Oracle is forging a new path with partners in its applications business—a real cultural shift for the company—and its a direct result of two initiatives: Oracles acquisition strategy thats brought in dozens, if not hundreds, of new applications to its portfolio; and a new Application Integration Architecture that helps partners better connect their customers applications, beyond point-to-point integrations.
The Application Integration Architecture, or AIA, came out of a group quietly formed almost a year ago to centralize Oracles efforts around service-enabling its many applications, with an eventual synthesis of functionality in Fusion Applications, Oracles next-generation suite due in 2008.
The goal of the group initially was to find a way to create common definitions around what Siebel calls an order, or what SAP calls an order, according to Jose Lazares, vice president of Oracles Adaptive Business Solutions group.
"We really wanted to create an architectural platform based on common objects and focus on the top 100 or 300 business objects that thrive between business apps," said Lazares, in Redwood Shores, Calif.
Somewhere along the way the group started looking at innovation for its own sake, eventually developing the AIA platform as a stand-alone offering, though the common object model will be used to build Fusion Applications, according to Lazares.
According to Nucleus Research, the AIA platform consists of pre-built, industry-specific SOA (service-oriented architecture) services, models, processes and definitions. "Developers use these components to build SOA-based integration applications services in a top-down manner," wrote a Nucleus analyst in a research note released April 19.
"Industry-specific common objects—SOA services designed with minimal footprint for maximum customization—such as services for "ship order" are retrieved from a registry so that they can be customized for integration.
These services are then combined with industry-specific models and objects so that they can be customized for the specific business process being integrated."
The idea, according to Nucleus, is that developers can then use the enterprise business services along with BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) to further refine the application so that it can "speak to" the various provisioning and billing systems within operating environments.
While the architecture will be helpful for customers overwhelmed with integrating functionality from different Oracle applications, it could be even more useful for partners who will be able to now integrate to a common business object model, rather than building endless point integrations.
"[AIA] is essentially creating a third-partner track," said Lazares. "It actually is interacting and interfacing directly to Oracles application integration development team."
The AIA platform will allow partners to integrate their customers applications utilizing reusable objects and a SOA framework, sanctioned with a new Oracle certification. At the same time, Oracle will offer Integration Packages that will integrate functionality based on pre-defined processes—with any functionality from partner software outlined in solution maps.
The certification and solutions maps are the result of two new initiatives Oracle announced at its OAUG user group conference in Las Vegas April 15-19. An expanded Partner Network Applications Integration Initiative program, started 14 months ago, builds on the Fusion Middleware or point-to-point integration certifications from Oracle to include those integrations done by partners using AIA.
Oracle also announced 11 new ISV solution maps to depict industry and horizontal business processes that are available from Oracle and its ISV partners—connections that in the past were not readily visible.
Oracle will develop vertically oriented solution maps for health care (provider and payer), retail, life sciences, insurance, public sector and professional services. Horizontal maps will address corporate performance management, CRM (customer relationship management), financial management, procurement, and project and grants management.