Thinking on Portals, Application Servers & Middleware, and Strategic Enterprise Architecture

Recently I attended an event the Oracle Middleware 11g Forum around the launch & release of their Fusion Middleware 11g suite of products.

Oracle should be commended on the swift work they have done of incorporating the technologies and services they have acquired into their own product set.  Within the 11g release there is the unified and integration of mainstream Oracle products with the product set acquired from BEA Systems (WebLogic and AquaLogic etc.)  There is a clear standardisation around the Weblogic server as the strategic application server within the Fusion Middleware stack.

The pending acquisition and integration of Sun Microsystems into Oracle will pose a few interesting questions around existing complementary product set. But also to give the obvious capability of singlehanded delivery of hardware, OS, middleware, and application stack.

        

Both of these acquisition brings much more of a level set between Oracle and IBM in the J2EE space around enterprise portal, application server, content management, SOA and middleware.  This should bring another boost of invigoration to this marketplace, which is already looking lively because of innovative adoption around consumer social computing services and mash up or widget integration technologies.

An example of the IBM Middleware stack: (taken from an article about “Develop and Deploy Multi-Tenant Web-delivered Solutions using IBM middleware”)

An example of the Oracle Middleware stack: (taken from an article on the blog of Eric Marcoux “What do you want to know about Fusion Middleware ?”)

However this doesn’t rule out other players in this space, such as Microsoft, Autonomy, Opentext  etc. While they may not be so closely aligned around the technology or industry space, or perhaps bring such a broad offering, as IBM or Oracle they should not be ignored. In fact their strengths or niche plays should be significant influencers on the strategic enterprise architecture of an organisation.

What then are the questions that should be asked to ascertain that the Strategic Enterprise Architecture choices are optimal for your organisation?   Caveat :– I am not claiming to be an enterprise architect! However I hope these should be reasonably logical and common sense, and the answers should go some way to revealing the degree of alignment between the enterprise architecture and business requirements.

  • How does my End-User (desktop and productivity suite choices/need) integrate or align with choices around Portal and Enterprise Content Management and Enterprise Applications?
    • Do they complement or conflict?
    • Do they offer the integration that enables users to engage in business processes, or does inflict conflicts and hindrances?
  • Is there a sensible balance between departmental application choice and autonomy in comparison to corporate mandates and direction?
    • Are there governance policies in place that sustains a level of commonality across business units?
    • Is there a that framework allows departmental processes and requirements to be surfaced and delivered in a uniform way?
    • Is Identity and Access management provided centrally?
    • Are compliance, security and risk management services provided in a consistent manner?
  • Are the Strategic Enterprise Architecture choices enabling or preventing the evolution of a competitive business model?
    • Is the architecture promoting an agile and adaptive business model & culture?
    • Is it helping to make the best of the human interactions and capital within the business?
    • Is it serving to optimise TCO and reduce overheads, via enabling virtualisation, centralisation or cloud services technologies?
    • Is it serving the business through enabling a greater percentage of core business orientated employees, by reducing the focus on operating non-differentiating IT services & functions?
    • Is it enabling the business to serve the influential outliers – business partners, suppliers and customers?

These are by no means a definitive list, but I hope you think them relevant and helpful. I’m sure there will be areas I’ve over looked or ignored so please chip-in with more, comments and feedback.

There some good material here :

Enterprise Architecture Scorecard

The Open Group Architecture Framework

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