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Oracle Releases Fusion Middleware 11g and JDeveloper Update

In what could be one of its most significant releases this year, Oracle today launched the latest version of its long anticipated middleware product family, Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g. The release sets out to tightly integrate its own technology with that acquired by BEA Systems, combining upgraded versions of the company’s SOA process suite WebLogic app server technology, WebCenter services components, an identity management solution, and software development tools. The latter includes an update to its JDeveloper IDE as the company also signals a push by Oracle for developers to move to declarative programming.

Speaking to an audience gathered in downtown Washington, D.C. that was webcast, Oracle president Charles Phillips touted Fusion 11g as a unifying platform for all of those components. "This is the foundation of how we will develop and deploy technology in general, all of our applications and the resulting infrastrucures attached, so it’s really the unifying point for a lot of things we are doing ," Phillips said.

 "We’ve been trying to build a single stack technology," he added calling the Fusion suite "a pre-fabricated environment based on standards," which can be "patched and upgraded" up and down the entire stack.

Ovum analyst Tony Baer saw no real surprises in today’s announcements, given that the company has previewed a combination of product suites over the past year while in development and the company has stuck to a well-publicized roadmap. Much of what was announced represents the fruits of Oracle’s integration of technologies acquired last year from enterprise app infrastructure company BEA Systems, maker of the WebLogic Java EE application server. 

"That’s really the main event here," Baer said. "There are a lot of other pieces to this announcement, but without WebLogic, Fusion would essentially be a donut. WebLogic is a major platform and it fills that hole in the Fusion stack. This is what allows Oracle to broaden the reach of its Fusion Middleware. It gives them the critical mass to bring all these other pieces forward."

Nevertheless, the release of Fusion 11g is a major milestone and deliverable for Oracle and its customers, said IDC analyst Al Hilwa. In effect, the company was addressing two different audiences at today’s launch event, he said.

"There are those who tend to think about their enterprise architecture from the inside out," Hilwa said, "and they select their applications in a way that plugs into that architecture. They’re exemplified by the customers Oracle acquired with BEA. The company’s message to them is, this is great new middleware that’s the basis of our new apps. It’s standards based and best of breed, so you don’t have to be using our apps to be leveraging it."

 Then there’s the audience that tends to think about their architecture from the outside in—how  it behaves with users, how it lands with the business units, he said. "Those folks care less about the guts of the apps, and they tend to wait and make a long-term evaluation. For them, Oracle’s message is more about the future. They’re letting them know that their new apps are going be based on this middleware, so you might as well start using it now."

Move To Declarative Programming

The JDeveloper 11.1.1.1.0 with Fusion adds Oracle Metadata Services (MDS), which the company said enables customization via the Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF).

Combined with Fusion, the new JDeveloper release provides a standards-based model view control based declariative framework, based on Enterprise Java Beans, Java Server Faces and AJAX that allows developers to rapidly and visually build applications, said Oracle senior VP Thomas Kurain.

"One of the values of moving to a declarative design model, is the description of the application is not buried in application logic that it’s been coded on," Kurian said  "A lot of the behavior of the application is captured in meta data, that meta data can then be managed in a dictionary or meta data directory and then business users can use a technology called Composer to customize the behavior of the application."

Declarative programming focuses on the "what" rather than the "how" in a program. Developers state what they want to happen at a higher level and let the engine inside the app worry about how that task is implemented, Hilwa explains. It’s an approach geared toward the business developer. It shows up in Oracle’s Application Development Framework (ADF) as a metadata layer that describes the application and isolates changes.  

"The declarative approach is not a new idea," Hilwa said, "but this is probably the first time it’s being used in such an expansive manner. If Oracle succeeds in pushing Fusion apps out to many enterprises, then this programming approach will be much more popular."

During a post-announcement conference call, Ted Farrell, Oracle’s chief architect and VP of the Tools and Middleware group, said that the declarative approach aims to get developers writing less code. "History shows us that the more code you write in your application, the more closely you are bound to a particular technology," Farrell said. "That makes it harder to deal with technology shifts when they happen. Using XML as a universal metadata platform, you can define your page, components, the interaction between them and how they connect the backend. And then the XML gets deployed as your runtime and our framework interprets it, and generates the standard technologies you’ve come to expect."

Farrell also talked up Fusion 11g’s approach to rich internet application (RIA) development. "We believe in building RIAs and making that easier for the developers," he said. "But we want to abstract developers from that technology." The ADF takes care of the rendering to the different technologies—JavaScript, DHTML, Flash—the best technology for rendering, depending on the type of component and what it’s trying to do. When the view technologies change, we don’t have to go back to our customer and tell them to update their pages. We take make the updates in the framework."

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance author and journalist based in Silicon Valley. His latest book is The Everything Guide to Social Media. Follow John on Twitter, read his blog on ADTmag.com, check out his author page on Amazon, or e-mail him at john@watersworks.com.


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