Monday Oct 15, 2012

Oracle Exalogic Customer Momentum @ OOW'12

[Adapted from here

At Oracle Open World 2012, i sat down with some of the Oracle Exalogic early adopters  to discuss the business benefits these businesses were realizing by embracing the engineered systems approach to data-center modernization and application consolidation. Below is an overview of the 4 businesses that won the Oracle Fusion Middleware Innovation Award for Oracle Exalogic this year.

Company: Netshoes
About: Leading online retailer of sporting goods in Latin America.

  • Rapid business growth resulted in frequent outages and poor response-time of online store-front
  • Conventional ad-hoc approach to horizontal scaling resulted in high CAPEX and OPEX
  • Poor performance and unavailability of online store-front resulted in revenue loss from purchase abandonment

Consolidated ATG Commerce and Oracle WebLogic running on Oracle Exalogic.
Business Impact:
Reduced abandonment rates resulting in a two-digit increase in online conversion rates translating directly into revenue up-lift

Company: Claro
About: Leading communications services provider in Latin America.

  • Support business growth over the next 3  - 5 years while maximizing re-use of existing middleware and application investments with minimal effort and risk

Consolidated Oracle Fusion Middleware components (Oracle WebLogic, Oracle SOA Suite, Oracle Tuxedo) and JAVA applications onto Oracle Exalogic and Oracle Exadata.
Business Impact:
Improved partner SLA’s 7x while improving throughput 5X and response-time 35x for  JAVA applications

Company: UL
About: Leading safety testing and certification organization in the world.

  • Transition from being a non-profit to a profit oriented enterprise and grow from a $1B to $5B in annual revenues in the next 5 years
  • Undertake a massive business transformation by aligning change strategy with execution

Consolidated Oracle Applications (E-Business Suite, Siebel, BI, Hyperion) and Oracle Fusion Middleware (AIA, SOA Suite) on Oracle Exalogic and Oracle Exadata
Business Impact:
Reduced financial and operating risk in re-architecting IT services to support new business capabilities supporting 87,000 manufacturers

Company: Ingersoll Rand
About: Leading manufacturer of industrial, climate, residential and security solutions.

  • Business continuity risks due to complexity in enforcing consistent operational and financial controls;
  • Re-active business decisions reduced ability to offer differentiation and compete

Consolidated Oracle E-business Suite on Oracle Exalogic and Oracle Exadata
Business Impact:
Service differentiation with faster order provisioning and a shorter lead-to-cash cycle translating into higher customer satisfaction and quicker cash-conversion

Check out the winners of the Oracle Fusion Middleware Innovation awards in other categories here.

Saturday Jul 14, 2012

Oracle Exalogic in Higher-Education: Virtual Learning Environments

In the quest to become the leading education institutions of choice  and draw world-class academic and student talent forward-thinking universities continue to embrace and evolve ICT to further their agenda in learning, teaching and research. However the global and domestic financial and operating environments impacting universities have grown increasingly challenging applying increased pressure in two ways.

  1. From a revenue perspective, the potential of a second global financial crisis looms large, with the potential to trigger yet another global recession. While education sector has been less affected by economic cycles in the past, the unprecedented level of economic turmoil that exists today makes it difficult to anticipate the revenue ramifications.
  2. From a cost perspective, further globalisation has greatly increased the competitive nature of the higher education sector, especially so due the boom in demand for education services and proliferation of education providers in emerging markets.
So how are leading universities preparing themselves to respond to this challenge and what sort of transformation are they hoping to realize?

Integral to achieving their goal of attracting top student talent is being able to provide outstanding student experience. While enhancing the campus based experience is still very important, universities are increasingly looking to augment physical campus based learning with virtual, online delivery of educational programs and services.

To offer students an engaging, stimulating and fun environment for learning universities have invested in a range of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) at the core of which is the Student Portal, the Learning Management System and Student self-services such as IT help-desk etc. Periodically universities need to undertake a major refresh of these applications to deliver the next generation, collaborative and mobile learning experience. In addition to this, back-office university information systems must support seamless and cost effective access to information for decision making, and transactional services. Universities increasingly want to deliver shared services in collaboration with other institutions. As such universities are refreshing their back-office finance and resource planning applications with to ensure they can drive efficiency in their critical budget planning and operations processes.

Now there are many other applications universities rely on to manage their infrastructure, administrative services, alumni services and so on. A key challenge facing universities in their large-scale application modernization efforts is that upgrading to modern applications places further demands on data-centre infrastructure include storage, compute nodes and networking gear. Not to mention, refreshing the data-centre infrastructure entails integration risk due to multi-vendor procurement, testing, tuning and optimization. 

An approach to IT that worked well in the past centered around plugging the gaps in desired capability and driven by ad-hoc requests. However the sustainability of that approach is becoming a real impediment to optimizing CAPEX and OPEX budgetary controls given the woes of infrastructure fragmentation. As such universities are now standardizing their infrastructure and consolidate core applications on an open standards based environment. This is what is shifting their thinking towards engineered systems from Oracle including Oracle Exadata for the data tier and Oracle Exalogic for the middle tier.

Broadly speaking, there are primarily 3 factors why Oracle Exalogic has become the logical choice of running business applications for higher education institutions:

Firstly, Oracle Exalogic has enabled universities to accelerate the go-live time for application modernization by providing a pre-integrated, pre-tested, pre-optimized and pre-tuned infrastructure that enables end-to-end apps-to-disk management.

Secondly, Oracle Exalogic has allowed universities to consolidate application workloads, thus reducing the number of physical servers and further improving data-centre density through virtualization. This has brought cost savings in terms of software licenses, maintenance and energy consumption.

Thirdly, Oracle Exalogic and Oracle Exadata have allowed universities to shift towards a private cloud platform model for metering and charging computing resources as multi-tenant services, effectively transforming their IT from a cost-center to a profit-center.

Find out more, at the upcoming Exalogic Elastic Cloud 2.0 Launch.

Thursday Jul 12, 2012

Oracle Exalogic in Public Sector: Law Enforcement

The mandate for government law enforcement agencies is to safe-guard the protect the public against instruments of terror and enforce legislation. Ensuring authorized entry or exit of people, keeping unauthorized and dangerous immigrants under check and monitoring large scale goods movement is clearly one of the most critical and demanding operating environments. Processing thousands of people and vehicles places extreme demands on the underlying IT infrastructure. To support their mission critical operations, governments rely on massive data center facilities typically dispersed across multiple locations. Such IT operations are managed by several thousand personnel.

When it is a matter of national security, failure is not an option under any circumstances. Uninterrupted 24x7x365 operation is a necessity, since an hour of downtime can back up thousands of people at the borders during peak traffic times. Needless to say, the IT solutions law enforcement agencies require must offer utmost reliability, scalability, and security. Given the mission-critical nature of their operations, homeland security agencies are looking to evolve their IT infrastructure in a sustainable manner so as to cater to both existing and future workloads.

The overarching priority for law enforcement agencies is to reduce data center costs through application and infrastructure consolidation.

The challenge with the traditional approach is that:

  • Parts are not guaranteed to work together.
  • There are too many possible variations and a lack of standardization.
  • The final product is not optimized for best performance or maintenance.
  • There is no overall warranty.

The Engineered Systems approach to data centre operations is a paradigm shift from the traditional approach of assembling disparate layers of storage, networking, compute nodes, operating systems and so on.

Broadly speaking, there are primarily 3 factors why Oracle Exalogic has become the logical choice of running business applications for law enforcement agencies:

Firstly, by virtualizing the middle-tier infrastructure, Oracle Exalogic enables law enforcement agencies to eliminate large-scale, legacy systems. Moreover, consolidating multiple platforms onto a smaller number of machines requires very little or no modification of the application code. The benefit of physical and virtual consolidation is a manifold reduction in data center footprints and accompanying energy savings (in terms of cooling and consumption).

Secondly, the simplicity of managing a distributed private cloud middle-tier infrastructure in another important deciding factor. Distributed systems often require separate teams to manage the various solution components. As a result, root-cause analysis can be subject to undue complexity as multiple vendors claim that others are responsible for the issues at hand. With Oracle Exalogic, there is an single touch-point for any support issue involving Oracle Applications, middleware, compute nodes, networking and storage.

Thirdly, Exalogic has native integration with Exadata, Oracle’s engineered system for OLTP workloads. Having a standardized data-tier on Exadata creates unmatched synergies in running the middle-tier on Oracle Exalogic. Find out more, at the upcoming Exalogic Elastic Cloud 2.0 Launch.

Wednesday May 23, 2012

Performance - What? How? Why? - part 1 / 3

Performance has been the lingua franca for IT vendors for some decades now. When asked about the merit of a product be it hardware, software or even a framework, the instinctive response of vendors is to proclaim superiority of their product in terms of  Performance - "5x Performance Gains", "micro latency", "2ms response time", "10 million transactions/sec", etc., and more, the list is endless. With due respect to the R&D efforts behind developing exceptional software and hardware products, i find it bewildering and beguiling when sales, marketing (and sometimes technical people) draw a simplistic connection between Performance and business value. For instance, how do you connect the dots when someone says "5X performance improvement in XYZ leads to faster time-to-market"? Surely there must be a connection but i find the leap of imagination delusional.

Motivated by my own inadequacy to comprehend the business value of Performance i decided to get back to fundamentals and develop my thinking based on the notion of Wait-time from Queuing Theory. This theory states that average Waite-time in a single queue is a function of the systems Capacity, Utilization and Efficiency. i.e. Wait-time = f(Capacity, Utilization, Efficiency), where Wait-time is inversely related to Capacity and Efficiency and directly related to Utilization. Two things worth noting in this model are that firstly, Capacity is costly and such needs to be sized for economics and secondly for a given capacity there is an optimal Utilization Rate beyond which Wait-Time increases exponentially.

Let me illustrate this with an example of a capacity planning for a dine-in restaurant. If there are too many chairs, wait-time for guests arriving at the restaurant will be very little but this will incur overhead of over-capacity. On the contrary, if there are too few chairs, wait-time for guests will be very high, in the worst-case long enough to cause the queue of waiting people to churn. In theory this would mean a Utilization of 100%! This is an important point to note as what i mentioned earlier too that Utilization increases exponentially beyond a certain threshold level. Efficiency is what influences when this threshold level is reached. Hence capacity will need to be planned keeping long-term and peak traffic at the restaurant in mind while achieving a utilization rate that offers the optimal balance between idle-time overhead and queue wait time.

Performance of computers too is analogous to the Queuing Theory model. The graphic below depicts the dimensions of performance, the primary technological approaches that drive improvement in those dimensions and finally how those approaches map to the notion of Capacity, Utilization and Efficiency.

In the next post, i will delve deeper into articulating How performance is accomplished in terms of Capacity, Utilization and Efficiency through engineered systems.

Wednesday May 02, 2012 BPM Patterns & Practices in Industry

If you have missed out any of my industry blog posts in the past, the following 30 min webcast brings the entire effort to closure.

Sunday Apr 29, 2012

Day 2: Highlights @ Gartner BPM Summit, Baltimore, 2012

Below is a graphical approach to depicting a Business Transformation (in other words value of BPM) that was shared during one of the sessions at the Gartner BPM summit.

I reckon this is really useful for IT decision makers in articulating value of BPM to the business leaders and showing progress along a time horizon i.e. the transformation roadmap.

Note: The color scheme could indicate priority or magnitude of investment or some combination of the both

Wednesday Apr 25, 2012

Day 1: Highlights @ Gartner BPM Summit, Baltimore, 2012

Social BPM

  • Social Media
    1. is an online environment for mass collaboration
    2. comprises of the following
      • Social Creation e.g. YouTube, Flickr, Blogger, Zoho
      • Social Networking e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook
      • Social Publishing e.g. RSS, Twitter
      • Social Feedback e.g. Digg, Delicious, Like, +1
    3. mere access to social media social media success
      • ditch the “provide and pray” approach
      • social media success is about mobilizing communities i.e. mass collaboration around a shared purpose that lies at the intersection of individual, organizational and community interests
      • Develop Purpose maps to understand what drives each stakeholder e.g. drill down with “Why or So What?” to 3 or 4 levels to get to the root of the motivational driver
  • Mass Collaboration

Embrace social processes as enablers of business processes by enabling mass collaboration. Mass collaboration has the following aspects

    1. Collective Intelligence
      • Wisdom of the crowds enables a continuous cycle of Contribute -> Feedback -> Collective Judgment/Intelligence -> Change
    2. Expertise Location
      • Overcoming limited/scarce/missing intellectual capital resources with a global, distributed pool of talent e.g. To develop its video recommendation engine Netflix ran a public challenge with a million dollar reward for the winning team
    3. Interest Cultivation
      • Ability to extend business capabilities through the community e.g. community “staffed” support forums vs traditional help-desk
    4. Relationship Leverage
      • Level the playing field e.g. ability of executive management to get direct insights from the field thereby flattening bureaucratic hierarchy
    5. Flash Coordination
      • Ability to self-align and rapidly mobilize large number of people, Massively Scalable Sense-Respond Systems e.g. Rail Services Outage management, Disaster-response Emergency Response
    6. Emergent Structures
      • Enabling increased participation of customers and partners to gain a value-chain advantage
  • Process candidates for Social BPM
    • Human-centric processes
    • Processes that are broken
    • Processes with a high frequency of change

Intelligent Business Operations (IBO aka iBPMS)

  • Dimensions of Context
    • Process
      • Workflow Predictability i.e. variability of a process across LOB, channels, geographies, customer segments etc.
      • Activity Standardization i.e. degree of re-use of an activity across process variants
    • Information
      • Criticality i.e. impact of information in flow on stakeholders or dependent task
      • Diversity i.e. structured, semi-structured and un-structured content
    • People
      • Complexity i.e. structure of teams, organization etc.
      • Diversity i.e. # of job roles, job levels, skill levels etc.
  • Dimensions of IBO
    1. Situational Awareness
      • ability to incorporate real-time context to make predictive (probabilistic) path selection
    2. Decision Management
      • ability to incorporate transactional context to make predictive (probabilistic) path selection
    3. Process Management
      • ability to self-tune / automate process optimization
  • IBO technology capabilities (horizontal axis) vis-à-vis IBO goal

Event Management

Decision Management

Flow Management


        Event analysis 

        Time / Causal patterns

        Statistical patterns

Transaction Log analysis

Statistical patterns

Process Orchestration

Service Orchestration


Event Model

Decision Model

Process Model





Note: the above table is incomplete as I am missing some information and will update it shortly.

  • For more, refer to the following public Gartner research articles:
    • G00213721
    • G00219274
    • G00214729
    • G00227539

PS: Thanks to my colleague Vikas Grover for useful edits to this post.

Tuesday Apr 03, 2012

ARTS Reference Model for Retail

Consider a hypothetical scenario where you have been tasked to set up retail operations for a electronic goods or daily consumables or a luxury brand etc. It is very likely you will be faced with the following questions:

  1. What are the essential business capabilities that you must have in place? 
  2. What are the essential business activities under-pinning each of the business capabilities, identified in Step 1?
  3. What are the set of steps that you need to perform to execute each of the business activities, identified in Step 2?

Answers to the above will drive your investments in software and hardware to enable the core retail operations. More importantly, the choices you make in responding to the above questions will have several implications in the short-run and in the long-run. In the short-term, you will incur the time and cost of defining your technology requirements, procuring the software/hardware components and getting them up and running. In the long-term, as you grow in operations organically or through M&A, partnerships and franchiser business models  you will invariably need to make more technology investments to manage the greater complexity (scale and scope) of business operations. 

"As new software applications, such as time & attendance, labor scheduling, and POS transactions, just to mention a few, are introduced into the store environment, it takes a disproportionate amount of time and effort to integrate them with existing store applications. These integration projects can add up to 50 percent to the time needed to implement a new software application and contribute significantly to the cost of the overall project, particularly if a systems integrator is called in. This has been the reality that all retailers have had to live with over the last two decades. The effect of the environment has not only been to increase costs, but also to limit retailers' ability to implement change and the speed with which they can do so." (excerpt taken from here)

Now, one would think a lot of retailers would have already gone through the pain of finding answers to these questions, so why re-invent the wheel? Precisely so, a major effort began almost 17 years ago in the retail industry to make it less expensive and less difficult to deploy new technology in stores and at the retail enterprise level. This effort is called the Association for Retail Technology Standards (ARTS). Without standards such as those defined by ARTS, you would very likely end up experiencing the following:

  • Increased Time and Cost due to resource wastage arising from
    • re-inventing the wheel i.e. re-creating vanilla processes from scratch, and
    • incurring, otherwise avoidable, mistakes and errors by ignoring experience of others
  • Sub-optimal Process Efficiency due to narrow, isolated view of processes thereby
    • ignoring process inter-dependencies i.e. optimizing parts but not the whole, and
    • resulting in lack of transparency and inter-departmental finger-pointing

Embracing ARTS standards as a blue-print for establishing or managing or streamlining your retail operations can benefit you in the following ways:

  • Improved Time-to-Market from parity with industry best-practice processes e.g. ARTS, thus
    • avoiding “reinventing the wheel” for common retail processes and focusing more on customizing processes for differentiations, and
    • lowering integration complexity and risk with a standardized vocabulary for exchange between internal and external i.e. partner systems
  • Lower Operating Costs by embracing the ARTS enterprise-wide process reference model for
    • developing and streamlining retail operations holistically instead of a narrow, silo-ed view, and 
    • procuring IT systems in compliance with ARTS thus avoiding IT budget marginalization

While parity with industry standards such as ARTS business process model by itself does not create a differentiation, it does however provide a higher starting point for bridging the strategy-execution gap in setting up and improving retail operations.

Monday Mar 26, 2012

Customer Experience Management for Retail 2.0 - part 2 / 2

In the previous post, i discussed some of the key trends shaping up in the retail industry, their implications and the challenges facing retailers seeking to regain control of the buyer-seller relationship.

Is Customer Experience Management the panacea for the ailing retailers who are now awakening to the power of the consumer?

Quite honestly, customer acquisition, retention and satisfaction have been top of mind for retailers for quite some time now. The missing piece of this puzzle is bringing all those countless hours of strategy and planning to fruition. This is more of an execution gap than anything else.

Although technology has made consumers more informed, more mobile and more social, customer experience is still largely defined by delivering on the following:

  • Consistent experiences, whether shopping online or offline
  • Personalize-able interaction ("mass market" sounds good as an internal strategy but not when you are a buyer!)
  • Timely order fulfillment, if not pro-active notification of delays

Below is a concept architecture for streamlining front-end, mid-office and back-end interfaces through shared process to achieve consistency and efficiency in managing the customer experience from order capture to order provisioning.

Friday Mar 09, 2012

Customer Experience Management for Retail 2.0 - part 1 / 2

Retail 2.0 represents the transformation in the retail industry triggered by the accelerated shift towards online and mobile technologies and social shopping paradigms. Never before has the consumer been of more importance or should i say in greater control, especially so due to the shrinking information asymmetry between merchants and consumers that has tilted the balance of power in the latter’s favor.

The graphic below outlines the key consumer trends and their implications for retailers.

Traditional, multi-channel customer experience strategies segmented customers based on channel-specific purchase cycles. However, this approach is unable to cope with today’s complex purchase journey’s that involve touch-points across multiple channels. The graphic below depicts the purchase journey of a retail consumer today.

Clearly, customer experience management for Retail 2.0 merits more than just re-branding of existing multi-channel integration strategies as customer experience management! So what should retail merchants do, in order to attract, engage, convert and retain the new-age consumer who is equipped with mobile and internet technologies to make any-time, any-place purchase decisions?

In the next post, i will share a concept architecture of streamlining customer interaction processes with BPM to integrate offer management, order capture and order provisioning to drive improvements in Customer-Lifetime Value, Just-in-Time inventory and supply management, and sales- efficiency by enabling a connected, consistent and seamless multi-channel experience.

Friday Feb 24, 2012

Mitigating Cyber-Security Risks to Smart-Grid AMI

Today, utilities are committing to capital intensive investments in upgrading to smart-grid/metering infrastructure driven by government regulation and consumer awareness. However, in this process of becoming increasingly “smarter”, the digitization of the grid is blurring lines between operational, information and communication technologies. This inadvertently makes the grid highly vulnerable to cyber-attacks, physical sabotage and equipment malfunction in the “last-mile” i.e. Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI). Key components of AMI are:

  • Smart-meter
  • Head-end Systems (HES)
  • Meter Reading-Control Systems (MRC)
  • Meter Data Management Systems (MDMS)
  • Load Control Devices (LC)

The graphic below depicts the logical architecture of AMI, although in practice capabilities of multiple components (other than meters) could be encapsulated in the same application.

(Source: )

The table below describes the cyber-security requirements for AMI identified by Cyber Security Working Group (CSWG) of the Smart-Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP), based on the NIST IR 7628 standard for Smart-Grid security.

(Source: )

BPM can drive improvements in securing the “last-mile” by enforcing smart-grid security guidelines such as NIST IR 7628. The benefits of greater control and visibility of the AMI processes as listed in the table above are as follows:

  • Secure  “Last Mile” in energy distribution from cyber-threats and physical attacks with predictive and real-time Fault Modes and Event Assessment (FMEA) for AMI processes
  • Lower Regulatory Risk in terms of consumer litigation and disputes with automated audit trail of data flows across the AMI to limit and timely respond to data confidentiality breaches
  • Improve Customer Satisfaction by preventing unwarranted disconnections arising from meter malfunction, human-error and data corruption

Clearly, there is an enormous promise in terms of energy conservation and lower carbon footprint in the transformation of the electric grid. However the infusion of information and communication technologies into the conventional electro-mechanical grid does creates unknown vulnerabilities that can bring the grid, if not society, to a halt. Securing the “last-mile” i.e. AMI will be crucial to realizing the promise of the smart-grid future.

Friday Jan 27, 2012

Driving Operational Efficiency with eTOM

The distinction between network operator Communications Service Providers (CSPs) and virtual CSPs e.g. MVNOs is decreasing by the day driven by industry deregulation and proliferation of IP based networks that have lowered barriers to entry. This hyper-competition is creating continuous pressure on CSPs to shorten time-to-market cycles for PLM and FAB (fulfillment, assurance and billing) processes to differentiate.

The pursuit of this goal though, is hampered by the complex organizational structure with silos aligned to customer segments. service types or service bundles. Consequently, line-of-business priorities take precedence over end-to-end business goals resulting in

  • Frequent IT refresh cycles with “fire-fighting” IT investment approach
  • Further fragmentation of the OSS/BSS with heterogeneous non-interoperable multi-vendor IT systems

So, why do such IT oriented or driven business transformation efforts repeatedly under-perform resulting in time and budget over-runs? Assuming the issue is not about the capability of the IT systems or the people implementing them. That leaves us with only one other lever and that is processes. Non-compliance to standards based ITSM frameworks to drive IT investments poorly aligned with end-to-end business priorities results in 

  • Ad-hoc or silo driven IT procurement limiting ability to realize vendor section and contract negotiation benefits of firm-wide procurement
  • Integration complexity of attaining end-to-end process view across non-standards based processes proliferating across multiple systems

A popular approach to achieving operational efficiency in running a service provider business in the communications industry is to strive for conformance with tmforum's Business Process Framework (eTOM).


The benefit of doing so are as follows:

  • Improved Time-to-Market with business-IT alignment driven by a comprehensive catalog of CSP business processes i.e. eTOM, thus lowering integration risk by procuring IT systems pre-validated with industry standards and optimizing service provider operations by embracing industry best-practices in processes
  • Lower Procurement Costs in terms of applying a consistent methodology to guide IT purchase decisions in vendor selection across RFI/RFPs and negotiate IT contracts with an enterprise view and avoiding IT misspend on non-essential or low priority systems, and IT overspend on redundant systems

While parity with industry standards such as eTOM by itself does not create a differentiation in the end-user service offering it does however enables improved utilization of IT budgets and narrows the strategy-execution gap that plagues business transformation programs. Business Process Management helps CSPs embrace eTOM to drive operational efficiency by enforcing a process-aligned methodology to IT procurement and service delivery.


A business centric perspective on Private Cloud, Data-center Modernization and EAI.

Sanjeev Sharma
Twitter: @sanjeevio


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