Oracle sows the seeds for SOA
Enriched suite yields a crop of enhancements
I liked Oracle Business Rules for governance over procedures and policies. In addition to its Java-based rules engine, the component provides an authoring tool that guided me in defining my data models (i.e., business data definitions based on XML, Java, or the Oracle Business Rules Language and their requisite variables and functions). For most rule development use cases, advanced use of the Oracle Rule Language will be required, and for that, I would prefer to see a more intuitive interface that analysts, rather than developers, would find palatable.
However, the easy drop-down selection boxes made rules definition a fairly easy if/then proposition. And, the included validation tool helped error-checking efforts.
Reaping the bounty
Adding Business Activity Monitoring to the suite really helps SOA Suite reach an essential level of closed-loop processing essential in monitoring key performance indicators and automating conflict resolution.
The BAM component is a separate installation -- consisting of an event engine, report server, data-caching mechanisms, and Enterprise Link MSMQ service -- that culminates in a real-time monitoring and alerting system for getting services metrics into the hands of decision makers.
Moreover, after developers model the initial data sources, the separate Active Studio toolkit allows an average report jockey easy point-and-click construction of personalized dashboards. The resulting drill-down to underlying datasets is good, and sensor alerts can be funneled back into the process pipeline to automate many recovery efforts.
I liked Oracle Web Services Manager. OWSM showed the fortitude and resources for administering policy definitions, authentication, and encryption, as well as monitoring security, performance, and services utilization across my various applications. And, its ability to govern third-party platforms only adds to the value.
OWSM implements gateway security on inbound communications -- virtualizing services end points -- as well as between client/server/object messages to broker security and audit control. I would like to see Oracle add context-based routing to the mix to enhance the current content-based offering, and improved response detail. However, the package is rounded out with a good number of predefined policies to jump-start development. Defining roles and groups for delegation was a snap.
The OWSM interface is perhaps the most advanced of the stack for operational management and policy administration, offering statistical dashboards on my services, customizable views and alerts, and tools to test services heath. In all, this proved an excellent effort.
Room to grow
Areas for refinement remain. The ESB component provided a sturdy bus for synch/asynch routing, filtering (XPath), and transforming payloads (content- and header-based routing is available here). However, I would have liked to be able to register projects to the server from outside the JDeveloper environment more easily. Further, better drill-down into filters and transforms from inside the graphical interface will be good future additions.
There are a number of tutorials, although actual help facilities were somewhat lacking. Forms services are not included in this release of Oracle AS so you'll need to run an earlier version separately. And, a good deal of elbow grease will be expended bridging workflow interfaces, although Oracle's ADF (application development framework) will help streamline design-time requirements.
My experience with the Oracle SOA Suite revealed a top-notch toolset well-culled from a variety of sources without much sacrifice to aptitude or usability. When it comes to message routing and services orchestration, Oracle SOA Suite meets or exceeds most needs for governance, security, insight, and optimization at a price that's hard to beat.