Software // Information Management
Commentary
9/29/2008
09:10 AM
Neil Raden
Neil Raden
Commentary
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Can Roles and Agility Coexist in Oracle Fusion Middleware?

I listened carefully for the better part of two-and-a-half hours last week to Thomas Kurian, Sr. VP of Oracle, present the entire product set and positioning of Oracle's Fusion Middleware. I liked almost everything I heard... but down at the bottom of this stack, he raised the issue of "unified UI for Enterprise Applications controlled by roles." This is where he lost me...

I got so many letters (isn't that a quaint way to say "email messages?") about the Hy Minsky posting that I wanted to pass along a fairly readable paper he wrote that spells out his Financial Instability Hypothesis.

Back to the topic. I listened carefully for the better part of two-and-a-half hours last week to Thomas Kurian, Sr. VP of Oracle, present the entire product set and positioning of Oracle's Fusion Middleware. He didn't crack any jokes and more or less stuck to the slide deck; nevertheless it was amazingly interesting. I liked almost everything I heard, especially the parts that were user-centric, such as unified metadata, common business semantics with shared logical models, single development environment, etc.But down at the bottom of this stack, he raised the issue of "unified UI for Enterprise Applications controlled by roles." This is where he lost me. Roles, in my experience, are a poor replacement for a truly agile set of applications. Consider this: why provide Fusion Middleware and tout it as the capability for unifying everything, then rope off people on a coarse, poorly-thought-out approach, straight-from-the-eighties-IT?

I asked him this question in the Q&A session and got a sort of rambling answer that finished with, "Did I answer your question?" "No," I said, "but you've shown us your capabilities for Complex Event Processing and two-millisecond response time. How hard would it be to have a roles schema that was fine-grained enough to deal with the fact that people change their roles throughout the day, sometimes moment to moment? People don't have roles anymore; roles have people."

He tried again, and managed to explain security and need-to-know and that a roles-based schema at such a level of detail would be too difficult to manage and performance would be affected.

Performance for whom? I'd suggest that not being able to do the work I need to do, or to have to wait for a week while IT approves the change in my grants are REAL performance problems. Roles are another way for IT to dismiss the people in the organization and to apply simplified models that contribute to the ennui people have for IT programs. How can IT say the word "agile," but describe your role to the breadth of systems as "marketing analyst?" At the very least, that marketing analyst is offering assistance in a myriad of ways to other people, outside vendors and consultants and maybe even is the Blood Drive coordinator. People are regularly called in to "collaborate" (another word we hear a lot of lately) but would presumably have to drag around their role definition like a big old ball and chain.

Expect more on this roles issue from me. Nevertheless, I was impressed with the ambitious nature of Fusion Middleware and Oracle deserves credit for tackling such a big, risky proposition. I'll wait to see how well it works as, in my experience, Oracle's functioning software often lags its announcements. In this respect, of course, they have lots of company in the software business.

And one more thing: Go Phillies!I listened carefully for the better part of two-and-a-half hours last week to Thomas Kurian, Sr. VP of Oracle, present the entire product set and positioning of Oracle's Fusion Middleware. I liked almost everything I heard... but down at the bottom of this stack, he raised the issue of "unified UI for Enterprise Applications controlled by roles." This is where he lost me...

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