Oracle Launches Fusion Middleware 11g

Oracle will unveil a major chunk of Fusion Middleware 11g, the foundation for its next-generation Fusion Applications, during an event in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

The vendor is delivering updates to four components of the sprawling middleware portfolio: Oracle SOA Suite, its framework for service-oriented architecture, the WebCenter portal and collaboration suite; Oracle Identity Management; and WebLogic Suite, which includes the application server acquired through Oracle's acquisition of BEA Systems.

Other middleware products, such as for content management, will make their 11g debuts later this year, according to Hasan Rizvi, senior vice president of Fusion Middleware products. Meanwhile, JDeveloper 11g, Oracle's programming toolkit, was released last year.

In announcing the latest 11g products, Oracle is sticking to its long-time middleware marketing message, which stresses the value of an integrated suite but also the value of open standards and the ability to work well in heterogeneous environments.

Overall, the releases have been years in the making. Some 13 million hours of automated testing and 7,350 "person years" of development have gone into the process, according to Oracle.

More than anything, integration seems to be the strongest theme of Oracle's announcement. Middleware family members now have integrated customization, metadata management and security, and work has been done to improve connections with Oracle's own applications, Rizvi said.

In addition, the products Oracle acquired from BEA have now been "completely" integrated, according to Oracle.

Although it has worked to make the process easy, Oracle is not going to rush 10g middleware customers to upgrade, according to Rizvi. ""It's really the customer's call," he said. "[But] we believe, for multiple reasons, that the 11g products are ready for prime time today."

The upgrade is covered under existing customers' maintenance plans, meaning no new licensing will be required for those users, he said.

However, Wednesday's 11g launch wave is quite significant in terms of scope, integration and feature improvements, so current customers should pay attention, according to Forrester Research analyst John Rymer.

"It's not just an upgrade," Rymer said. There are "very substantial changes and progress in productivity."

Oracle is trying to tell the industry its middleware is on par with IBM's, according to Rymer. "I think of this as Oracle stepping out from IBM's shadow in middleware."

The changes in 11g are key, he stressed. For example, many Oracle users who were once BEA customers and are used to using the Eclipse application development platform have a difficult choice ahead, since middleware 11g is tightly integrated with Oracle's JDeveloper.

"[Customers] need to look at JDeveloper and say, 'are the potential productivity gains worth the sacrifices I'm going to make,'" Rymer said.

11g middleware also underpins Fusion Applications, Oracle's next-generation suite of business software that is supposed to combine the best features of its various product lines.

While Fusion Applications' release date has been a moving target for years, company officials of late have indicated they will be generally available in 2010.

"If you're interested in Fusion Apps, this is your world," Rymer said. "[JDeveloper] is the way you will customize them."

Oracle is expected to discuss the 11g releases in greater detail during a series of keynotes and presentations Wednesday.

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