Meeting Enterprise Needs With Oracle 9i Application Server
Application servers run the gamut from simple Java application servers to enterprise-class products intended to host large applications across multiple sites. Oracle's 9i Application Server Release 2 is definitely among the latter. In fact, the Enterprise Edition is a veritable kitchen-sink collection of applications, at a relatively reasonable price of $20,000 per processor (reasonable, that is, for an enterprise-class application like this one). This review provides only be a quick once-over -- a complete review of the application server's features is longer than the space we have. (Note: A list of the new features follows the review.) Logan Harbaugh delves into the world of Oracle 9i Application Server and discusses the extensive collection of tools designed for developing large-scale enterprise portals, knowledge management systems, and other enterprise applications.
The Standard Edition is priced at $10,000 per CPU, and includes the (mostly) J2EE 1.3 compliant application server, an Apache Web server, the TopLink object-relational mapping tool, a portal development kit, and Oracle's IFS (Internet File System) data-centric file system, which allows access to data through Windows, HTML, e-mail, or FTP. It also supports basic clustering but without the centralized management available in the Enterprise Edition.
The Enterprise Edition adds a capable Web cache server, a Java object cache, a portal framework, a database reporting server, an online analytical processing server, a forms server, a LDAP directory (that includes single sign-on, click stream analysis and reporting, decision support, XML functionality, and a UDDI server), and packaged integration with many other enterprise applications (including XML), various databases through the JDBC connector, iPlanet or IIS Web servers, connectors to IBM's MQSeries and Customer Information Control System servers, and ERP applications from SAP, Siebel Systems, PeopleSoft, and J.D. Edwards.
There are two $10,000/processor options, a personalization engine and a wireless and mobile device publishing add-on. Taken as a whole, the Enterprise Edition comprises a large and very capable set of applications that can create virtually any sort of enterprise portal or application server, for even the largest company.
Oracle 9iAS is available for Windows NT, 2000 Server, Linux, Solaris, and several other Unix operating systems. We tested the Windows version of the Enterprise Edition with the built-in Apache Web server, using Windows 2000 Advanced Server running on a Pentium IV Xeon system with 1 GB of RAM.
The Standard Edition is fairly easy to install, but the Enterprise Edition is by necessity a complex installation. There were several points where the installation is halted with a message that some parameter, such as page file size, must to be set manually before the installation could succeed. The entire process took several hours and three CDs, not counting the documentation CD or the client application development CD. Once the installation is compete, the management console makes setting up the application server simple, including clustering of the application server.
Documentation is available in online format only, and should be perused before attempting an installation, particularly for the Enterprise Edition, as simply running the installation program may not get a working portal going.
Configuration information is stored in a repository database that contains information on all the elements of all the servers in a cluster. Inexplicably, the repository does not support real application clusters, Oracle's database clustering technology. The clustered application servers support both stateful and stateless applications, with in-memory replication of state from node to node in the cluster.
The management console is available as a Web page, making access to administrative tools simple from anywhere in the enterprise network. A single home page provides the administrative interface for the entire suite of Oracle applications. Creating a service requires creating a farm, then a cluster, and then defining a group of servers as belonging to the cluster. Configuration changes can be made simultaneously to all the servers in a cluster. Applications can be deployed, servers can be started or stopped or their logs checked. Dynamic monitoring can notify the manager if thresholds are passed or applications or servers fail.
Single sign-on security is well integrated with the Oracle Internet Directory -- Oracle's LDAP server, including PKI certificates and JAAS (Java Authentication and Authorization Service). The directory is somewhat complex to set up, especially when connecting to other applications or directories. However, we believe the potential for SSO efficiency makes it worth the effort.
Clickstream Intelligence is a reporting tool that can track usage and activity on the portal Web site. It consolidates user data for all users on the site and can track application traffic for specific applications. It can also be combined with the Personalization application to develop patterns of usage and then apply rules for specific groups of users, as well as creating personalized responses for various groups of users. The Reports tool makes reports available over the portal, while the Discoverer application provides data mining tools to consolidate data from various sources throughout the enterprise.
The Jdeveloper tool supports a wide variety of Java standards, including J2EE 1.3, Java Servlet 2.3, JSP 1.2, EJB 2.0, Java Transaction API (JTA), Java Messaging Service, JDBC, J2EE Connector Architecture (JCA), JavaMail, JAF 1.0, JAXP 1.1, JAAS, JNDI - XML, SOAP 1.1, WSDL 1.1, and UDDI 1.0. Containers for J2EE is a complete J2EE environment, including a Servlet engine, a JavaServer Pages (JSP) Translator, and an Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) container. The tool supports Servlet and EJB clustering.
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