Saturday Jul 14, 2012

Oracle Exalogic in Higher-Education: Virtual Learning Environments

[Re-posted from blogs.oracle.com/applicationplatform]

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.

Friday Jul 13, 2012

Oracle Exalogic in Retail: e-Commerce

[Re-posted from blogs.oracle.com/applicationplatform]

Like is the case with most fast-growing business, rapid growth itself creates certain challenges from an operational perspective and this is truer than ever in the e-commerce space. Today, consumers increasingly want a more sophisticated online shopping experience including higher degree of personalization, real-time promotions and guided purchase journeys. Yet consumers are becoming increasingly impatient and highly intolerant of the slightest of delays.Thus online retailers can no longer afford to have system outages or down-times or poor response times even during periods of peak demand.

In our conversations with online retailers there exists a unanimous consensus that, in even in online retail, shopping experience symbolizes value, quality and trust. As such online retailers are expected to move beyond simply delivering on their promises to consumers to exploring ways to exceed consumer expectations. Online retailers are trying to drive improvements in their online operations across three dimensions:

  1. Deliver a superior online shopping experience to their customers in terms of application response time.
  2. Eliminate down-time of their e-commerce applications with fault-tolerance at each layer of the IT stack including storage, networking, servers, operating systems and application server.
  3. Do more with less. Retailers recognize that their core competence is online retailing and not building or assembling high-performance data-centre infrastructure. Thus retailers want to simplify their IT infrastructure in terms of manageability and OPEX by running their applications on fewer yet faster systems.

From an IT perspective the quest to deliver superior online shopping experiences by adding newer online services comes down to improving throughput and mitigating outages. Broadly speaking, there are primarily 3 factors why Oracle Exalogic has become the logical choice of running business applications for online retailers:

Firstly, perhaps most importantly, the primary metric of success for online retailers is “Conversion Rates” i.e. percentage of site visits translating into sales. With Oracle Exalogic retailers are already experiencing up-to double-digit improvement in conversion rates. Every 0.1% improvement in conversion rates creates a size-able revenue up-lift.

Secondly, online retailers have been able to consolidate their applications environment from hundreds of system down to a few Exalogic systems. The reduction in physical data-centre footprint has been in up-to double-digit numbers. This brings savings in terms of hardware, software, labor and energy requirements.

Thirdly, with Oracle Exalogic, retailers have been able to deliver newer online services and improve performance of existing applications without incurring the delay and integration risk associated with a piece-meal, multi-vendor, data-centre technology stack. With Oracle Exalogic online retailers have been able to reduce go-live times of their application modernization projects significantly thereby shortening the strategy-execution gap and lowering operational risk.

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

Thursday Jul 12, 2012

Oracle Exalogic in Public Sector: Law Enforcement

[Re-posted from blogs.oracle.com/applicationplatform]

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.

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