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.

Oracle Platform-as-a-Service Screenshot

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.

Application development is a good place to start if you want to understand Oracle PaaS in more depth, especially (though not exclusively) if you’re working with J2EE, Mobile, JavaScript, REST and other light applications. Oracle’s WebLogic Server is the technology behind Oracle’s Java Cloud Service with optional Coherence in-memory data grid functionality. It provides tools for developers with source control, API management and an Application Composer. Many of today’s projects involve connecting mobile iOS, Android and HTML5 clients to back end systems. Oracle Mobile Cloud Service provides the tools and frameworks for this via REST/JSON APIs and a common API catalogue. Analytics is included too. Other PaaS developer services include Oracle Java SE Cloud (a sort of JDKaaS) and Oracle Application Builder Cloud Service aimed at business users who need simplified connectivity to REST enabled data sources.

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.

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Graham Keitch is the database pre-sales specialist at Grey Matter and has worked in IT for over 25 years. For further information and advice about database licensing, call him or one of his colleagues on 01364 654100, or email him at