Earlier this week, Oracle announced, finally, that it has inked a deal with IDS Scheer to add the companys business process modeling platform, Aris, to the ever-expanding Fusion Middleware collection.
As part of the agreement to include Aris in its Fusion Middleware stack, announced Aug. 2, Oracle introduced new software, the Oracle Business Process Analysis Suite, to help users manage the whole life cycle of business process modeling, simulation, management and optimization.
The BPA Suite is really an addendum to Oracles existing business process-based software, namely the Oracle SOA Suite and BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) Process Manager. The SOA Suite is a set of service infrastructure components for creating services that can be orchestrated into composite applications and business processes, according to Oracles Web site. BPEL is a standard for assembling a set of discrete services into an end-to-end process flow.
A partnership between Oracle and IDS Scheer comes as little surprise. eWEEK reported back in February that the two companies were in talks, and the expectation was that Aris would be integrated, to some degree, into Oracles middleware stack.
“We have spent much of the time [this year] with IDS Scheer outlining a road map,” said Rick Schultz, vice president of Oracle Fusion Middleware, in Redwood Shores, Calif. “We are delivering on the initial release this fall—the BPA Suite—and over time integrating more and more with the technologies that are in the SOA suite.”
Schultz said the Aris capabilities will also be integrated with other parts of the Fusion Middleware stack, including its BAM (business activity monitoring) applications. In the longer term, Aris will be integrated with other tools, such as Oracles JDeveloper tool kit, Identity Manager and the Oracle portal.
Oracle will also work to integrate IDS Scheers metadata repository.
“We have our own repository already that can be used to store BPEL,” Schultz said. “We want to move to a single repository for all metadata—process models, executables—in one common repository, largely based on the repository of Fusion Middleware and leveraging IDS Scheer.”
More importantly for Oracle applications users, the companys next-generation application set, Fusion, will have its business flows defined using Aris. “Well use [Aris] internally and also customers will be able to modify processes,” Schultz said.
There are several points to consider regarding Aris as the underlying business flow environment for Fusion: It will allow a different kind of user—business people rather than just IT—to modify business processes. It will also provide a common environment across not only Oracle, but SAP and likely Microsoft as well, whereby—at least theoretically—users can model a process in the Aris environment, and then access services from each vendors applications to build composite applications.
The reason for this is IDS Scheer already has a deep partnership with SAP, in which Aris has been integrated into the latest version of SAPs NetWeaver middleware platform. IDS Scheer also has a burgeoning relationship with Microsoft that has led to Aris being integrated with one of Microsofts four ERP (enterprise resource planning) suites. And there is an informal link between Aris and Microsofts BizTalk Server, a business process management server with tools for designing, deploying and managing processes.
However, there is still a lot of work to be done on the SOA (service-oriented architecture) front to enable true composite application-building across environments.
Both Oracle and Microsoft are building out their next-generation application suites based on business process agility. Oracles Fusion, expected around 2008, will bring together functionality from Oracle E-Business Suite and from the companys PeopleSoft, JD Edwards and Siebel Systems acquisitions. Microsoft is working on a similarly arduous process, also expected to be completed around 2008, to bring together the four code bases of its disparate ERP suites and integrate the resulting Dynamics suite with a lot of its infrastructure components.
SAP is well down the road with its ESA (Enterprise Services Architecture), which, in part, modularizes SAPs older R/3 applications and brings SOA capabilities to its newer MySAP suite, but a vast majority of its customer base has yet to move to the newer, fully NetWeaver-enabled MySAP suite.
The reality is that interoperability among software vendors—whether or not an intended consequence of SOA—really depends on how well execution is enabled at the middleware level, according to Mathias Kirchmer, CEO of IDS Scheer for the Americas and Japan, in Berwyn, Pa.
“Whatever platform you use to design [processes] to come up with the best solution for your organization, the next [question] is, How well can you support your design through the application—how well can you execute? Thats exactly the point,” Kirchmer said. “The companies [SAP, Oracle, Microsoft] will have to compete … Models can be moved to an environment that is flexible and allows the model to move. The question is how well middleware and services really execute on those models.”
What will come with the initial fall 2006 release of Oracles BPA Suite is the ability to do modeling outputs in BPEL, according to Oracles Schultz. What will come further down the road is a closed-look process—essentially a bi-directional capability to make changes in BPEL that can be directed back into the process model so they can be iterated more smoothly.
“We already differentiate [from our competitors] around BPEL and SOA in several areas—were hot-pluggable and have our BPEL engine on various different application servers,” Schultz said. “So the integration we provide as well between our BPEL, BAM and Aris will have the uniquely standards-based round-tripping closed loop process that other vendors will not be able to provide.”