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Cloud Computing

Cloud Challenge

Five projects show the many use cases for cloud platforms.

by Chris Murphy

August 2016

For Debra Lilley, the time feels right to stop thinking about building something with a cloud development platform, and start doing it. So what else to do but sign up for an event challenging teams to build a cloud-based project in a single day?

“The best way to learn something is to dig in and have a go,” says Lilley, an Oracle ACE Director and vice president at systems integration firm Certus Solutions.

That attitude explains why Lilley joined not one but two teams taking part in the OTN Developer Cloud Challenge, held outside of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in early June 2016, as part of the AMIS Oracle Conference in the Netherlands. One of Lilley’s teams used Oracle Cloud Platform tools to craft an app for sharing flight and lodging details with your travel companions to an event such as this cloud challenge. The other worked on refining an extension to Oracle Human Capital Management Cloud for managing the HR policy for bringing complaints against senior staffers.

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Events such as the Amsterdam cloud challenge help systems integrators get hands-on with the tools and projects they’re increasingly going to use in their work with customers. Here are five projects from the challenge, with insights from the Oracle ACE Directors leading the projects on what they’re learning about cloud platforms.

Continuous Innovation

Project: A mobile app that lets you share travel plans with colleagues, so you can book at the same hotel or share a cab if you’re attending the same conference.

Tools: Oracle Mobile Cloud Service, Oracle Integration Cloud Service, Oracle Java Cloud Service

All the teams were made up of Oracle ACE Directors, and, although they’re from separate companies, they often travel to the same Oracle ACE events and want to coordinate where they stay and when they come and go. Debra Lilley’s team felt that by creating an app using Oracle Mobile Cloud Service, pulling data from Oracle Database Cloud Service using REST services, “you don’t have to rely on people pushing you information, because it’s going to be available there in one place,” Lilley says.

Lilley thinks IT teams—especially enterprise IT shops—don’t fully appreciate how cloud has changed the pace of software innovation, including how quickly Oracle is adding new features and refinements to its cloud services based on user feedback. While it used to take years to revise and upgrade on-premises applications and databases, now she sees new features and functions added even in the monthly patches, which are more typically used just for bug fixes.

“This continuous innovation really is there,” Lilley says. While she wants more APIs and built-in integrations to cloud services, she notes, “I said that a year ago, and it’s a lot better now than it was then.”

Continuous innovation really is there. I said that a year ago, and it’s a lot better now than it was
then.”–Debra Lilley, Vice President of Systems Integration, Certus Solutions

Lilley’s second team also planned to use Oracle GoldenGate Cloud Service, Oracle Application Container Cloud, and Oracle Data Visualization Cloud Service. Lilley says not all these cloud products are as integrated yet as the team would like, but it’s still easier to manage those pieces in the cloud than it would be on premises.

“Treasure Chest of Data”

Project: A cloud-based conference-planning tool to share information on speakers, sessions, and more.

Tools: Oracle Database Cloud Service, Oracle Mobile Cloud Service, Oracle Integration Cloud Service, Oracle Java Cloud Service, Oracle Application Container Cloud, Oracle SOA Cloud Service, and more

Lucas Jellema, CTO of Oracle Platinum Partner and conference host AMIS, helped plan this Oracle ACE event. Jellema pictures this application being used by people around the world planning an event such as this conference and cloud challenge. The cloud offers the perfect platform for that kind of shared, collaborative application.

“If we create it once, we can use it all over the world, and make it available from a single instance to all the user groups,” Jellema says. Not only can people use it from around the world, but they also can contribute to its ongoing development from different companies and geographies.

Like Lilley, one of the main things Jellema hoped to learn from the cloud challenge is how various cloud services work together. For example, in Oracle Mobile Cloud Service he can select APIs to connect with other services. Using Oracle Integration Cloud Service, he built a connection to Twitter in about 15 minutes with no coding. Jellema wants more of those prebuilt connections, and he sees Oracle creating them very rapidly. “If that Twitter integration is an example of what is to come with more-complex integrations, I have a very positive outlook,” he says.

Jellema sees companies eager to use cloud tools to make better use of the data they hold. When Jellema spoke with Profit, he had just met with leaders at a company that’s eager to share its “treasure chest of data” with stakeholders inside and outside the company, but they weren’t sure how to do that. Jellema explained what Oracle Mobile Cloud Service does, and the company’s IT leaders thought it sounded like “the silver bullet for that particular challenge.” Oracle Mobile Cloud Service adds capabilities that don’t exist in an on-premises tool today, Jellema says, and he predicts that it will help a lot of companies with these kinds of data-sharing tasks—much as it does for AMIS’s own conference-planning app for the cloud challenge.

“It seems like one of the most natural fits for many organizations to get going, and it helps with exposing data that you have already to all your stakeholders,” he says.

Efficient Integration

Project: A system aimed at reducing car pollution in Mexico City, Mexico, by tracking how much a given vehicle travels through tapping into the city’s license plate readers.

Tools: Oracle Mobile Cloud Service, Oracle Database Cloud Service, Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service, Oracle Data Visualization Cloud Service, Oracle Internet of Things Cloud Service, Oracle Integration Cloud Service, Oracle SOA Cloud Service

Does crunching data on all the cars in a gridlocked and pollution-racked city of 20 million sound a bit ambitious for a one-day cloud development challenge? John King won’t argue with you on that.

“It’s a pretty ambitious project—I’m pretty sure we can’t get it all done during the time allotted,” said King, who is a partner in King Training Resources, in the week before the event. “But we thought we would try to dive into something that would have some real worth afterward, and be worth working on after the challenge.”

The team’s idea was to take data from license plate readers, and crunch that data to learn how much a given vehicle is driving. Then, the system would combine that information with data relating to heat and the pollution index, and notify drivers via mobile app how far they are allowed to drive on a given day, along with how far they have driven so far. Today, Mexico City is trying to control pollution with a program called Hoy No Circula, which prohibits vehicles from driving on certain days based on their license numbers. One problem, says King, is vehicles can drive unlimited miles on the days they’re not prohibited.

The project ties to two priorities King sees from a lot of companies: a strong interest in exploiting cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT), and the need to maximize the value they get from the data, systems, and infrastructure they already have in place. Often that means adding cloud services for analysis and sharing that data.

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Number of Oracle cloud platform products Oracle has released since 2015


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The Internet of Things—in particular, the industrial application of IoT—will thrust more companies into massive-scale computing projects. To compete, companies will have to put sensors on a growing number of products and production equipment, and analyze the data from those sensors.

Companies will need not only efficient data processing to do that, but also efficient, cloud-based integration to tie these many assets and sensors together. “Companies can’t afford to waste money redoing things,” King says. (King’s team took first place in the challenge. His team included three other Oracle ACE Directors—Biju Thomas of OneNeck IT Solutions, Plinio Arbizu of Global Business Solutions, and Timo Hahn of Virtual 7 GmbH—and one Oracle ACE, Arturo Viveros of Sysco.)

The Mobile Mandate

Project: A mobile dashboard to let DBAs track metrics and detail pages, with the ability to do drill-down analysis and even make changes using their mobile phones.

Tools: Oracle Mobile Cloud Service, Oracle Database Cloud Service, Oracle Business Intelligence solutions

For Bjoern Rost and his team, this project focused on something they know deeply—databases—and something they want to know more about—cloud development and analysis tools. “I just wanted to learn more about mobile and business intelligence cloud services,” says Rost, a principal consultant at Pythian Oracle DBA Services. “I want to know them and be able to apply them whenever the time is right.”

When it comes to using cloud platforms and infrastructure, Rost thinks they’ll typically be applied to two kinds of companies and projects. One includes the valuable but, frankly, least interesting initiatives—moving an existing workload to the cloud, in a cost-cutting, bottom-up strategy. More interesting are those using cloud platforms to take a fresh run at long-standing problems. “That’s where you get the most benefit, and that’s where the cloud is most exciting,” Rost says.

Not every aspect of the cloud lives up to Rost’s expectations yet, including ease of access to trial systems, the interaction of different cloud services, and user experience. But Oracle is moving fast to fix problems when they’re raised, he says.

Rost’s team focused on taking database information mobile, but creative IT people should be ready to meet that mobile demand from every corner of the enterprise. Rost has high hopes that Oracle Mobile Cloud Service will help IT teams develop high-performing enterprise apps without having to dig into the OS-level details the way developers of native mobile apps must.

“Everybody and everything has to go to mobile,” Rost says.

“Reshaping Our Skills”

Project: A mobile app that merges a public REST feed of restaurant data with ratings data from a review site to provide a choice of restaurants based on a user’s location. A Twitter feed would let a user send a tweet on how they liked the restaurant.

Tools: Oracle Mobile Cloud Service, Oracle Integration Cloud Service

Simon Haslam, technical director and partner at the system integration firm eProseed, classifies himself as an infrastructure person, so he wanted a cloud project that connected a classy mobile app front end to an on-premises back-end system, since cloud-to-on-premises solutions are what many companies need today. Haslam’s team included IT pros from eProseed and the Future Group.

“That link is probably where all the action is going to be for the next three or four years,” Haslam says. “Nobody I’m working with today who has a data center is going to get rid of it any time soon.”

The next generation of really interesting problems will revolve around multiple data centers and multiple-continent, really sophisticated integrations.”–Simon Haslam, Technical Director and Partner, eProseed

On-premises technologies such as service-oriented architecture have let companies build data-sharing ties with many more trading partners over the past 15 years, Haslam says, as companies connected on-premises systems. But that integration complexity will shoot up as the cloud lets companies dramatically expand those links.

“The next generation of really interesting problems will revolve around multiple data centers and multiple-continent, really sophisticated integrations,” Haslam predicts. “Instead of dealing with 10 or 15 applications, we’ll suddenly find ourselves dealing with 30 or 40 applications.”

Just the idea of trying to build an app in a day at a developer challenge shows how platforms like Oracle Cloud Platform rev up the pace of change, Haslam says. In the past, just building one or two data feeds into an app would be seen as a day’s work.

If cloud-based integration makes some of those links easier, it does present a risk to IT professionals like Haslam on the infrastructure side. But he’s convinced cloud will create exciting new challenges around factors such as latency and security that will keep IT pros employed—if they keep up their skills with events such as the cloud challenge.

Says Haslam, “It’s all part of how all of us in IT, particularly those of us who are more infrastructure-focused, are reshaping our skills to make them more relevant.”

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