Oracle Talks Up Application Integration Architecture

On Monday, company executives talked up Oracle's Application Integration Architecture (AIA), aka Project X. The effort aims to boost interoperability between the company's various applications without sacrificing flexibility.

While Oracle said third-party applications can easily plug into AIA, the architecture also assumes the use of Oracle's SOA Suite. Introduced last fall, the suite comprises the Oracle Application Server, BPEL Process Manager, Enterprise Service Bus, and Rules Engine and Web Services Manager.

Oracle has long said that BPEL will be the lingua franca of process integration. What it's now outlining is a "programmatic, architected way to leverage a set of common objects and services, all natively supported on its Fusion applications," Jose Lazares, vice president of development and product strategy at the Redwood Shores, Calif., software vendor, told CRN on Monday.

Oracle Co-president Charles Phillips is announcing the news at the Collaborate 07 conference in Las Vegas, where several thousand Oracle applications customers and partners are gathered.

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As part of Project X, Oracle will define common data objects and services in a way that they can be easily found, accessed and reused.

"We're creating a semantic model so we can use English language to define attributes and create a set of defined interfaces," Lazares said.

In a new report, AMR Research analyst Bill Swanton described it this way: "Oracle is defining common data objects and services for communicating among its applications using its SOA architecture, which some Oracle development groups refer to as 'the canonicals.'

"The approximately 100 objects are based on Open Application Group (OAG) object definitions, with some tweaks to maximize the usefulness among its portfolio of applications. They will be extensible for specific industry and customer needs but still upgradeable for future releases," Swanton wrote.

The first deliverables will be integration packs linking Siebel CRM On Demand to Oracle eBusiness Suite and to eBusiness Suite Order Management. A bevy of other packs will come out over the course of the year, Lazares said.

The integrations, built on standard Business Process Execution Language (BPEL), will be available by the end of May, according to Lazares. Pricing will vary from $30,000 to $90,000 per CPU.

Chris Wong, vice president of corporate strategy at Agile, an Oracle ISV partner specializing in product life-cycle management, is bullish on Project X.

"Given all these applications -- and they keep buying more -- the common denominator is the platform. You start with the database, then the app server, then you adapt some of the applications. And you need to make them work better together, so then you look at the integration layer, all the versioning. This is what they're doing now," Wong said.

Oracle is now approaching the age-old problem of integration from more of an application and less of a platform approach, Wong added.

Lazares said the plan brings together the SOA middleware suite and best practices methodology to ease creation of better integration. "It's the best-practice approach. When do you use this particular tool to do this type of orchestration? How do you extend it in a way that changes can be preserved?" he said.

Oracle's promised "Fusion" application lineup -- essentially, the converged set of functions now available across several brands -- is still on track to be rolled out in 2008, Lazares said.

Oracle is on an ambitious, two-prong app attack. The company continues to build more integration between its product islands, and it's trying to build more and more shared code and processes over time into its current brands, which include Oracle, Siebel, PeopleSoft and JD Edwards.

In many respects, Oracle and Microsoft face a similar issue. Both software behemoths field multiple ERP and business app code bases that they're trying to converge and rationalize. But Oracle customers tend to be at the enterprise level, whereas Microsoft ERP is found in smaller companies.

SAP, which is by far Oracle's biggest enterprise apps rival, is trying to manage a transition of enterprise accounts off legacy R/3 ERP and onto MySAP, while also fielding All-in-One and Business One for smaller businesses.