Business Processing element. This part of the architecture centres around the e-Business Suite, enhanced by the recently-announced APIs and interfaces that make it work nicer with non-Oracle applications such as Siebel or Peoplesoft. The real-time element also comes into play with business intelligence, with the Information Architecture data warehouse being build using materialized views and the built-in ETL features of Oracle 10g to reduce latency between transaction capture and analysis. Another term that is often used when describing this part of the architecture is Service-Orientated Applications, a bit of a hot topic at Oracle at the moment that is all about creating reusable transaction and collaboration processes, using web services and tools such as Oracle's new BPEL Process manager. I touched on this area a while ago and the implications for traditional data warehousing, which often has multi-stage data loading processes and a 24-hour timelag, is fairly striking. Apart from the e-Business Suite, the key server technology here is Application Server 10g, again for its grid capabilities and also the business activity monitoring feature announced back in June.

Working in concert with Real-Time Business Processing is the Information Access part of the architecture. This centres around Oracle Application Server Portal, Oracle Collaboration Suite and Oracle Business Intelligence, which in this context means the Daily Business Intelligence feature in the most recent e-Business Suite versions. The emphasis here again is on real-time business intelligence, moving away from BI being the preserve of a few analysts in head office to being something embedded in everyone's day-to-day applications.

The last part of the architecture is the Development Framework, based on Oracle JDeveloper 10g and the new Application Developer Framework (ADF), the successor to BC4J which most of you will probably be aware of. The Development Framework is all about XML, J2EE, web services and all the other usual buzzwords, and focuses on building on and extending the core business functionality in the e-Business Suite.

So, what does this mean for us, as business intelligence developers who work on Oracle products and deal with Oracle? Well, as visions go, it's not bad actually, and clearly a response to SAP and their NetWeaver offering which offers much the same kind of vision, though arguably not as clearly defined as Oracle's and with less obvious immediate benefits. Applications being exposed as web services (the 'Service-Orientated Architecture') is more of a concern for applications developers, but the really interesting part for me is the unified data model, maintained and populated using these new enterprise data hubs. By making the e-Business Suite work better with third party applications, and making a play for their data, this leaves us Oracle business intelligence and data warehousing developers in quite a strong position, with an opportunity now to build on this information architecture and add to the built in BI that comes with the e-Business Suite. It could all blow over in a year or two, with something else replacing grid technology and web services, but as a vision that centres on the provision of information and services without any restrictions, it's as good a way as any for business intelligence to really reach out to everyone in the organisation.

To read more about Oracle Information Architecture, take a look at:


 

 

   
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