Inside Data 67
by Graham Keitch
Graham Keitch finds out what Oracle’s Platform as a Service offers.
HardCopy Issue: 67 | Published: November 6, 2015
By its very nature the Cloud is an enterprise environment, offering a distributed, service orientated architecture which places uncompromising demands on availability and security. As a provider of enterprise grade software, Oracle offers an almost unrivalled portfolio of technologies for such an environment. However it appears they’ve been holding back in the race for domination in readiness for the next phase in the Cloud’s evolution.
For many IT departments, the Cloud is delivering benefits but failing to meet expectations, and there’s a good reason for this. If you merely port your on-premises systems to the cloud then you risk creating yet another layer of complexity and overheads. Furthermore, legacy systems require modernisation to handle the complex data types and multi-platform client-side technologies used by today’s businesses. This expectation and technology shortfall points to hybrid architectures being the norm for the foreseeable future. Transportable and distributed computing units based on Oracle’s open standards provide maximum flexibility for both hybrid and modernisation projects.
Oracle’s Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provides the usual compute and storage facilities, and opens new doors for its users. For example, you can move between database editions as the need dictates. This allows you to consume the cheaper Standard Edition when the workload is less intense, and spin-up Enterprise Edition with Options, or Oracle’s powerful in-memory database appliance, at peak times. Development projects could also become more economic as they can be based on the cheaper edition.
Infrastructure is only part of the story though. Most of the tools and services required for business process modernisation sit above the IaaS layer and instead belong to the next tier, namely Platform as a Service (PaaS). This is where Oracle’s strength lies as they already have well tested enterprise grade tools for this. These include developer tools, databases, applications, middleware and other services. Oracle’s open multi-platform technologies such as Java and, more recently, support for OpenStack, facilitates migration between on-premise and Cloud without the need for code rewrites, something Oracle claims help dispel vendor lock-in fears. Subscription parameters, for example, are determined by licensing metrics. Services such as Database and Java are generally consumed and costed per user per month and are therefore unmetered, whereas most other PaaS offerings are metered, rather like ‘pay as you go’ mobile. You create a metered pool of funds which you can then top up as your ‘burn rate’ eats into it.
NoSQL database services probably sit at the top of most people’s expectations of a typical PaaS solution. Oracle does indeed address Big Data requirements but there are a whole raft of other important things that business process modernisation requires, such as data aggregation, document management and analytics. From a developer’s perspective these are common shared tasks that can be handled by connecting applications to the appropriate platform service. This becomes more relevant when systems are distributed and make use of containerised components. It may also be helpful if some of these services, such as Business Intelligence (BI), could be fired up by business staff. This isn’t applicable for all platform services but I suspect this will be a trend going forward.
Business Intelligence requirements are covered by a number of services. Oracle BI Cloud Service is central to these with many features aimed at supporting mobile BI. The Oracle BI Mobile app provides secure access to all the usual dashboard, analytical and reporting functions. Data sets from multiple locations can be imported and combined using the web-based File Loader. Oracle Database Schema Service and Database Cloud Service complement this by providing access to Oracle Database, its associated PL/SQL development environment and user friendly Oracle Application Express. Document management is another common theme within IT that can be handled by Oracle Documents Cloud Service for secure document access, synchronisation and sharing from any location and multiple platforms. Coupled with Oracle Integration Service and Oracle Process Cloud Service, this can provide monitoring and analytical insight to aid process improvement and productivity.