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Review: Oracle Upgrades Middleware Suite

The recently released WebLogic Suite 11g is billed as a unified application server offering and aims to improve app performance while streamlining management.
This release is significant for those who care about overall application performance management. Oracle, in 11g, greatly enhanced its tools to reduce admin overhead through automation of mundane and repetitive tasks. It also includes automatic self-adjusting configuration of complex server subsystems.

Tools include domain configuration templates, unified configuration management across middleware using standard templates, and scripting utilities to rapidly change workloads depending on the capacity needs of the application. With just a bit of work, this ability to change workloads can even be enhanced to let administrators base capacity on defined application or business rules. For ultra-high availability applications, 11g offers enhanced deployment and configuration management. This enables offline preparation for application deployment and hot swapping into a production environment. Say goodbye to those midnight application migrations (you know who you are). Dynamic resource management enables policy-based administration of resources, so applications can be consolidated to fewer servers.

The new diagnostic tools will help determine the root cause of problems (if they are within the Oracle suite) and help operations and application engineers find pesky issues. The Composite Application Performance Management tool is also useful. Performance monitoring and diagnostics for Portlets are included, along with remote services that visually represent Portlets within the context of the Enterprise Portal. This is a nice touch.

Performance Enhancements

The new ActiveCache feature provides quick access to frequently used data, a boon to applications that rely on a continuous availability of data. It also enables applications built with TopLink and BPEL Process Manager to transparently use Coherence for performance acceleration and scalability.

These features are a benefit for service providers that offer applications with service level agreements, because they improve overall performance and add some predictable scalability. ActiveCache also allows you to offload backend data sources. This is helpful if you have data in distributed locations, where data is traversing a WAN. The performance of the application will improve and the traffic over the WAN can be reduced.

The addition of the enhanced enterprise messaging grid provides an integrated messaging infrastructure for existing Advanced Queuing (AQ) and middle-tier JMS users. This messaging grid is used within applications to exchange information when executing inter-application processes and information exchanges. This will eliminate the need for a third party middleware product.

If organizations are using a third-party middleware product, they will need to consider if the performance improvements are worth the migration to Oracle. The built-in transaction manager and multicase-capable publish-subscribe model will also likely boost performance.

Recommendation

The organizations which will be most interested in 11g are those where high availability and performance are job one. When milliseconds count, take a look at this upgrade. Other shops that are trying to get a handle on application performance management and that use other Oracle components will also see value in the enhanced diagnostic tools available in the suite.

While some of the templates and tools will help reduce the operating overhead in very large environments, the suite is still quite complex, so don't even think about getting rid of your administrator.