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Oracle bolsters application integration lineup with new AIA packs

Foundation Pack 2.3, the new Foundation Pack for Communications, and six Process Integration Packs integrate business processes across Oracle and third-party applications.

Strengthening the glue that connects its patchwork of applications, Oracle has rolled out version 2.3 of its AIA Foundation Pack with newly minted Reference Process Models and six composite business flows for its AIA Process Integration Packs (PIPs).

The new Reference Process Models specifically target the communications and utilities market. The six composite business flows are crafted to support not only Oracle's PIPs but its developer productivity suites, such as XSLT Mapper Document Generator.

Both sets of capabilities seek to help corporate users more quickly deploy applications, increase the reusability of code, and more easily set up business processes that will work across the breadth of Oracle's application portfolio.

"When we started putting these application companies together, users asked us to do something simple: take out the costs and risks associated with integration," said Jose Lazares, Oracle's vice president of application development and product strategy for AIA. "I think we are now reaching a tipping point in terms of scalability where we can accelerate delivery by leveraging SOA and the underlying middleware tools."

There's a definite market for integrating Oracle's multiple applications, but many have held off taking that final step to implementation.

"I know the theory behind AIA and how it can tie together things like CRM to JD Edwards, but I am still not sure how much of my investment I can recoup in terms of cost savings over the short term," said John Handy, a database administrator with Potomac Power.

Some analysts believe Oracle has largely kept its word about integrating the dozens of applications acquired in its buying spree over the past decade. But it is a clear requirement if Oracle is to fully realize its best-of-breed approach to the enterprise applications market.

Learn more about Oracle's AIA integration strategy
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Read about Oracle's goals for its pre-packed integration packs

"If they are successful in getting people to adopt these Process Integration Packs and the AIA infrastructure, users will see a convergence of these best-of-breed applications. That is where the true benefit lies of being an Oracle customer," said Ray Wang, a vice president and principal analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.

Oracle has been steadily providing tighter integrations across both Oracle and non-Oracle products, Wang said. Some of the work evident in this announcement ties back to the repositories on AIA, and it also takes advantage of the work the company has done with its Fusion applications.

"Eventually, these processes are going to be tied end-to-end across Oracle," Wang said. "Like any large initiative, it is a work in progress, but they are making really good progress."

The new Oracle Application Integration Architecture Communications Foundation Pack contains industry-specific business objects and Web services intended to reduce the time needed to stitch together business applications. The product contains Enterprise Business Objects (EBOs) and Enterprise Business Services (EBSs) that are compliant with Telemanagement Forum SID standards.

Version 2.3 also contains enhanced Enterprise Business Objects and Services as well as developer productivity utilities, including an Application Business Connector Service Artifacts Generator, Composite Application Framework, and XSLT Mapper Document Generator.

Other integration packs include:

The Process Integration Pack for Oracle Product Hub, a series of core processes that support out-of-the-box Product MDM processes across an Oracle Product Hub, Siebel CRM, and Oracle's E-Business Suite.

Oracle's CRM On-demand Integration Pack for JD Edwards Enterprise One: Lead-to-Order is a pre-built integration that consolidates customer and product data and offers real-time synchronization of data and a lead-to-order business flow.

Oracle Retail Merchandising Integration Pack for PeopleSoft Enterprise Financials, a pre-configured integration of retail merchandising execution applications with financial operation control applications.

Oracle Financial Accounting Hub Integration Pack for PeopleSoft Enterprise General Ledger, which synchronizes the management of accounting rules and policies with PeopleSoft General Ledger.

Agile Product Lifecycle Management Integration Pack for SAP: Design-to-Release is a pre-built integration that provides a bridge between Oracle's Agile Product Lifecycle Management and SAP ERP 4.6 and 6.0.

The Foundation and Process Integration Packs, according to Lazares, offer two levels of ROI to corporate IT shops, an important ingredient if they are to succeed over both the short and long terms.

"The first level of ROI is focused on the out-of-the-box core process integration pack," Lazares said. "We generally see our users experiencing 30% plus ROI. But what is more important is the reduction in the time to deploy. We are seeing most users able to get up and running in as short a time as eight weeks."

Lazares said it is becoming increasingly important to offer proof points to users about how quickly they can get up and running. The faster users can realize the value of an application, the sooner they can eliminate the fears associated with integration.

With the new products, Oracle continues to leverage open standards as the basis for connecting shared services, which makes it easier to connect them to any application, Lazares said. This is an approach that Oracle is not going to abandon anytime soon, given the increasing number of Oracle users connecting to non-Oracle products.

"I would say 75% of my existing users actually are integrating Oracle and non-Oracle apps together," Lazares said. "Some of those applications, especially in Europe, are built on an open source stack."

Because Oracle users, like most other users, are focused on reducing costs in these recessionary times, the new Foundation and Integration Packs have an increased chance of commercial success, Lazares believes. During such times, users tend to gravitate back to the basics.

"When we go through a downturn like this, people like to get back to basics, and that means revisiting business processes," he said. "We have released, as part of [version] 2.3, a set of reference business process models that let you look at the entire enterprise, including supply chain, CRM and ERP. We have created activity-based diagrams to aid customers in defining and structuring their processes in a more accelerated fashion."

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