Oracle readies major app server upgrade

Oracle on Wednesday will introduce Oracle Application Server 10g Release 2, which is being characterized as a significant upgrade to the product with improvements in Java, Web services, and identity management and the addition of RFID backing.

The company plans to ship the application server and the JDeveloper 10g Release 2 development tool in three weeks, said Thomas Kurian, Oracle senior vice president of development for Oracle Application Server.

The application server and development tool upgrades were the subjects of a session at the Oracle OpenWorld conference on Monday morning. These products will be formally announced at the conference on Wednesday, as will Oracle Application Server Standard Edition (SE) 1, a version of the application server intended for small business customers. SE 1 focuses on building Web sites and portals.

"Release 2 is a major update release for us. There are 432 features in the new release," Kurian said. The company with its application development platform is looking to help users build business applications in accordance with SOAs (service-oriented architectures) based on componentized applications, Kurian noted.

Featured in Release 2 is support of the J2EE 1.4 specification, including support for enhanced reliable messaging via Java Message Service and Web services enhancements. J2EE 1.4 provides APIs for building Web services in Java, such as JAX RPC. The Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I) Basic Profile is supported, as is interoperability with .Net applications.

A SOAP stack and UDDI Web services registry are featured. A Web services management gateway in Release 2, meanwhile, provides a centralized point to log, trace, and enforce policies across Oracle's and other vendors' application servers. Also featured for Web services functionality is support of the Web Services Reliable Messaging specification.

To boost deployment in compute grids, the application server features distributed configuration management. An improved transaction manager in Release 2 provides for two-phase commit, according to Kurian.

Release 2 of the application server also offers an improved Oracle Interconnect ESB, which provides messaging capabilities for systems integration. The ESB is 40 percent faster than the previous iteration, according to Kurian.

A "business event monitoring dashboard" is being touted in the new release, enabling users to set up key performance indicators and tie them to specific business events, such as whether a supplier is late, said Kurian. Security alerts also can be monitored.

The new application server features software called "Instant Portal," providing a starting point for using portals. "We give you a portal in the box, [which] you can start with and customize and it allows a business user to be much more quick and productive," Kurian said. Also supported in Release 2 is Java Specification Request 168 and Web Services for Remote Portlets, for boosting enterprise portal development.

Oracle with the application service introduces "RFID edge" capabilities, providing support for the radio-based tagging standard. An enhanced Oracle Forms function, Release 2, meanwhile, makes it easier to call forms from Java and use Java in forms.

Identity management has been enhanced to allow for synchronization between Oracle's directory and products such as Microsoft Active Directory or the iPlanet directory. It is now easier to manage directories across a distributed environment, said Kurian. Federated identity is being supported to enable users to create and propagate identities from one organization to another using SAML or Liberty Alliance technologies.

Integration between the application server and .Net has been improved for identity purposes. "You can build Web services in .Net and invoke them from our application server," Kurian said. "You can create users and take the Windows sign-on."

Dynamic resource management in Release 2 allows for workload adjustments between systems. "It's a feature of the application server which, when you're running multiple applications on the application server, it knows how to adjust workloads and give capacity on the fly to those applications that need it, and take resources away from those that don't," Kurian said.

High availability in Release 2 accommodates deployment downtime situations either planned or unplanned, Kurian said. Backup and recovery has been automated across multiple nodes and hot and cold backups are enabled. An "App Server Guard" feature in Release 2 provides for standby environments for the application server and databases.

An attendee cited high availability as a highlight of Kurian's presentation.

"Basically, I think the high availability features really stood out for me," said Sergio Del Rio, CIO for Templates 4 Business, a systems integrator. Availability has presented a struggle previously, Del Rio said.

Del Rio also applauded security enhancements but said he did not see a need at his company for RFID support in the application server.

In software provisioning, Release 2 offers new ways to install and configure application servers, enabling the cloning of portals and improvement of capabilities to migrate systems from testing to production. Upgrades can be fully automated.

A "topology-based management" function enables Web severs and application servers to be monitored from a single place. "Topology-based management allows you to get centralized viewing and monitoring of your application servers and databases across your organization," Kurian said.

The application server also can be connected to legacy systems such as CICS and VSAM, Kurian noted. Oracle is highlighting integration between the application server and RAC (Real Application Clusters) as well, for failover purposes, according to Kurian. Application servers can automatically switch over, he said.

JDeveloper 10g Release 2 provides a design environment to develop J2EE, XML, and database applications, according to Oracle. Featured is support for code re-factoring, code templates, and easier code navigation. JDeveloper is being integrated with open source technologies for testing, such as CVS (Concurrent Versions System) for source code management and project sharing. JUnit support for Java testing is being enhanced, and Ant support is improved.

Oracle with its development announcement also is highlighting its Application Development Framework, for utilizing a choice of technologies, such as Struts, JavaServer Faces, and EJB. Also supported in the framework are JBoss, BEA WebLogic, and IBM WebSphere.

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