Wednesday, December 2, 2009

RUEI 6.0 is Released

Oracle Enterprise Manager Real User Experience Insight 6.0 is Now Available.
Real User Experience Insight (RUEI) is a key technology in Oracle Enterprise Manager's technology arsenal to help application administrators understand how applications are being used and the user experience delivered. Specifically, it helps administrators answer important questions such as:

- Who are the users?
- Where did they come from?
- What have they been doing on the application? What parts of the applications are getting used?
- What sort of response time have they experienced?
- What errors have they encountered?

The insight that RUEI delivers can help application administrators manage application service level better through proactive monitoring and greater insights on end user activities. Besides application administrators, business analysts may also benefit from the insights provided by this tool, as end user activities on the applications can also reveal important information on whether the business is operating as intended. The tool is an indispensable piece of technology for anyone who owns or manages mission critical business applications. It is the next best thing to being there with every single application users and watching what they do on the applications.

The latest version of this tool delivers several important enhancements.

First, it offers integration with Oracle Application Diagnostic for Java and Composite Application Monitor and Modeler, two key pieces of Oracle Enterprise Manager technologies that provide further insights to the internal workings of applications. RUEI helps application administrators find out what the user did, and these two technologies provide further insights on why the applications behave in certain way, so it is nature to integrate them together.

Second, it provides better ways for administrators and business analysts to review user activities with full user session replay on web applications that shows step-by-step interactions between the end users and the applications, and customizable monitoring dashboards that tailor to the information that is most relevant about the monitored applications. These dashboards provide both IT and business users a single view with actionable intelligence, to help identify trends, patterns and anomalies.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, improved out-of-box capabilities to support key Oracle Applications such as Oracle E-Business Suite and Siebel CRM, as well as applications constructed out of Oracle technologies such as Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF) and Oracle Weblogic Portal. While RUEI is designed to be a general purpose application monitoring tool, we want to make sure that we provide un-paralleled out-of-box support for our customers who depend on our packaged applications and middleware technologies to run their businesses. Customers who use RUEI to monitor their Oracle Applications and middleware can expect shorter time-to-benefit as the tool works better out-of-box, as well as greater insights into Oracle technologies.

More information about RUEI can be found here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Want to Have a Smooth Running Application? Start with Good Planning.

Last year, I wrote an article that talked about key issues that IT need to consider when deploying enterprise class business applications. This year for OpenWorld, I decided to follow up the article with a breakout session to discuss the topic. There is a saying that “three minds are better than one”, so I recruited Keith Peters and Deep Ram, who had close to 30 years of combined experience working with application customers, to help put together the presentation. I am going to cover what we discussed at the session starting with this blog entry.

To frame the discussion, we decided to organize our material around application lifecycle phases, and based our discussion loosely around Oracle Unified Method, Oracle's implementation methodology for both application and technology products. Oracle Unified Method, as the name implies, is a unified implementation methodology that combined the best practices of the older Oracle Application Implementation Method as well as the methodologies from many acquired companies. The result is a very comprehensive set off best practices that should lead to implementation and operational successes if the methodology is applied properly.

At the earliest phase of an application project, known as the inception phase, there are two sets of activities that need to be done to set the foundation for achieving success later on in production. The first is to control the scope of customizations. Customization is often seen as a controversial topic, and some application vendors even go as far as telling customers to avoid customizations altogether. In our view, some customizations can be justified. One ways that different organizations compete with each other is through process innovation, and process innovation often require application customizations in order to support the processes.

However, bugs and performance problems may also get introduced into customizations alongside new capabilities. Before packaged applications are released to customers, they usually undergo extensive functional and load tests to ensure the proper functioning, stability, performance and scalability of the products. However, once customizations are introduced into these applications, these test results effectively become invalidated, as the actual application is not the same as the version that the vendor tested. In other words, there are potential costs and risks associated with customizations, so they should be made very selectively.

How to be selective?

We have observed the following practices at some of the best run application implementation projects by our customers.
  1. Spend time to really understand the full capabilities of the applications. The whole point of buying a packaged application is to take advantage of the business practices that are baked into the product and leverage the economy of scale of sharing their development costs with other customers. To make intelligent decisions on what to customize, it is important to know what is already in the box.
  2. Analyze the current business processes and adjust them as necessary to fit the application. Customizations are usually done to support specific business process activities. If the out-of-box application does not work the exact way that maps to various business tasks, perhaps it would be easier to change the way that people use the application. Furthermore, simply converting existing inefficient business processes to run in an application usually is not the best way to improve effectiveness.
  3. Make whoever requested for customizations justify the needs. Evaluate the requests against potential costs and risks for approval and prioritization. This process should both be quantitative and qualitative. For example, justify benefits in terms of task step reduction, or even potential incremental revenue affected. For costs, have rough estimates on implementation and testing times. A scoring system, with clearly defined criteria, could also be very useful.

The most important thing is that these activities need to be carried out by the organization's own staff as much as possible, as it can be problematic to rely solely on the advice of outside consultants. While the best consultants would provide sound advice, there are also some bad apples that would encourage customers to over customize because they stand to profit from it.

By controlling the scope of customizations, not only would you make your application implementation more manageable, but you would also increase the chance that your application will run smoothly in production.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New Oracle Enterprise Manager Widgets

Oracle Enterprise Manager is a great tool that helps IT administrators keep tab of the health of their various applications and infrastructure components. Its web browser based user interface can be accessed by administrators anywhere in the world where a browser runs in order to get latest status information on the managed objects (a.k.a. targets) that they want to monitor. However, it can be a bit tedious to have to launch Enterprise Manager console every time just to check status. If this problem applies to you, there is now a solution that should make your job easier.

Introducing Oracle Desktop Widgets, which are lightweight applications that you can run on your PC or Mac to access Enterprise Manager information. Three widgets are available. The first widget lets you keep track of the up/down status of the targets that you care to track.

The second widget allows you to monitor the actual service levels of your service targets.

The third widget is designed specifically to monitor database usage and performance.

One of the key advantages that these widgets provide is the ability to stay connected to Enterprise Manager. You can set them up to be launched automatically every time you log onto your PC, and the widgets stay on your desktop until either you close them explicitly, or when you log off your account.

How much do these widgets cost? They are free! They are released technology previews in order to test out new ideas and concepts. Please try them out, and give us feedbacks. To submit your feedback, click the feedback icon on the upper right corner of the widget.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Distributed Application Management - Rapid Remediation

The concept of integrated management software applies to more than just monitoring and diagnostics. Unfortunately, when it comes to remediation, there is no single integrated tool that can do the job across the entire environment. A good policy is look for tools that provide the most automation. The next thing to look for is using as few tools as possible. One interesting approach is to perform post mortem on some recent problems and see if you could have reduced Mean Time To Repair (MTTR) with more automation and whether you could eliminate certain tools by extending the use of other tools. When it comes to remediation, having to deal with fewer tools is better for you. It helps you reduce MTTR.

Let’s look at deployment automation. A fix may require deploying various kinds of changes to the application environment. These changes may involve deploying new application code, correcting configuration discrepancies, tuning database SQL, or patching the software. Similar to monitoring and diagnostics, the task of applying change to a modern distributed application environment is complicated by dependencies amongst potentially large number of affected components. If changes are not applied uniformly across all the affected components, the application environment may become destabilized. Furthermore, change needs to be applied systematically following a set of well-defined policies in order to preserve availability as well as compliance.

When it is time to applying changes, deployment automation tools can be used to group together related change elements into a single package, and orchestrate the numerous steps involved in bringing down elements of the application environment, moving the package into the proper places, applying the change, and re-activating the application environment. Deployment automation helps reduce human errors in potentially complex change procedures, increase the efficiencies of such operations, and ultimately, lead to lower costs and increased agility for the applications. OK, I don’t like to reuse expressions but not all deployment automation tools where created equal either! Most provide a scripting tool and using it, you can develop highly sophisticated deployments. This is certainly necessary but not sufficient. Deploying an application may involve dozens of individual steps. A great percentage of them could be automated for most deployments. A truly useful deployment tool should have these steps pre-defined for you. Furthermore, with some basic questions, you could address a great deal of customizations. So, we should expect deployment automation tools to actually do the job without requiring IT staff to tell the tool how to do the job. In the e-commerce application example, modified checkout logic and table index update can be deployed together, and the change be recorded for auditing purpose.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Distributed Application Management - End-to-End Management

When a problem occurs, the amount of time it takes to identify the root cause and apply remedy directly impacts the overall service level of the application. Because modern application environments are built on a wide array of technologies, each of which may impact performance and availability in a particular way, it is important to have a complete set of tools to access the specific diagnostic information for each technology. If one relies on point solutions, troubleshooting will invariably involve a significant degree of context switching, which basically means looking at multiple consoles and having to cut and paste information between them to get to the root-cause, resulting in delayed resolutions and increased stress for administrators. Relying on point solutions also slows down the diagnostics of the actual problem because of the finger-pointing between different organizations. Hence it is very desirable that these tools are integrated to provide a comprehensive view of the performance and availability of the applications and the underlying infrastructure as well as the ability to rapidly diagnose problems when service-levels are violated or are close to being violated.

In troubleshooting, the first step is to isolate the components that may be causing the problem. This task can be greatly simplified through the use of integrated configuration management capabilities and the dependency information from the CMDB. Dependency information stored in the CMDB helps narrow down the list of components that may be contributing to a problem. Once the components are identified, change history information stored in the CMDB can rapidly provide insights on why a previously working component began to malfunction. In the e-commerce application example, the IT staff could use the CMDB to identify the components that are associated with checking out, which would include the checkout logic, the application server and the database. After that, they could search the CMDB for all the associated components for changes that have been made against them to see if any behavior change can be attributed to changes in configuration.

For many kinds of problems, administrators need access to historical data about multiple tiers of computing before the root-cause can be identified. An integrated tool that can correlate end-user response times with middleware and database processing times can save the administrators precious time and effort. Through the recorded performance data, one could visualize the demands that were placed on an application in a given point in time, information on resource consumption and potential contention. In the e-commerce checkout example, the IT staff could retrieve performance data collected from the application, the web server, the application server, the database, and the operating system in order to visualize the behavior of the environment. They may discover that the database server had a very high load because of competing batch workload, which slowed down checkout processing.

Another technology that is useful for troubleshooting performance problem is transaction tracing. In modern distributed application environments, processing of a request frequently involves multiple components, which may or may not even run on the same server machine. Using these transaction tracing tools that are designed specifically for the type of application being analyzed, one could follow through the processing of these requests to find out how much time is spent at each step in order to identify bottlenecks. Recall the management-aware discussion? If your application platform and management tools actually understand each other, you will get better information, more timely information and you will make better decisions. Ask your vendor to demonstrate the depth of the management tool’s ability to learn about your application and database infrastructure. In the e-commerce application example, the IT staff could look up collected trace information about checkout operations starting at the application server mid-tier level, and discover that most of the time was spent in the database. Using tools designed specifically for troubleshooting database, administrators could drill down to the database to analyze SQL statements to look for ways to optimize them, such as rewriting the SQL statements or adjusting table indices.

Picture: Transaction Diagnostic for Siebel CRM

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

OAM, OEM, AMP - What are the Differences?

I worked at a data communications hardware firm many years ago. When I joined the company, I was surprised to learn that the data communications business used (and still uses) a huge arrays of acronyms to describe its technologies. Learning those acronyms was like learning a foreign language. At Oracle, we have built up our share of acronyms over time also. In particular, people have asked over and over about the differences between OAM, OEM, and AMP. Let me try to explain what they are, how they relate to each other, and how they are different.

OAM – Oracle Applications Manager is the base console that is shipped with Oracle E-Business Suite

OEM – Oracle Enterprise Manager comes in three editions; Oracle Enterprise Manager Database Control, Oracle Enterprise Manager Application Server Control, and Oracle Enterprise Manager Grid Control. The first two are the base consoles that are shipped with Oracle Database and Oracle Application Server, respectively, and they provide similar kind of functionalities as Oracle Applications Manager. Oracle Enterprise Manager Grid Control is Oracle's flagship management product, providing enterprise class management capabilities and support for ITIL best practices.

AMP – Application Management Pack, specifically Application Management Pack for Oracle E-Business Suite, is a product that extends and runs on Oracle Enterprise Manager Grid Control to provide advanced management capabilities specifically for Oracle E-Business Suite.

How is OAM different from OEM/AMP?

OAM is the baseline console that is bundled as part of Oracle E-Business Suite. It is a tool designed primarily for administrative tasks such as configuring E-Business Suite parameters, identifying patches to apply, and looking up the real time status of E-Business components from a single E-Business Suite instance. Conceptually, it is similar to Oracle Database Control, which is another similar administrative utility that Oracle provides for administering a single Oracle database instance.

OEM, specifically the Oracle Enterprise Manager Grid Control, provides advanced value added management capabilities for E-Business Suite administrators who need the extra support that only OEM can provide. Through OEM, E-Business Suite administrators can proactively monitor their E-Business Suite environments, track configuration changes, troubleshoot problems, and automate manual intensive tasks such as cloning E-Business Suite environments. Features such as synthetic transaction based monitoring, service level management, configuration analysis, historical metrics, and cloning automation exist only in OEM and not OAM. These value added capabilities help improve the service levels of E-Business Suite applications while at the same time reduce operational costs.

It is not an either-or decision to choose between OAM and OEM. In fact, we designed OEM to complement OAM - OEM is the advanced tool for proactive management and automation, OAM supports basic administrative tasks. Furthermore, because OEM and OAM were built on the same Oracle Fusion Middleware UIX user interface framework and the Application Management Pack for Oracle E-Business Suite contains numerous integration points with OAM, E-Business Suite administrators can seamlessly navigate between the two tools to accomplish various tasks.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Distributed Application Management - Managing from the Top Down

In the last article, I outlined the key new approaches needed for managing distributed applications and how traditional management tools fall short. This time, I will talk more about why and how to manage distributed applications from the business perspective. In other words, manage them from the top down.

Besides the toolkit approach, traditional systems management tools also focused on managing the individual components of standalone applications from the bottom up. The components that made up these applications often ran on a single computer, which may be a mainframe or a large Symmetric Multi-Processor (SMP) server, and they were accessed via dedicated terminal connections. In contrast, modern distributed business applications run on multiple standards-compliant servers along with a collection of middleware, database, network and storage technologies. These applications are more interconnected and increasingly the interconnections are dynamic which make the end-to-end environment very challenging to manage. Because of the large number of components in modern application environments and the complex dependencies amongst the components, the traditional bottom-up focused approach alone is insufficient as it is very difficult to draw conclusions on the health of an application by simply examining the health of individual components that the application is built on.

The alternate approach is to manage applications top-down. Why is a top-down approach a better solution? In short, it helps IT focus on measurements that are relevant and ensures that applications meet business needs. This approach starts with understanding end-user service level requirements, which may include a service level target, the hours for enforcement, and the key business process flows that the applications must complete successfully. For example, for an e-commerce website, the service level requirement may be 99.99%, or less than 1 hour of unplanned outage in a year. The business hours may mirror the times when customers are expected to use the system, which could be 24x7. The key business operations that must be supported may include browsing product catalogs, placing products on shopping carts and checking out to complete orders.

With the end-user driven service level requirements defined, IT staff may then set up appropriate monitoring to ensure that those requirements are met. Technologies such as end-user monitoring may be employed to measure application end user experience, which eliminate any guesswork to gauge whether the applications are working. In the example above, the IT staff might want to define synthetic transactions using a specially designed tool that is appropriate for the e-commerce application to simulate end users logging onto the website, browsing the catalog, placing items on shopping carts, and checking out. The IT staff may also define thresholds against these end-user measurements so that they can be notified proactively if application performance or availability degrades. In fact, in contrast to traditional systems management, the IT staff may rely primarily on these notifications instead of component level notifications to manage the applications, as notifications from these end-user oriented measurements provide much more accurate views on the health of the applications according to the way that end users see them.

Picture: Business Process Availability Report

Besides end user monitoring, another key enabler for the top-down approach is the mapping of business processes to the underlying components that the applications rely on. These mappings connect the end-user perspective with the underlying technology components, and enable quicker problem isolations and more accurate impact analysis when a problem is detected by end-user monitoring. The technology that facilitates this mapping is the configuration management database (CMDB). The CMDB should be the integrated foundation of any modern application management tool, as it keeps track of not only the list of components that support an application, but also the relationships amongst these components and the changes that are made to them. Not all CMDBs were created equal! Most CMDBs provide facilities for defining new and custom types of Configuration Information (CI) so you can grab CIs that are unknown to the CMDB. This is necessary but not sufficient. A CMDB must come out-of-the-box ready to collect as much about your application environment as the infrastructure they were built on. If you are expecting to have to feed your CMDB specific instructions on how to collect CIs on your business critical applications, you should be prepared to dedicate a significant amount of your administrators’ time for defining and maintaining these CIs.

In the example above, the e-commerce processes may be mapped to the front end load balancer, the firewall, the web server, the application server, the database server, and the network switches and routers that connect everything together.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

New Oracle Enterprise Manager Management Pack for SOA and Middleware Management

The Enterprise Manager product release parade continues. Oracle just released three new management packs: Management Pack for Oracle WebCenter Suite, Management Pack Plus for SOA and Management Pack for Websphere Portal.

There are several notable things about these packs. First, they are for both Oracle and 3rd party middleware products, continuing our effort to help Oracle customers proactively manage Oracle products and 3rd party technologies often used with Oracle. Second, they leverage the Composite Application Monitoring and Modeler technology that we acquired last year in order to take Enterprise Manager's ability to discover, model, monitor, diagnose and report on the usage of various Java EE and SOA applications and the artifacts that make up these applications.

Additional product information can be found at this website.

There is also a very nice recorded demo that shows how the tool works in action, which you may access from this link.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Distributed Application Management - New Challenges, New Approaches

Last year, I wrote about the differences between application management and traditional system management. In this new series, I am going to examine the new challenges presented by managing distributed applications further, and talk about the new approaches needed to address these needs. These new approaches include:

- Integrated management solutions that are designed specifically for managing applications in order to achieve the quickest return on investments
- Application platforms that are management-aware
- Ability to map and track application service levels to actual business processes and flows so that applications’ compliance to business requirements can be assessed more easily and accurately
- End-to-end performance monitoring, diagnostics and root-cause analysis across the broad application environment and its underlying technology stack to account for all the elements that affect application service levels
- Rapid remediation of issues regardless of where they occur in the entire technology stack

The problem with traditional system management approaches is that they focused on providing frameworks independent from the application environments that they are supposed to manage. These frameworks were essentially toolkits for solving particular management problems such as managing configurations, monitoring and diagnostics. Users of these frameworks had to undertake costly implementation efforts to integrate the toolkits with the application environments, and integrate the different toolkits for solving different management problems. The ensuing maintenance of these kinds of implementations turned out to be cost prohibitive for even the largest IT organizations.

Furthermore, little attention was paid to building in management awareness in application platforms. As a result, traditional system management tools had a hard time managing these applications, as these tools were built with limited insights on how the applications and their platforms operate, and the tools had to rely on the limited information that the platforms exposed.

A better strategy is to build application platforms together with the tools for managing them. This integrated approach ensures useful management information is exposed that your management tools and your application platform work well together. In addition, integrated management software that is designed to support specific types of application environments already have the necessary integration defined. They are much more useful out-of-the-box, and reduce the costs and risks for implementation. A key reason why the new approach works better is that applications and the tools for managing them are engineered to work together.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

New Management Connectors to Integrate Oracle Enterprise Manager with HP Management Products

One of the most frequently asked questions that our customers ask about Oracle Enterprise Manager is its ability to integrate with other management tools. This is understandable. As good as Enterprise Manager is at managing Oracle database and applications, many IT departments already use other tools for managing their network, keeping track of their storage, and running their helpdesks. Enterprise Manager provides a rich selection of approaches for exchanging data with other tools. These integration capabilities just got better this week with the release of three new connectors, which include:

- Management Connector for HP Service Center
- Management Connector for HP Service Manager
- Management Connector for HP OpenView Operations Manager

These three connectors join a growing collection of similar connectors for integrating Oracle Enterprise Manager with Siebel Helpdesk, BMC Remedy Helpdesk, PeopleSoft Helpdesk, Microsoft Operations Manager and IBM Tivoli Enterprise Console. They help automate ITIL problem and incident management processes by automatically generating helpdesk tickets, forwarding alerts, and synchronizing status updates bi-directionally.

Because these integrations are done at the Enterprise Manager platform level, they benefit all the different users of Enterprise Manager from DBAs to infrastructure administrators to application administrators. In other words, if you want to use Enterprise Manager to manage Oracle E-Business Suite or Siebel or a Java EE app running in Oracle Weblogic Server, and you still want to use HP tools to carry out other tasks, you can now use these connectors to achieve the integration.

More information about Enterprise Manager's Connectors can be found here.

Read the press release here.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Oracle Enterprise Manager 10gR5 Platform Enhancements

In my last post, I gave an overview on our new release of Enterprise Manager Grid Control 10gR5. Starting with this article, I am going to cover each area of improvement in more detail. The first topic to discuss is platform enhancements, as aside from Weblogic support, these are the most important changes we made in 10gR5. Platform improvements are important because they benefit everybody. Most of the Enterprise Manager management packs and plug-in's are built on a common platform. This approach allows Oracle to achieve economy of scale when it comes to creating management tools for various technologies, and it provides simplicity and efficiency to our customers as a common platform makes it easier to deploy various tools and reduces training needs.

Here are the key improvements.

Default Monitoring Templates – Monitoring Templates help Enterprise Manager deliver its “grid management” vision of managing a “grid” of objects as a single entity. Specifically, templates can be used to specify common thresholds in order to simplify monitoring setups. Before 10gR5, one could define monitoring templates, but these templates have to be manually applied to new targets that are added to Enterprise Manager. In 10gR5, this step is automated through a default option in monitoring template. If you mark a template as the default for a given target type, then the template would be automatically applied every time you add a new target of this type to Enterprise Manager. In addition, a new out-of-box report and reporting elements make it easier to review template application history.

Improved Alert State Management – Prior to 10gR5, once an alert is raised when a metric threshold is crossed, the alert would stay in Enterprise Manager until the next scheduled evaluation of the metric. This was not very convenient, as administrators want to get more timely feedback on the corrective actions that they take, and have the alert state be cleared as soon as possible. Starting with 10gR5, administrators can force a metric re-evaluation to be carried out immediately in order to verify the effectiveness of the fix. In addition, administrators can better manage their log file based alerts by setting duration based notification rules that clear such alerts on a periodic basis, or by using new EMCLI verbs that support bulk clearing of such alerts.

Repeated Notification – Repeat notifications are now supported for all notification methods – OS Command, PL/SQL procedures and SNMP traps.

Customized Notification Messages – EM 10gR5 provides more flexibility in the way that administrators can customize the format of email notifications. The content of the notification can be customized to include selected target properties and other information that provides more context about the alerts. Considering the multitude of devices that people use to receive notifications and the varying limitations of these devices, having this flexibility to customize the messages should be quite useful.

EM Backup / Recovery via EMCLI – New verbs are added to emcli so that backup and recovery operations for Enterprise Manager components can now be performed via the command line. These operations include the ability to resynchronize the repository, export and import OMS configurations, and resynchronize an agent based on information in the repository. Besides the fact that many power users like to use command line tools, having this command line support enable automation of these operations via scripting.

Management Pack License Bulk Updates – Bulk activation and deactivation of management pack license can now be performed in either the Enterprise Manager console or via emcli. We probably should have added this feature long time ago. After you pay for the packs, the least that we could do is to make it easier for you to start using them. Well, better late then never. :)

Automatic Enterprise Agent Software Download – Grid Control has provided several means to automate the process of deploying agents in the past, but one task has been manual – getting the agent software package from Oracle in the first place! We have automated this step too in 10gR5. Just go to the agent page and pick out what you want and the tool will take care of getting it from My Oracle Support. Yes, this is another long overdue item.

Privilege Propagating Group – Group is one of the most useful platform features of Enterprise Manager. It lets you arrange a set of related targets together so that they can be monitored together more easily. Privilege Propagating Group extends this concept further by simplifying the allocation of access privilege to the set of targets under a group. Once you grant an access privilege to a Privilege Propagating Group, all member targets of that group inherits the same access privilege.

Additional Access Privileges – New fine-grained target privileges to support principle of least privilege are provided: Blackout Target, Manage Target Metrics, Configure Target and Manage Target Alerts. In addition, the Enterprise Manager user interface is enhanced to make it easier to manage Privilege Delegation settings. Privilege Delegation can be set for User Defined Metrics, Corrective Actions and Database Replay features. Lastly, corrective actions that a user defined may be shared with other users by granting them the proper access privileges.

Third Party Security Certificates – EM 10gR5 supports the use of third party security certificates to set up secured communications between the Enterprise Manager's server, agent, and the web browser client.

Enhanced Auditing – EM 10gR5 lets you track Enterprise Manager operations more easily. As Enterprise Manager becomes the tool to manage applications, middleware infrastructure and databases centrally, it is important to be able to trace these operations. Enhanced auditing capabilities include enriched audit records, audit data search, built-in externalization service to externalize audit data into external store, and compatibility with Oracle Diagnostic Logging (ODL) format to allow integration with Oracle Audit Vault.

Simplified User Defined Policy Interface – Configuration Policy is a very powerful feature in Grid Control to help IT proactive about avoiding configuration related problems. Prior to 10gR5, it was very difficult to create custom policies. This problem is solved in 10gR5 with a wizard driven interface to create User Defined Policies, allowing you to mitigate system vulnerabilities by defining and implementing configuration policies specific to their operational best practices, governance and industry standard requirements. The new interface allows you to create, edit, test, delete, export and import user defined policies.

User Defined Policy Group – In addition to be User Defined Policies, you may also defined User Defined Policy Groups to group together user defined and Oracle-provided policies. Once these policy groups are created, they can be evaluated just like other policy groups.

There you have it. These are the key platform enhancements for Enterprise Manager 10gR5, which are applicable whether you are managing your packaged Oracle applications using our Application Management Packs, your middleware infrastructure using our Middleware Management Packs, your Oracle Database using our Oracle Database Management Packs, or 3rd party technologies using our System Monitoring Plug-in's. There is something for everyone!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Oracle Enterprise Manager 10gR5 is Here!

Oracle Enterprise Manager Grid Control 10gR5 is finally here! I hope you all enjoyed the launch webcast this morning. If you missed it, here is the link to the recording.

As I mentioned in my post last week, this release is chock-full of goodies that we believe will please everyone from application administrators to DBAs to CIOs and even the business sponsors of your applications. So what are those goodies? Here are some of the most important enhancements.

For Application Administrators

This release takes Enterprise Manager Grid Control's top-down application management capabilities to the next level. Of all the new and improved features, probably the most significant is our expanded support for the Oracle Weblogic Server. Weblogic support is important because this component serves as the foundation of many Oracle products. Weblogic not only forms the basis of Oracle Fusion Middleware, which is the foundation for upcoming Oracle Fusion Applications, but it is also a key technology used to modernize the various packaged Oracle applications. In other words, improved support for Weblogic management benefits not only administrators of custom Java applications, but also administrators of packaged Oracle applications. For example, the latest Siebel CRM 8.1.1 release incorporates Oracle Application Development Framework into its software stack to enable the latest generation of customer self service applications. As Oracle evolves the current packaged applications using Java EE technologies, it is important that the tools for managing these applications are evolved with them.

One thing to keep in mind is that Enterprise Manager's support for Weblogic is not a completely new thing. In fact, Enterprise Manager began supporting Weblogic monitoring in 2006, two years before Oracle acquired BEA. The support was part of Enterprise Manager's heterogeneous management capabilities, which also include support for monitoring Websphere, JBoss and .NET. In 10gR5, Weblogic support was strengthened to include the ability to:
- monitor the performance of top Enterprise JavaBeans (EJBs) & JSP’s in deployed applications;
- discover and monitor web services deployed to WebLogic Server
- monitor server resources (e.g. data sources, JMS servers, resource adapters, JOLT connection pools)
- view, compare and track more configuration items such as JVM vendor/version, additional tuning parameters, cluster configuration, JMS resources, virtual hosts, JOLT connection pools, and configuration files

For packaged applications, Application Management Pack for Siebel was refreshed to add official support for Siebel 8.1.1, the brand new version of Siebel CRM that Oracle released recently. In the old days, it was always a challenge to get third party management vendors to support new Siebel releases in a timely manner. As the old saying goes – if you want to get something done right, you have to do it yourself. Now that we build our own management tools, we can ensure that our new application releases are covered. In addition to 8.1.1 support, this new release of the Siebel Pack also include Workflow Process Monitoring, Workflow Policy Monitoring, Event Log Analysis, improved Discovery and Application Service Monitoring.

In addition to the updated Siebel Pack, we released new application accelerators for Oracle Real User Experience Insight (RUEI). RUEI helps IT monitor actual end user experience, answering important questions such as: Who logged onto the applications? What did the users do? What response time did they get and what sort of errors did they run into? Following the approach that we started with our application management packs to provide tools engineered for specific packaged Oracle applications, our two accelerators – one for Oracle E-Business S uite and one for Siebel CRM, provide out of the box management capabilities for these Oracle applications so that the time to get the tool up and running is reduced.

These three packaged application management improvements are just the first wave of enhanced support for Oracle applications that we are introducing for 2009. Stay tuned for more to come.

In addition to better Weblogic Server support and improved management for Siebel and Oracle E-Business Suite, 10gR5 also contains support for Oracle Coherence application grid technology, improved support Oracle Service Bus, BPEL Process Monitoring, Java Application Diagnostics, Composite Application Modeling and Monitoring and Application Configuration Management. There is way too much information to cover in one post, so check out this document for an overview, and come back to this blog for more indepth discussions later on.

For DBAs

Oracle Enterprise Manager started out as a database management tool, and this 10gR5 release should please DBAs who are looking for further improvements to an already impressive package. This release provides support for Oracle Database 11gR1, enabling multiple database servers to be managed centrally. You may wonder – how could 10g Enterprise Manager Grid Control manage 11g Oracle Database? The answer is even though the two products carry similar versioning schemes, Oracle Enterprise Manager Grid Control and Oracle Database are on different release schedules. Therefore, there is nothing unusual about using Enterprise Manager 10g to manage an 11g Oracle Database.

Some of the key enhancements for Oracle Database Management includes:
- support for 11g database features such as ADDM for RAC, real-time SQL monitoring, partition advisor and automatic SQL tuning;
- database replay – an automatic way to capture product workload, copying it to a test system, setting up the software and the test database to reflect the state of the source system at time of capture, deploying replay clients, orchestrating the replay process, and analyzing the replay results;
- database change propagation – synchronize data dictionary to propagate schema changes from a dictionary baseline or a database to a target database;
- some of these capabilities actually existed in the 9i version of Enterprise Manager and have brought it back with full integration within Grid Control;
- customizable tile based views to monitor waits and other metrics across multiple RAC nodes in a cluster;
- improved performance workflows for cluster cache coherency, historic views, and drilldown;
- service-centric monitoring facilitates the monitoring of workflows and drilldowns for RAC services;
- a new HA Console to monitor overall HA configuration status and initiate operations;
- a Maximum Availability Architecture Configuration Advisor page allows you to evaluate the configuration and identify solutions for protection from computer, site, storage, human and data corruption failures, enabling workflows to implement Oracle Recommended solutions;
- automatic configuring of Oracle-recommended Maximum Availability Architecture (MAA) for databases with minimum downtime;
- you can now migrate database to ASM, and convert single instance database to RAC all with minimum downtime using standby technology to minimize downtime;
- a Streams dashboard, along with improved monitoring of streams configurations, allows you to monitor streams components as well as end-to-end paths for Latency and Throughput metrics.

These enhancements help DBAs plan their database changes better by leveraging production workload in order to analyze the potential impact of database changes, make changes more easily by automating the migration of changes, and ensure the database is more robust by implementing leading database maximum availability practices prescribed by Oracle's Maximum Availability Architecture guidelines.

For CIOs

For a long time, IT decision makers have had to make important IT decisions on less than perfect information. Worst yet, the information available often did not represent the reality faced by IT's customers – the lines of business. It puts IT at a rather disadvantaged position. With Real User Experience Insight and Enterprise Manager's Service Level Management capabilities, CIO can get much better information to demonstrate the value that IT delivers, and to ask for the needed resources using factual information to back up the requests.

Equally important, the expanding capabilities of Oracle Enterprise Manager Grid Control mean that many important IT assets can now be managed better and with fewer resources. IT is always shorthanded, so freeing up resources mean that the CIO now has the flexibility to invest on new projects that his/her counterparts in line of business have been asking for in order to drive the organization forward.

Enterprise Manager's expanding footprint also means that IT departments can move forward with their goals of simplifying their vendor management by consolidating their spending with fewer vendors. Gone are the days when organizations have to go to different vendors to get applications, middleware, development tools, databases, O/S and enterprise management systems.

For Applications' Business Sponsors

While not direct users of Oracle Enterprise Managers, the line of business sponsors of the applications also benefit from all these improvements. For example, Real User Experience Insight (RUEI) can be used by not only IT administrators, but also business analysts to perform click stream analysis in order to understand consumer behaviors on eCommerce and self-service applications, where increasingly amount of business activities are carried out. When the data collected from RUEI is combined with those captured from the business applications and analyzed using tools such as Oracle Business Intelligence, businesses can get unprecedented clarity on business activities. Traditionally, data captured from business applications such as Siebel E-Commerce show the business activities that actually took place – the service requests that are filed or the orders that are placed. They don't tell why transactions did not happen as users abort their shopping activities. Data from RUEI tells the other side of the picture. Since Oracle develop business applications, enterprise management tools, and business intelligence technologies, we are in the best position to help business leaders put all these information together to achieve insights.

I hope that you find these capabilities appetizing. But there's more. Check out the complete list of improvements in the first chapter of Oracle Enterprise Manager Concepts Guide, and come back to this blog as I cover the features in more details in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Oracle Enterprise Manager 10gR5 is Coming!

Some of you may notice that I have been awfully quiet on my blog for the past two months. You may wonder – did something happen to this guy? Well, I am still here at Oracle. The reason why I have not done much writing recently is because I have been head down working with my colleagues to ship a new release and to plan for the next ones.

I am happy to say that the new release of Oracle Enterprise Manager 10gR5 is going to be released real soon. I can't talk about what is in the product just yet, but I can tell you that it is chock-full of goodies that we believe will please everyone from application administrators to DBAs to CIOs and even the business sponsors of your applications. If you really want to find out what the release has in store for you, tune in to our product launch webcast on Tuesday, March 3 at 9 a.m. PST. Our fearless leader, Richard Sarwal, will host this event. After the webcast, come back to my blog to get more “inside scope” on the product.

See you next Tuesday.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

People, Process, Technology - The Right Tool

In my day job, I manage products for managing applications at Oracle, so I spend an awful lot of time with management technologies. From this, you probably think that I would tell you to go get a tool whenever you have a problem to solve. Tools are important, but the truth is they don't replace people and processes. Having the best tools in the world isn't going to help if they are not used properly. I wrote about ITIL v3 in the last article of this series. ITIL is one of the many frameworks available, and different people have different opinions about ITIL. The important thing is not whether to implement ITIL, but to have the right people to implement the right IT management processes using one of the best practice frameworks as guidance first.

Tools come in after that. Theoretically, one could implement many IT best practices manually, especially if you throw enough people who know what they are doing at the problem. Realistically though, processes are enhanced through the use of tools, and many important IT management tasks simply do not get done without tool support, as there are not enough people to do things manually in most cases. In this regard, having the right tools can really make a difference.

Picture: Is this the right management tool?

So what are the attributes of the “right” tool? Here are a couple of my ideas.
#1 - It solves the problem.

This may seem obvious. The tool has to work. How well a particular tool works depends on whether it is designed specifically for the job. For example, it isn't rocket science to build a basic monitoring tool that collects a bunch of data from a set of monitored objects, filter the data, and provide some sort of alerts and reports. Every monitoring tool out there can do these things. Some, however, require a lot more work to set up because they are essentially toolkits and whoever uses them have to spend a lot of time integrating these toolkits with the technologies they are supposed to monitor. In contrast, a monitoring tool that is designed for managing a particular piece of technology would work much better out of the box.

#2 - It is comprehensive and integrated
There are many different types of management problems, and it takes different tools to solve them. However, having multiple tools can be rather problematic. For example, the overhead is higher as all these tools need to interact with the underlying technologies being managed. Data is presented in silos and people often end up wasting a lot of time trying to get the tools work together. Tools that provide broader sets of integrated capabilities are better.

#3 - It is easy to integrate
The first two attributes may conflict with each other. The truth is each of the management vendors has its own strengths and weaknesses. Some are better at managing mainframes, others are more equipped with managing networks, and some excel with handling databases and applications. Finding a single vendor that offers comprehensive and integrated products that are designed specifically for managing everything is just impossible. You probably want to standardize on a couple core vendors that serve your needs, and make sure that their products can talk to each other.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Leading Practices of Application Management Webinars for January 2009

Our webinar series on Leading Practices of Application Management is entering its third month, and we have an exciting lineup of topics to cover:

- Business Intelligence Management Pack Overview
- Siebel Maximum Availability Architecture Best Practices
- PeopleSoft Performance Tips and Techniques
- E-Business Suite Install and Cloning Best Practices

You may register at this website. Passcode for registration is "application".

Subject: Business Intelligence Management Pack Overview
Date & Time: 1/6/2009, 11 a.m. PST / 2 p.m. EST
Presenter: Amjad Afanah; Product Manager, Oracle Enterprise Manager
Description: Business Intelligence Management Pack anchors Oracle’s solution for proactively managing your Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition environment. Designed and implemented by Oracle’s application experts, the pack provides comprehensive, integrated, and BI EE-specific capabilities that help you achieve better application performance and availability while keeping your application IT operational costs down.

In this webinar, we will present to you the key features of the product, which include:
- Service Level Management
- Configuration Management
- BI EE Component Monitoring
- Synthetic User Monitoring

Subject: Siebel Maximum Availability Architecture Best Practices
Date & Time: 1/13/2009, 11 a.m. PST / 2 p.m. EST
Presenter: Richard Exley; Consulting Member of Technical Staff, Maximum Availability Architecture
Description: This webinar reviews best practices for the Oracle technology stack and how customers using Oracle's Siebel Customer Relationship Management are leveraging Oracle Real Application Clusters (Oracle RAC); Oracle Clusterware, including disaster recovery strategies; Oracle Enterprise Manager and Maximum Availability Architecture to get peak availability out of their Siebel implementation.

Subject: PeopleSoft Performance Tips and Techniques
Date & Time: 1/20/2009, 11 a.m. PST / 2 p.m. EST
Presenter: David Nix; Consulting Member of Technical Staff, PeopleTools
Description: Everyone wants their applications from Oracle's PeopleSoft product line to operate with maximum performance. In this webinar, a PeopleSoft performance and benchmark expert shares tips and techniques for maximizing the performance of your PeopleSoft applications. Those new to tuning a PeopleSoft application as well as seasoned tuning experts will come away with new techniques that will help them improve the performance of their PeopleSoft applications.

Subject: E-Business Suite Install and Cloning Best Practices
Date & Time: 1/27/2009, 10 a.m. EST / 3 p.m. GMT
Presenter: Max Arderius; Manager, ATG Development
Description: This webinar covers the Oracle E-Business Suite architecture and explains various techniques for installing and cloning by use of Rapid Install, Rapid Clone, and Application Management Pack cloning automation.