Saturday, December 18, 2010

Your App, Your Brand

This past week, I attended OpenWorld in Beijing, China. It was a fantastic opportunity to meet with customers and partners in Greater China and throughout Asia Pacific to discuss the challenges that they face in managing their applications, and the solutions that Oracle provides to solve their problems.

I have been to Beijing several times, so I have gotten to know the airport quite well. Still, I had not visited the Star Alliance lounge hosted by Air China in the newer T3 terminal, so I decided to check it out on my way back. This caused me to get to my boarding gate a bit late. When I got there, I noticed that the plane looked different. It looked like a Continental plane.

Several thoughts came to my mind at that moment:

  • Did I get to the right gate?

  • Maybe this is actually a United codeshare flight operated by Continental

  • Will the seat and the amenities be better or worst since Continental 777s are configured differently from those of United?

After I got on the plane, I found out that it was actually just another United 777 but it was one of the first 3 planes in the fleet to be repainted to the combined United Continental livery, so there was no need to be concerned. Nevertheless, it was interesting to note the effect that the brand identity change had on my expectations of the flight. The rest of the trip was uneventful, and the flight experience was consistent with what I expected to get from the airline.

This brand identity change generated a bit of debate in the past several months, as some United customers and employees lobbied to keep the old United logo. As the above example shows, the brand identity change may cause some minor confusion. However, the brand is more than just the logo. It is the total promise that a company delivers to its customers, and increasingly, this promise is about the experience that is delivered at every touchpoint with the customer. I think this old video from United says it rather nicely. Everything in the video defines the United brand.

You may wonder – what does this topic have to do with application management?

A lot, as it turns out. These days, the United experience is defined not only by the flight services that it provides, or the people that carry them out, but also by the self services applications that are used to provide better services to customers at lower costs. I think the importance of these self service applications in maintaining United's brand is not lost to United's leadership, as it has steadily improved its applications. United's competitors are not standing still either. American, Delta and Southwest have all rolled out improved websites.

One of the key factors in delivering great customer self service experience is good user experience management. It starts with a business-driven definition of user experience, and proactive monitoring in order to understand how end users interact with self services applications and the experience that they receive. At OpenWorld Beijing, one of our customers co-presented with us some really good work that it did to manage its online presence. I will talk about it more in the next article after returning from Christmas vacation.

Monday, September 27, 2010

New Application Management Suites from Oracle

Oracle OpenWorld is over! It was a busy week filled with presentations, demonstrations, customer meetings, hands-on labs, etc... On the other hand, it was also a relatively quiet week on the news front for Oracle Enterprise Manager, as the 11g version of the product was released only a few months back so there was not a whole lot of new news to talk about. The major news was on the application management front.

New Application Management Suites are available!

These management suites are the results of development efforts that began several years ago with the release of Application Management Pack for PeopleSoft, which was followed by additional Application Management Packs that covered Oracle E-Business Suite, Siebel, PeopleSoft, and Oracle Communications Billing & Revenue Management. To further expand Enterprise Manager's product platform capabilities, we also acquired several emerging companies, including Moniforce for real user monitoring, Auytuma for Java diagnostics, ActiveReasoning for IT compliance management and mValent for configuration management, and the new Application Management Suites added these technologies to provide more complete solutions for managing Oracle Applications.

We have followed three key principles in designing these management suites. First, we offer complete management solutions. Administrators are constantly faced with a wide array of management problems, which require different tools to address. Take diagnostics, for example. Depending on the nature of the application problems, different diagnostic tools are needed to determine problem root cause. Some problems are caused by mis-configurations, which are best solved by performing configuration analysis. Others are caused by inefficient application implementation, in which transaction diagnostic provides the much needed visibility to find the bottlenecks. Some problems may not even be caused by software, as end users may be using the applications improperly, and data collected from real user monitoring tools can help spot this kind of errors much more effectively. Point products only exasperate the problem by giving administrators incomplete set of tools to work with.

Second, we aim to provide integrated user experience for our management tools. Much of the functionality of our Application Management Suites run within Enterprise Manager Grid Control, a highly integrated management platform that is also used to manage everything from Oracle Database to Oracle Fusion Middleware to O/S, virtualization, and storage devices. The integrated capabilities make it easier to deploy and use the management tools. Another aspect of integration is with My Oracle Support. Traditionally, system management tools and vendor support were two completely different domains. Administrators used tools that were deployed on-premise to perform various tasks. When they needed help, they logged on to vendor support website and used a completely different set of tool to work with tech support. This sort of arrangement was highly inefficient. Oracle Enterprise Manager is the only management tool on the market that is connected to My Oracle Support, and this integration facilitates a more collaborative approach between customers' IT staff and Oracle support associates to manage Oracle technologies more effectively.

Third, and most important of all, we focus on providing application management tools that are designed specifically for managing Oracle Applications so that they work better out-of-box than 3rd party tools. This is an important distinction, as the IT market is flooded with management tools from vendors large and small. Most management products on the market, however, provide what I call "generic" management tools. They are used to monitor servers, or operating systems, or network devices. They can generate alerts and display data in dashboards. These are rather commoditized technologies. The difference between generic management tools and specialized management solutions that we offer for managing Oracle Applications is that our management suites provide much better visibility of our application artifacts and in-depth capabilities that address the unique management needs of Oracle application products. Features such as Siebel Workflow Process Monitoring, PeopleSoft Domain Administration and Oracle E-Business Customization and Setup Management are simply not available from major management tool providers. These capabilities were developed by our application experts using the best Oracle Applications insights available in the industry across our development, support and services organizations.

We hope that you find our new management suites compelling. Additional information about these products are available on Oracle Technology Network. Click here for more information.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Oracle Enterprise Manager 11g is Here!

We hope that you enjoyed the launch event. If you missed it, you may still watch it via our on demand webcast, which is being produced and will be posted very shortly.

11gR1 is a major release of Oracle Enterprise Manager, and as one would expect from a big release, there are many new capabilities that appeal to a broad set of audience. Before going into the laundry list of new features, let's talk about the key themes for this release to put things in perspective.

First, this release is about Business Driven Application Management. The traditional paradigm of component centric systems management simply cannot satisfy the management needs of modern distributed applications, as they do not provide adequate visibility of whether these applications are truly meeting the service level expectations of the business users. Business Driven Application Management helps IT manage applications according to the needs of the business users so that valuable IT resources can be better focused to help deliver better business results.

To support Business Driven Application Management, 11gR1 builds on the work that we started in 10g to provide better support for user experience management. This capability helps IT better understand how users use applications and the experience that the applications provide so that IT can take actions to help end users get their work done more effectively. In addition, this release also delivers improved business transaction management capabilities to make it faster and easier to understand and troubleshoot transaction problems that impact end user experience.

Second, this release includes strengthened Integrated Application-to-Disk Management. Every component of an application environment, from the application logic to the application server, to database, host machines and storage devices, etc... can affect end user experience. After user experience improvement needs are identified, IT needs tools that can be used do deep dive diagnostics for each of the application environment component, analyze configurations and deploy changes. Enterprise Manager 11gR1 extends coverage of key application environment components to include full support for Oracle Database 11gR2, Exadata V2, and Fusion Middleware 11g. For composite and Java application management, two key pieces of technologies, JVM Diagnostic and Composite Application Monitoring and Modeler, are now fully integrated into Enterprise Manager so there is no need to install and maintain separate tools. In addition, we have delivered the first set of integration between Enterprise Manager Grid Control and Enterprise Manager Ops Center so that hardware level events can be centrally monitored via Grid Control.

Finally, this release delivers Integrated Systems Management and Support for customers of Oracle technologies. Traditionally, systems management tools and tech support were separate silos. When problems occured, administrators used internally deployed tools to try to solve the problems themselves. If they couldn't fix the problems, then they would use some sort of support website to get help from the vendor's support staff. Oracle Enterprise Manager 11g integrates problem diagnostic and remediation workflow. Administrators can use Oracle Enterprise Manager's various diagnostic tools to begin the troubleshooting process. They can also use the integrated access to My Oracle Support to look up solutions and download software patches. If further help is needed, administrators can open service requests from right within Oracle Enterprise Manager and track status update. Oracle's support staff, using Enterprise Manager's configuration management capabilities, can collect important configuration information about customer environments in order to expedite problem resolution. This tight integration between Oracle Enterprise Manager and My Oracle Support helps Oracle customers achieve a Superior Ownership Experience for their Oracle products.

So there you have it. This is a brief 50,000 feet overview of Oracle Enterprise Manager 11g. We know you are hungry for the details. We are going to write about it in the coming days and weeks. There will also be additional webcasts and seminars worldwide in the coming months. For those of you that absolutely can't wait to find out more, you may download our software to try it out today. In fact, for the first time ever, the initial release of Oracle Enterprise Manager is available for both 32 and 64 bit Linux. Additional O/S ports will arrive in the coming weeks, and will be announced on the Oracle Enterprise Manager blog.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Next Generation of Oracle Enterprise Manager Will Arrive in 7 Days!

Seven more days to go before we launch Oracle Enterprise Manager 11g.

We invite you to join us for this exciting announcement. You may attend the event in person if you are going to be in New York City next Thursday (4/22) or over the web via our webcast. We will also be hosting a live simulcast event at the Collaborate conference in Las Vegas.

Click the links below to learn more about event agenda and to register.

Click here to register for the live event in New York City.

Click here to register for the webcast.

The simulcast event at Collaborate will be held in Palm B room on Level 3 of Mandalay Bay Convention Center starting at 9:45 a.m. local time.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Oracle to Acquire AmberPoint

Oracle announced this morning that it is acquiring AmberPoint, the leading vendor of SOA management solution. AmberPoint is widely recognized as the Cadillac in the SOA management space, especially with its ability to enforce policies that help improve application performance and security, and to diagnose transactions not only within a composite application, but also across different applications. There had been speculations for a long time whether AmberPoint wanted to stay independent, or be acquired by a larger vendor. The answer is now known, and it is good that we got it. :-) AmberPoint, along with Sun Ops Center, will add to Oracle's capabilities in delivering application-to-disk management to customers.

Click here for the official press release about this acquisition.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Want to Have a Smooth Running Application? Architect Your Tools Deliberately

In Oracle Unified Methods, the elaboration phase follows the inception phase of the project. This is the time when detailed analysis is done and key design decisions get flushed out. Traditionally, the focus of this phase is on coming up with detailed application functional design, especially the user interface, the data model, the means of integrating with other applications and data sources, or even the technical architecture of the deployment, etc... However, the same vigor is often not applied to the tools that are needed to manage the applications. This is very different from other complex engineering endeavors such as automotive and aerospace design, in which far more thoughts are put into the dashboards and the avionics. Using the right set of tools and implementing the tools properly are important to successful application projects.

Several deliberate decisions need to be made in tool selection for managing applications. The first one is whether to build home grown tools or buy packaged products. Some people prefer to build their own tools, but it is a difficult effort to sustain in the long run. Developing tools is like developing any software. To do it properly, they need to be properly designed, implemented, tested and maintained over time, which get expensive. Instead of building tools from scratch, most organizations opt to reuse something that they already have, which in many cases are generic management tools that were originally designed to manage servers or networks. The problem here is that a fair amount of effort is still needed to adapt these tools to manage applications, and they always provide only generic functionalities that do not address the real needs of managing applications. A better thing to do is to use tools that are designed specifically for the job of managing specific applications, while maintaining a balance of avoiding tool proliferation. I wrote about the topic of tool selection in greater depth in article last year. Click here if you want the details.

Besides getting the application management tools, it it important to design the tools to be an integral part of the runtime environment and allocate capacity to run them. Many people treat tools as an overhead. If you go by the definition that tools do not perform any actual processing of business transactions, then it is indeed an overhead. However, tools form a critical part of an application infrastructure. Without tools and the instrumentation to collect management data, the application becomes a black box that cannot be managed. No one would design an aircraft without proper avionics, and the same thing should apply to tools also.

Another set of decisions are related to the deployment architecture of the tools. The architecture needs to be designed deliberately with a similar level of care taken to design the deployment architecture of the applications, especially if the tool will be used to manage a complex application environment. In fact, there are similarities in designing tools deployment architecture and application deployment architecture. For example, one has to decide between centralized single instance tool deployment vs. multi-instance deployment of tools such as Oracle Enterprise Manager, just like one has to decide how many production application instances to deploy. This sort of decision is highly environment specific.

Oracle Enterprise Manager Grid Control, by building on Oracle Fusion Middleware and Oracle Database, allows the tool to scale both horizontally and vertically. Therefore, from a technical perspective, a single instance of Oracle Enterprise Manager can scale to manage thousands of applications, database, and servers targets spanning development, testing and production environments. However, some organizations may still want to deploy multiple instances so that different units within the organizations can maintain control over their own instances of Enterprise Manager in order to maximize control and flexibility. Others may want total separation between Enterprise Manager instances used to manage pre-production vs. production environments in order to maximize security. The final decision needs to be made based on not only technical factors, but also organization and other considerations.
Whether you are going to have a single or multi-instance Oracle Enterprise Manager Grid Control deployment, you still need to make sure that you set up at least one separate test instance of the tool. Before you roll a version of Oracle Enterprise Manager into production use, for example, you should have it tested in order to minimize any surprise.

Another potential decision is to decide whether high availability (HA) deployment is needed for the tools. Just like a pilot cannot fly with non-working avionics, it is virtually impossible for administrators to manage their applications effectively if the tools are not available. Some management tools support high availability deployment. For example, Oracle Enterprise Manager Grid Control servers, known as Oracle Management Service (OMS), can be set up to run in a clustered configuration or even a multi-site clustered configuration. The underlying Oracle Database repository can be made highly available by leveraging Oracle Real Application Cluster (RAC) and data guard technologies. More information about HA Oracle Enterprise Manager Grid Control implementation is spelled out in Oracle Maximum Availability Architecture guidelines.

Related Articles

- Want to Have Smooth Running Applications? Start with Good Planning.
- Building Application Management into Your Capacity Plan
- People, Process, Technology – The Right Tool

Friday, January 8, 2010

New Releases of Application Management Pack and Application Change Management Pack for Oracle E-Business Suite Available

Happy New Year! May 2010 be a year of maximum uptime and optimal performance for your applications. To kick off this new year, we are releasing a new version of Application Management Pack for Oracle E-Business Suite and Application Change Management Pack for Oracle E-Business Suite.

These two management packs address many feedbacks that we have heard from our customers. After we launched the original version of the E-Business Suite Management Pack about two years ago, we went to present the product to many user group meetings and tradeshows to promote the product. In the Q&A sessions that followed our presentations, several questions tend to come up over and over. From the questions, we learned that while people were generally pleased to see the new management pack, there were clearly some unmet needs in the original version of the product. These needs included:
- Support for “hot cloning” such that E-Business Suite could stay running while cloning is carried out
- Patching Automation to apply E-Business Suite patches
- Automated Migration for E-Business Suite functional artifacts
- Transaction Diagnostic to identify transaction bottlenecks

We have been hard at work to address these needs ever since. Some of these requirements were met when we released Application Change Management Pack for Oracle E-Business Suite, which covers customization, setup and patch management, last May. However, with the release of that pack came a new requirement: change approval process support.

The new versions of Application Management and Application Change Management Pack finally address all these needs that we have been hearing from our customers. Key improvements include:

Application Management Pack for Oracle E-Business Suite
• Smart Clone: Smart Clone enables E-Business Suite systems to staying running while being cloned, and it provides flexibility for administrators to incorporate their own custom DB cloning techniques into pack's clone routine. Some of the key cloning scenarios supported include: RAC to RAC, RAC to Non-RAC, and scale down (Multi Node to Single Node).
• Concurrent Processing Dashboard: Administrators now have the ability to monitor and manage Concurrent Managers and Concurrent Programs through a intuitive dashboard. The new dashboard provides a detailed overview on the efficiency of Concurrent Managers in processing concurrent request. Administrators also have the ability to keep a watch list of specific concurrent managers and specific concurrent programs.
• End to End Tracing: Administrators can now analyze Oracle E-Business Suite's database load from Application Management Pack. Also the administrators have the ability to search Application Web User Sessions all the way down to Database Sessions. Top DB sessions can also be traced back to the Application User.

Application Change Management Pack for Oracle E-Business Suite
• Change Approval Framework: Changes orchestrated through Application Change Management Pack can now be controlled through the new change approval framework. Separate roles can be defined for approvers, who review and approve changes, and administrators, who deploy the changes. Built in notification capability enables approver(s)/requestor to be alerted about the status of relevant change requests, and the change approval records provide a way to maintain an audit trail of changes.
• Integrated Custom Application Management: This feature enables E-Business Suite administrators to easily register new custom applications across Oracle E-Business Suite systems and also track and validate existing custom applications in a standard way.
• Pre-requisite Patch Analysis: Oracle E-Business Suite patches can now be analyzed for pre-requisites prior to deployment in the target system. The analysis also verifies whether the pre-requisites are already met in the target system, and if they are not met, then those patches may be added to the patch job.
• Offline Transformation: This allows administrators to download Oracle E-Business Suite setup data in Microsoft Excel document and use Excel to edit and define new data.

These two management packs form the foundation of an advanced toolset for managing Oracle E-Business Suite. When combined with complementary products such as Oracle Real User Experience Insight and Application Testing Suite, they form a complete solution that cover all aspects of E-Business Suite lifecycle management.

We hope that you find this new management pack release compelling. To learn more about these two packs, go visit our product website. You may also download it from edelivery to try it out.