As you are most likely aware by now, Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) is a design approach that allows developers to construct business applications and business processes out of loosely coupled, independent services provided by distributed applications. By basing your application infrastructure on SOA-enabled products such as Oracle Fusion Middleware, Oracle JDeveloper, and Oracle Database 11g, you'll be able to develop applications that reuse existing functionality within your organization, adapt easily to changing business priorities, and present users with compelling, Web 2.0Ėstyle interfaces built using a framework of events, services, business rules, and application logic.
Business intelligence (BI), too, offers many benefits to organizations that look to gain better insights into their operations and financial performance. Interactive dashboards and graphical reports quickly convey important information about the performance of your organization, while sensors and alerts rapidly bring problems, and opportunities, to your attention. The result is a competitive advantage for your organization. Moreover, the business metadata layer provided with tools such as Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition Plus creates a semantic model over your organization's entire data set, helping you make joined-up decisions that take into account the many factors that make up your business.
But what if you could bring the two worlds of SOA and BI together, so that your business processes could take advantage of the semantic business model provided by your BI tools and include information in business rules from across the whole organization? What if your business processes could establish the estimated future value of a contract based on a financial model built by one of your financial analysts? And what if your applications could take advantage of the graphing and dashboard capabilities of Oracle's next-generation Interactive Dashboard tools, so that you could embed graphs, tables, and other BI presentations in your Java applications?
In this article, we will look at the integration possibilities between Oracle SOA Suite and Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition Plus, two elements of the Oracle Fusion Middleware family of products. In particular we will look at a new example Web services API for Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition Plus, now available on Oracle Technology Network (OTN), that promises to make the integration of BI technology into business processes and applications an even simpler prospect.
A Service-Oriented World
As we know, the main attraction of SOA to application architects is the opportunity it presents to leverage the existing application functionality within an organization to quickly create new business processes. SOA makes it easy to integrate separate business processes through the adoption of Web services as the primary means of integration.
A typical SOA consists of a number of elements:
* Business processesóDeclarative workflows usually created using BPEL that orchestrate services and can be invoked from applications, alerts, and other processes
* Business rulesóDeclarative business policies externalized into a separate rules repository accessible from applications and business processes
* Business eventsóConsisting of declarative event definitions, transformations, and routings generated by applications and business processes
* Business activity monitoringóProviding "in-flight" monitoring of the efficiency of business processes and activities
All of these elements are provided by Oracle SOA Suite, a part of Oracle Fusion Middleware, which comes with tools such as Oracle BPEL Process Manager, Oracle Business Rules, Oracle Enterprise Service Bus, and Oracle Web Services Manager.
Using Oracle SOA Suite together with Oracle Application Server and other elements of Oracle Fusion Middleware, you can develop standards-based, loosely coupled business applications and processes that integrate easily with applications both inside and outside your organization.
Adding the Power of Analytics
Along with Oracle SOA Suite, another key part of Oracle Fusion Middleware is Oracle Business Intelligence Suite Enterprise Edition Plus. Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition Plus is Oracle's latest generation of BI and analytical tools and provides an interactive dashboard, reports and graphing, alerts, pixel-perfect publications, and a metadata layer over all of your data that makes creating a report as simple as selecting business terms from a data dictionary.
Best of all, from an application developer's perspective, Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition Plus is fully Web services-enabled and comes with a SOAP API that makes it possible to connect to the BI metadata layer, run reports, retrieve data using business terms, perform analytical queries, and execute BI workflow tasks called "iBots." Given that a typical BI metadata layer spans multiple subject areas within your organization, with integrated, cleansed data; contains calculations and key performance indicators (KPIs); and is backed by a database tuned for retrieving data quickly, this presents an interesting opportunity for developers who wish to add analytical capabilities to their business processes and applications.
For example, you may wish to reference data from across multiple business areas in a business process, bringing data together from sales, marketing, human resources, and inventory when orchestrating a business process. You may wish to reference profitability or customer service KPIs when defining a business rule, or establish whether your business would benefit in the long-term from refunding a customer charge to a long-standing customer. All of these require information commonly held in your corporate BI application, and through Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition Plus' Web services interface, it becomes easy to incorporate feeds from such systems into your SOA-based applications.
The other opportunity that this integration brings addresses a traditional weakness of standalone BI applications. Most employees within an organization have day-to-day jobs to do that require working with line-of-business applications such as HR, inventory management, salesforce automation, or inventory management applications, and have neither the time nor the training to make use of separate reporting and analysis tools. When they do get the opportunity to use a query tool to analyze their business, they face a "context switch" between the query tool and their line-of-business tool that, at best, slows them down and, at worst, creates a disconnect between the insight they have made and the action they need to carry out to take advantage of it.
If, however, you could build BI insights directly into their line-of-business applications, either through the application having access to integrated data and KPIs; through integration with BI alerts and workflows; or simply by being able to embed, within the application, dashboards and graphical reports generated by the BI tool, the possibility exists to embed BI directly into an application and have it infuse every business process within the organization.