By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2004-07-06 Print this article Print

Oracle Corp.s Application Server 10g is easily one of the biggest, most ambitious and most complex e-business platforms eWEEK Labs has seen, even when compared with Goliath-like rivals such as IBMs WebSphere.

Its probably not even 100 percent correct to refer to Application Server 10g as an application server.

Yes, it offers powerful Java server capabilities that leverage the grid features of the 10g platform, providing excellent scalability. And yes, it has very good standards support in the areas of Web services and Java development—the product provides excellent support for J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition) 1.4, has some nice features for application management through Java Management Extensions and supports several cutting-edge Java Specification Requests.

But, in many ways, Oracles Application Server 10g is a one-stop shop for enterprise applications.

Need a powerful enterprise information portal that rivals and, in some cases, exceeds the exemplary offerings from IBM and Plumtree Software Inc.? How about a flexible and highly extensible business process management platform, an identity management and single-sign-on infrastructure, or a business intelligence and reporting platform?

Application Server 10g can deliver all these things. More important, Application Server 10g isnt a package that does a lot of things but nothing well. To the contrary, eWEEK Labs found the product, especially when combined with JDeveloper 10g, to be an excellent choice for handling just about any enterprise application need.

Click here to read eWEEK Labs review of JDeveloper 10g. And with a typical implementation of the enterprise version starting at approximately $20,000, Application Server 10g is a good value, especially if one takes into account how much it would cost to purchase the aforementioned competing applications separately. (Most cost more than $20,000 each.)

Worth the effort

Once Application Server 10g has been effectively and fully deployed, its capabilities are tightly integrated. However, getting to that point entails quite a bit of work.

Some users say Application Server 10g may be overkill for the average company. Click here to read more. Although Oracle has made great strides since the 9i era in easing the deployment of its enterprise applications, installing and setting up an Application Server 10g infrastructure was still more difficult, time-consuming and frustrating in eWEEK Labs tests than setting up a comparable IBM WebSphere or BEA Systems Inc. WebLogic infrastructure.

In addition, companies looking to deploy Application Server 10g in a heterogeneous environment should take into account which of the application servers extended capabilities they intend to use. Some, especially those that are more data-centric, will work well with a mixture of systems while others will rely more heavily on integration with other Oracle products.

Oracles increased use of browser-based administration interfaces will ease many day-to-day tasks, but management of an Application Server 10g deployment still requires lots of smaller administration applications and configuration assistants. We were sometimes at a loss to know exactly which tool we needed to perform specific tasks.

Polished portals

Given that an enterprise information portal is basically just a complex Web application, it makes sense to include portal capabilities within an enterprise application server. In the case of Oracles Application Server 10g Portal, the portal component of this approach pays off.

The portal component of Application Server 10g provides powerful development options that will aid both experienced developers and novice IT staff in adding content.

Check out eWEEK Labs eValuation of enterprise information portals. In addition, by leveraging Application Servers excellent standards and Web services support, we found that we could easily integrate a portal built on the platform with a wide variety of trading partners, business processes and data sources.

Application Server 10g Portal includes a rich assortment of prebuilt portlets, including a nice OmniPortlet for simple data integration. The portal component also benefits from Oracles always-rich set of sample applications.

One area that could stand improvement here is collaboration—portals built with Application Server 10g come up short when compared with many other competing portals. Standard portal collaboration features, such as discussion groups and chat, are not provided by default and, when added, lack the deep integration that is found in most enterprise portal products.

Business process integration With Web services and XML standards increasingly serving as the underpinnings of enterprise application integration and business integration, its no surprise that all the major application server vendors are working harder to incorporate these middleware features. The main component for business process integration in Application Server 10g is called ProcessConnect.

Because of the excellent standards support in the Oracle platform, including Java Messaging Service, ProcessConnect offers a great deal of flexibility in building integrations. ProcessConnects main interface is Web-based, and it worked very well in our tests for managing and monitoring business integrations.

However, while we generally prefer browser-based interfaces for enterprise applications, business process modeling is probably one area in which client-based tools make more sense. Although the ProcessConnect modeling interface worked fine in our tests, it lacked the extensive capabilities found in dedicated client applications.

Labs Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at jim_rapoza@ ziffdavis.com.

Check out eWEEK.coms Enterprise Applications Center at http://enterpriseapps.eweek.com for the latest news, reviews and analysis about productivity and business solutions.

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Jim Rapoza, Chief Technology Analyst, eWEEK.For nearly fifteen years, Jim Rapoza has evaluated products and technologies in almost every technology category for eWEEK. Mr RapozaÔÇÖs current technology focus is on all categories of emerging information technology though he continues to focus on core technology areas that include: content management systems, portal applications, Web publishing tools and security. Mr. Rapoza has coordinated several evaluations at enterprise organizations, including USA Today and The Prudential, to measure the capability of products and services under real-world conditions and against real-world criteria. Jim Rapoza's award-winning weekly column, Tech Directions, delves into all areas of technologies and the challenges of managing and deploying technology today.

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