“Oracle Integration Cloud Service (ICS) Preview”

INTRODUCTION.

So, do you really like SOA? That’s great because so do we, and we’ve been working with it every single day since a long time ago. As Oracle professionals, we’ve seen the SOA stack grow, change, incorporating new products and technology with each version, from 10g to 12c.

We’re Rolando Carrasco and Arturo Viveros, the SOA Myth Busters from Mexico, and as we go with this series we will put to the test a number of questions, myths and urban legends regarding integration, SOA & the Oracle FMW Platform in seek of finding out which myths are true and which are not.

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In this short episode, we will preview the imminent (and much awaited) launch of Oracle Integration Cloud Service (ICS).

In this era of digital disruption, Cloud Integration is and will keep being one of the hottest and most relevant topics in the SOA / Middleware realms.

So, as we usually do, let’s identify a bunch of questions which we will attempt to clarify throughout this article:

  • Why is Oracle bringing to the table an iPaaS offering of its own?
  • What is the difference between ICS and SOA Suite in the Cloud?
  • Where does this leave my on premise SOA Suite implementation?
  • What is running underneath the curtains and how does Oracle ICS stack up against its main competitors?
  • Which business scenarios would be better suited for the implementation of such a tool?
  • What benefits can organizations expect to achieve by leveraging this kind of offering?
  • What about common concerns such as performance, security, ease of adoption / use, portability, standardization, etc.?
  • Are there any clear guidelines for ICS’s implementation / adoption from an architectural standpoint?
  • Can I do SOA with ICS?
  • Is ICS suitable for on premise integrations?

Let’s get started

Since the product has yet to hit the market, this time around we don’t have a de-facto myth revolving around it; but don’t worry, the myths will surely come swiftly and we will be there to tackle them whenever they arise.

For now, let’s focus on the questions at hand. It seems to us that a good way to get started in the matter is by going over some elemental definitions and concepts:

 First things first

Oracle ICS is an integration product in the cloud. Let’s first nail this.

ICS stands for Integration Cloud Services. Oracle has addressed a strong Cloud need: the integration among Cloud based Applications. Oracle has been very active to become a Cloud type of monster. If we go back five years ago, maybe Oracle was not perceived as a strong Cloud player, but those days are very far away now. Oracle has a very clear cloud offering in the different recognized flavors: PaaS, SaaS and IaaS.

A set of Cloud based applications, such as: Taleo, Right Now, Big Machines (Oracle CPQ) are very well-known in the market. A very large set of customer around the globe use them.

But what about having to integrate those different Clouds? Or even more, what about integrating an Oracle Cloud with a different vendor Cloud? (e.g. Salesforce.com or Success Factors).

There is where we meet with our first question:

Why is Oracle bringing to the table an iPaaS offering of its own?

iPaaS: “…a suite of cloud services enabling development, execution and governance of integration flows connecting any combination of on premises and cloud-based processes, services, applications and data within individual or across multiple organizations” – definition by Gartner.

The answer is straight forward: Integration is a huge need on the ground as well as in the cloud. It doesn’t matter where the customers have their applications, there will be always an integration need.

But as with any other cloud based offering, the Integration cloud should comply with the basic principles of a cloud solution:

  1. Elasticity
  2. Multitenancy
  3. Ubiquitous Access
  4. On-demand usage
  5. Measured usage
  6. Resiliency

Additionally, it should also present a set of desirable characteristics which would make its adoption much more feasible in the client’s eyes:

  • Audit
  • Secure Development
  • Data in transit protection
  • Easy to use UI. Usability is a most.

And let’s go a step ahead, the integration should be something easy to achieve. Oracle has made this simple: Adapters.

Oracle has already adapters in place for their Fusion Cloud based-applications, Taleo, Right Now, CPQ, etc. So with just a few clicks you can be integrating Fusion CRM and Right Now, for example.

Take a look at this image:

ics_1As it can be perceived it is a very graphical tool. It is actually a few clicks to get this integration and activate it in Production. There is no need to have an IDE installed at your desktop, everything is Web based.

This leads us to our second question:

What is the difference between ICS and SOA Suite in the Cloud?

The answer is also very simple:

Oracle ICS is targeted for integration needs. Integration needs in the cloud, and also the cloud to on premise type of integration. But the constant idea is simple, plain integration.

We are not talking about Service Orientation and all the notions around the SOA discipline. Oracle ICS is for integration. Let’s make this clear.

If a customer has a need to integrate the Oracle HR cloud with their on premise HR solution, then a very suitable solution is Oracle ICS. This will present an integration point in the cloud, and the on premise application can easily connect with it.

If the customer has a couple of Cloud applications, Oracle or non-Oracle, then Oracle ICS is very suitable. It will turn into the glue to integrate them.

As you can see, we are talking about integration points among different applications. It is not a long running orchestration, or it is not about to have a canonical model, Services with multiple operations, Business Activity Monitoring, etc….

Where does this leave my on premise SOA Suite implementation?

 Exactly where it is right now. When promoting or trying to position ICS, it is very important to avoid confusing the clients, especially making it very clear that these are not overlapping technologies.

With the emergence of version 12c, it is pretty clear that SOA Suite remains the tool of choice for the realization of service orientation patterns while integrating on premise applications, information systems, enterprise data sources, etc. If anything, ICS can possibly become another source of information (cloud service provider) for SOA Suite to integrate as part of an orchestration flow.

ics_2

What is running underneath the curtains and how does Oracle ICS stack up against its main competitors?

If we take a look inside ICS’s underlying architecture, what we will find out is that the elements are all there to make it work, and even to produce a world-beating platform:

  • Oracle Cloud Application Framework
  • Oracle Service Bus
  • Oracle SOA Suite 12c
  • Oracle WebLogic 12c
  • Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud
  • Oracle Alta UI
  • Oracle Public Cloud
  • Oracle Cloud Adapter SDK

These are all best-of-breed assets Oracle already possesses, which would lead us to think that a Cloud Integration Platform built on top of them would not only be exciting, but also able to compete coming out of the blocks with some of the iPaaS hotshots (Dell, Mule, IBM, etc.)

Which business scenarios would be better suited for the implementation of such a tool?

It seems ICS will be able to provide a lot of value to the businesses by helping them leverage their cloud investments. In what sense? Well, basically by quickly and seamlessly enabling a whole set of cloud applications (SaaS) to talk to each other without human intervention.

ics_3

Based on what we’ve recently seen, some of the most suitable business concerns to move to the cloud have been related with: HR, CRM, CX, and Talent Management. So, in our opinion, those kind of requirements alone will provide a lot of really nice business cases to work with in ICS. This is not to say that there aren’t many more scenarios for the product, but for the time being, the ones we’ve just mentioned would provide a great starting point for ICS to begin proving its worth.

For a quick example of what we just said, let’s imagine a sales organization which is already using a CRM type of application in the cloud (could be Salesforce.com). The success has surpassed the expectations not only for the sales organization but for the rest of the company. It happens that another application will be adopted in the cloud, this one focused on tracking service incidents from their customers. So there is a natural contact between the CRM and this other application. The SRs / incidents need to be in sync with the CRM. A sales representative would not like that while calling a customer to offer a new product, the customer responds with a negative because an open incident is affecting its operation, and that the sales representative is not aware of it.

With Oracle ICS this can be solved. Two cloud based applications need to interoperate and share information. There is where ICS comes into the picture and creates an integration point between those two clouds.

And keep in mind that the adapters will dramatically shorten the time of implementation of those integrations. Take a look at this information:

ics_4Integration needs and challenges for any customer while adopting different Cloud-based applications, are a typical concern. In fact these are drivers which constantly lead companies to quit cloud related projects.

 What benefits can organizations expect to achieve by leveraging this kind of offering?

  • Time to market
  • Really low up-front investment
  • Ease of use
  • End-to-end visibility
  • Reduction of IT burden and TCO
  • Automatization
  • Centralization and Standardization of Cloud Integration initiatives
  • Native SaaS connectors
  • API-readiness
  • Etc.

What about common concerns such as performance, resiliency, security, user experience, portability, standardization, etc.?

As we just said, ICS has been built on top of a very strong backbone. Let’s analyze those concerns one by one:

  • Performance: Since this is supposedly going to be running on Exalogic machines as part of Oracle’s public cloud infrastructure, one would think excellent performance is a foregone conclusion. Besides, with the vendor being Oracle, it is safe to assume that enough computing resources will always be available.
  • Resiliency: This should be a no-brainer. Oracle will surely have enough redundant resources set up in order to guarantee continuity of business.
  • Security: Being an iPaaS offering, this concern should also be taken care of by the cloud provider. Anyway, let’s hope Oracle provides enough documentation about it so CSOs can be at ease.
  • User experience: Oracle has wisely designed this user interface by adhering to the new Alta UI guidelines. We also know that they have included several features which are intended to provide enhanced user experience (e.g. recommendation engine, progress indicators, user-friendly vocabulary, etc.)
  • Portability: This is not an ICS feature right now and probably won’t be for quite some time. We’ve heard some customers make this question, but in practical terms it’s highly unlikely that organizations will need to move ICS’s integration scenarios to other platforms.
  • Standardization: Oracle is not trying to reinvent the wheel with this platform, so don’t worry about that. Most if not all of ICS’s functionality is based on solid industry standards such as XML, WSI, XSLT, etc. This is true even if the concepts presented to the user are portrayed in a friendly way.

 Are there any clear guidelines for ICS’s implementation / adoption from an architectural standpoint?

 From an Enterprise Architecture standpoint, representing, documenting and governing cloud integrations becomes more of a challenge almost every day that goes by.

There’s no need to panic however, since the usual suspects we have relied upon for the evolution of SOA methodologies and standards, are already developing appropriate bodies of knowledge such as the Cloud Ecosystem Reference Model (by the Open Group).

Regarding cloud computing architecture we recommend the following site for a good reading on cloud design patterns:

http://www.cloudpatterns.org/

 Can I do SOA with ICS?

 This is not the product´s intention; we must remember that ICS stands for Integration Cloud Services. With ICS, the pure integration needs among cloud applications are covered with simplicity and ease.

For the purposes of service orientation, Oracle SOA Suite will always be the right option.

In that case, depending on where you gravity center remains, SOA Suite in the cloud could also be an alternative:

ics_5As in the previous image, if your applications are still on premise, then your Services will be on premise and thus the usage of Oracle SOA Suite on Premise is due. If the applications move significantly into the cloud, then moving the corresponding service inventory towards SOA Suite in the cloud sounds like the right choice.

Is ICS suitable for on premise integrations?

If the scenario is just on premise integration, the answer is no. If it’s on premise to Cloud or vice versa, then ICS could really make sense.

ics_6

In an on premise to cloud scenario, public APIs or web services can be configured as connections in ICS, so they can be part of an integration flow.

On the other hand, if an organization wants to do cloud to on premise through ICS, Oracle will provide an on premise adapter that will possibly be dropped in the premise’s DMZ in order to internally expose integration flows as web services.

Conclusions

  • Oracle ICS is expected to be the next big thing from Oracle for Cloud integration. It definitely comes across as a disruptive and innovative concept.
  • If a customer has Cloud based applications with Oracle or with another vendor and an integration need exists, then Oracle ICS is an excellent option
  • Oracle ICS is not SOA in the cloud. For this regard Oracle has a different offering
  • Oracle is setting up a platform (Cloud Adapter SDK) for 3rd parties, partners, etc., to promote the creation of connectors and integrations. This is a great idea. There are several Cloud-based applications in the market, and therefore a lot of integration needs. To create this type of connector/integration marketplace definitely has a lot of potential to be a hit.
  • We really think Oracle can have great success with this offering, but they need to execute it very well and very assertively in order to generate a lot of confidence from the customers; once this is accomplished the rest will come around for itself.

We certainly hope that this body of work has been interesting, useful and enjoyable for you appreciated reader. Let’s meet again in our next episode!!

The SOA Myth Busters.

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