Thursday Feb 26, 2009

On Apps Tier Patching and Support: A Primer for E-Business Suite Users

The Oracle Server Technologies division issued some important updates to their support policies in the following document:

I discussed the implications of the database-related policy updates for E-Business Suite users in this recently-published article.  It's time to discuss the implications of these policy updates for E-Business Suite application tier servers and externally-integrated Oracle Application Server instances.  This article also discusses the E-Business Suite application tier certification process and the safety of applying interim Fusion Middleware patches to your Apps environments. 

If you've read the previous article about database patching implications, parts of this new article will sound very familiar.  But stick with us; the implications for E-Business Suite application tier servers are subtly different and it's important that EBS sysadmins get the whole picture for both tiers.

[Read More]

Friday Feb 20, 2009

On Database Patching and Support: A Primer for E-Business Suite Users

The Oracle Server Technologies division has issued some important updates to their support policies in the following document:

These changes affect support policies for the database, Oracle Enterprise Manager, Fusion Middleware, and Collaboration Suite.  These changes are important enough to warrant an in-depth discussion about the implications of the database-related updates for E-Business Suite customers.  This article also discusses the E-Business Suite database certification process and the safety of applying interim patches to your Apps environments.  I'll cover the Apps-specific implications for the other technology products in a future article.

[Read More]

Tuesday Nov 18, 2008

Advanced Deployment Architectures for Oracle E-Business Suite (OpenWorld 2008 Recap)

I'm (still) highlighting OpenWorld 2008 presentations that cover some of the most popular E-Business Suite technology stack topics. A catalog of all of the Applications Technology track sessions with links to the presentations is available here:

E-Business Suite sysadmins know that there are a lot of different ways to deploy their system in production.  You can split EBS services across multiple application tier and database tier server nodes, you can scale up with load-balancers and Real Application Clusters, you can integrate your E-Business Suite instance with optional external services like Oracle Single Sign-On and the Oracle SOA Suite, and much, much more.

Sample physical architecture diagram showing E-Business Suite integrated with Single Sign-On and Oracle Internet Directory with firewalls separating DMZs

The number of architectural options can be pretty bewildering, and it can be difficult to get a high-level overview of the relative benefits of each option.  We have lots of detailed documentation and introductory blog articles on, say, implementing RAC, but it's very difficult to get a sense of whether you can combine a reverse proxy in front of a load-balanced cluster with a RAC-enabled database tier (this is feasible, by the way).

[Read More]

Tuesday Nov 11, 2008

Real Application Testing Certified With E-Business Suite

Like Advanced Compression, Oracle Real Application Testing is one of the new Oracle Database 11gR1 Enterprise Edition options that's generating a lot of excitement amongst E-Business Suite users.  This separately-licenced 11gR1 Database option has real potential to streamline and accelerate testing cycles for database upgrades.

I'm pleased to announce that Oracle Real Application Testing is certified with Oracle Oracle E-Business Suite Release 11i and 12.  E-Business Suite users can follow the standard database documentation for implementing Real Application Testing in their environments.

Diagram showing how Database Replay can be used to capture a workload and then replay it on a different test database

[Read More]

Tuesday Nov 04, 2008

Maximum Availability Architecture: Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12

I'm highlighting OpenWorld 2008 presentations that cover some of the most popular E-Business Suite technology stack topics. A catalog of all of the Applications Technology track sessions with links to the presentations is available here:

Humana's recent OpenWorld case study gives a customer-centric view of how they implemented a high-availability architecture for their E-Business Suite environment.  Lyn Pratt and Richard Exley from Oracle's Server Technologies MAA Group and Metin Yilmaz from Oracle Support complemented that case study with a discussion of the various options for ensuring high availability and business continuity via a disaster recover site for your E-Business Suite environment:

Physical architecture diagram showing target architecture for an E-Business Suite Release 12 disaster recovery deployment

[Read More]

Friday Oct 31, 2008

Tuning All Layers of the Oracle E-Business Suite (OpenWorld 2008 Recap)

I'm highlighting OpenWorld 2008 presentations that cover some of the most popular E-Business Suite technology stack topics. A catalog of all of the Applications Technology track sessions with links to the presentations is available here:

We have an Applications Performance Group whose raison-d'etre is to ensure that the E-Business Suite runs at peak performance in all circumstances.  This team has helped tune the world's largest companies and their E-Business Suite environments to handle staggering amounts of transactional volume in enormous databases.  This is the same group that publishes all of the official Oracle Apps benchmarks, white papers, and performance metrics.

Their OpenWorld sessions are a perennial favourite with hardcore Apps DBAs looking to squeeze out the last ounce of performance out of their existing hardware.  Isam Alyousfi and Lester Gutierrez from our Applications Performance Group share their hard-won performance tuning tips in this in-depth session:

Table showing sample AWR report of top 5 timed events used for tuning EBS database tier performance

[Read More]

Monday Oct 27, 2008

Case Study Redux: Oracle's Own Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12 Upgrade (OpenWorld 2008 Recap)

I'll be highlighting OpenWorld 2008 presentations that cover some of the most popular E-Business Suite technology stack topics.  A catalog of all of the Applications Technology track sessions with links to the presentations is available here:

One of the most-popular sessions at OpenWorld every year is our discussion about Oracle's own E-Business Suite implementation. Donna Buhlig and Nigel Cooper, from our Applications IT (AIT) group, have expanded upon previous years' presentations with a bigger and more in-depth look at our internal Global Single Instance deployment:

Architecture%20Diagram%20R12.png

[Read More]

Friday Oct 10, 2008

Comparing Oracle Data Guard vs. Active Data Guard for EBS Environments

[Nov 6 Update: Our High Availability team has suggested some additional uses for Active Data Guard in E-Business Suite environments. Article updated with those additional use cases.]

Given the number of questions I've fielded about Active Data Guard through other channels, it was inevitable that my recent article about strategies for handling EBS reporting loads would prompt questions about its compatibility with the E-Business Suite. 

The answer to this deceptively-simple question is only meaningful if you understand what's happening behind the scenes when users log into the E-Business Suite.  This article compares the operational implications of using Oracle Active Data Guard versus Oracle Data Guard in E-Business Suite environments.

[Read More]

Tuesday Oct 07, 2008

Three Options for Scaling Up E-Business Suite for Reporting

[Oct 10, 2008 Update: Added link to article comparing the use of Oracle Active Data Guard with Oracle Data Guard for EBS environments]

The run-up to our annual OpenWorld conference consists of frenzied activities to ensure that all of our planned certifications wrap up in time to be announced at the conference.  The follow-up from OpenWorld consists of handling questions, bug reports, and escalations from our sessions, panels, and private customer meetings.  Given that this is all on top of our regular day jobs, one day I'm going to print up some t-shirts that say, "I survived another Oracle OpenWorld."

So, back in the blogging saddle again. I'll address one of the architectural questions that seems to pop perennially:

How do I handle heavy reporting overhead without disrupting my E-Business Suite instance's transactional users?  Can I offload this to a separate reporting instance?

[Read More]

Tuesday Aug 12, 2008

Identity Crisis: Are Patches to EBS 11.5.9 Equivalent to 11.5.10?

[Aug 14, 2008 Update: Added an observation from one of our readers who pointed out that the more of the latest patches you've applied on top of your existing 11.5.9 environment, the faster the upgrade to 11.5.10 will be.]

A frequently asked question popped up again in my inbox this morning. Its recurrence is particularly timely with the end of Premier Support for E-Business Suite Release 11.5.9 in June 2008. The question is:

If an EBS 11.5.9 environment has some or all of the EBS 11.5.10 Family Packs installed, is it considered to be an 11.5.10 environment?

[Read More]

Wednesday Aug 06, 2008

Reporting E-Business Suite Security Issues to Oracle Support

Oracle Support recently made some organization changes to handle customer-reported security related issues more efficiently. As I am involved in analyzing security-related Service Requests (SR), I've assembled some notes about Oracle's processes, which may help should you need to report a security issue.

It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that Oracle takes security extremely seriously and strives to be very proactive in this area. Our policy and procedures are designed to protect your data and ensure that issues are dealt with promptly.

[Read More]

Friday Aug 01, 2008

Verifying E-Business Suite 12.0.4 Media Pack Downloads with MD5 Checksums

Back in the day, I used to order a full set of CDs every time a new version of the E-Business Suite was released. My shelves overflowed with little brown boxes. Those days are gone. While CD-ROMs were a nice souvenir and comforting to have around, I've long since concluded that downloaded media packs are a greener and more useful approach. Here's a tip for obtaining and verifying downloaded versions of the E-Business Suite 12.0.4.

[Read More]

Tuesday Jul 15, 2008

Case Study: Oracle's Own Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12 Upgrade

[Oct. 27, 2008 Update:  The latest version of this popular presentation from OpenWorld 2008 is now available for download.  For links to the latest version, see this article.]

I've heard anecdotal reports suggesting that some customers hold off on upgrading to a given E-Business Suite release until we've done so ourselves here at Oracle. Oracle went live on R12.0.3 in January 2008, and a reader reminded me that I haven't highlighted this adequately. Here's a critical presentation from Eugene Weinstein and Sharon Leong at OAUG Collaborate 2008 (Denver) that I've been remiss in profiling:

Eugene and Sharon cover a lot of ground in this technically-oriented presentation, including:

  • A primer on the R12 file system
  • Supported upgrade paths from earlier Apps releases (11.5.x, 11.0)
  • A detailed step-by-step flowchart of the upgrade process
  • Applications DBA (AD) improvements relating to the upgrade process
  • Performance improvements relating to the upgrade
  • Best practices for:
  • Reducing downtime
  • Performing pre-upgrade, upgrade, and post-upgrade steps
[Read More]

Friday Jul 11, 2008

New Whitepaper: Mod_plsql and E-Business Suite 12

Mod_plsql is an Apache web server extension that can be used to develop web application pages using Server PL/SQL. Architecture diagram showing flow from client to mod_plsql Apache mod to Oracle database The Past is Prologue Unlike Oracle E-Business Suite Release 11i, Release 12 does not include mod_plsql as part of its technology stack. I've briefly discussed this architectural change in the following two articles: It should be stressed that Oracle is fully committed to supporting mod_plsql as part of Oracle Application Server and as part of the Oracle Database distribution into the indefinite future. The Oracle E-Business Suite is distinct from Oracle Application Server. Oracle E-Business Suite Development chooses to use specific Oracle Application Server components in the E-Business Suite technology stack. These decisions by E-Business Suite Development should not be interpreted to represent the release policies or plans for Oracle Application Server. Going Into More Detail Many of you have raised questions about why mod_plsql was removed from Release 12. Others have asked what to do about their mod_plsql-based Apps 11i customizations and extensions when upgrading to R12. George Buzsaki,our preeminent E-Business Suite architect, has put together an excellent new whitepaper that addresses these topics, and more: [Read More]

Monday Apr 28, 2008

Five Key Resources for Upgrading to E-Business Suite Release 12

[July 16, 2008: Added two more vital resources to this list, instantly rendering the title of this article inaccurate.]

[May 14, 2008 Update:  It turns out that the original diagram from Eugene's presentation could use some refining.  Diagram replaced with an excerpt from the Official R12 upgrade guide itself.]

[Apr 29, 2008 Update:  The diagram below is excerpted from Eugene Weinstein's excellent OpenWorld 2007 presentation describing Oracle's own R12 upgrade.  That presentation was released prior to our recent certification of the 11g Database with Release 11i, which is why there's no reference to that database version below.  


As of today,  the 11g Database is certified with Release 11i but not with Release 12.  The R12 certification with the 11g Database is still underway now, and -- as usual, I don't have any dates for this certification yet.  If you upgrade your Apps 11i environment to the 11g DB today, your upgrade to Release 12 will have to wait until the latter is certified with the 11g DB, too.]

A remarkable aspect of this year's OAUG Collaborate 2008 conference was the abundance of customer-presented sessions devoted to E-Business Suite Release 12 upgrades.  I stopped counting after the first dozen sessions.  I wish I could have cloned myself to attend all of them.

Upgrade Paths Table: Table of Release 12 upgrade paths from E-business Suite 11.0, 11.5.1 to 11.5.7, and 11.5.8 to 11.5.10

Despite the plethora of customer case studies and other materials, I got the impression that some of you may be wondering where to start.  Here's a round-up of the key Oracle resources to help you plan and execute your Release 12 upgrade:
  1. Whitepapers about R12 functional benefits
    As a reader of this blog, your focus is likely on E-Business Suite technology more than on the applications modules' functionality itself.  Remember, however, that upgrading to Release 12 should be primarily driven by the improvements to business processes that R12's new capabilities offer.  The site above has whitepapers that your end-users can review to build their own business cases for the upgrade (e.g. "The Business Value of Upgrading to Oracle E-Business Suite Financials Release 12").
  2. Oracle Applications Upgrade Guide: Release 11i to Release 12 (PDF, 1.6 MB)
    This is the official, authoritative technical upgrade manual from Oracle Applications Development. This is part of the official Release 12 Documentation Library (Oracle Technology Network).
  3. Oracle Maintenance Wizard
    Oracle Support has worked jointly with Oracle Applications Development to produce this essential tool which produces a personalized 11i to R12 upgrade plan -- complete with detailed patching recommendations -- based upon your existing 11i environment.  Highly recommended.

  4. Oracle E-Business Suite Upgrade Resources Roadmap (Note 461705.1)
    Oracle provides a massive (and sometimes intimidating) amount of documentation to support your R12 upgrade.  This roadmap helps organize that documentation into four phases:  Evaluation, Planning, Execution, and Optimization.  This is the one-stop Metalink Note for links to Release Notes, READMEs, Release Content Documents, Upgrade Notes for specific platforms, and much, much more.

  5. R12 Install/Upgrade Forum (Oracle Technology Network)
    Amazingly, this OTN peer-supported discussion forum can sometimes yield answers to R12 upgrade questions faster than a formally-logged Service Request. This forum is monitored by Oracle Applications ACEs such as Hussein Sawwan, Michael Taylor, and Fadi Hasweh as well as Oracle Development (I'm one of the Oracle co-moderators of this forum).  This should be your first stop if you're having any technical issues with your upgrade.  If your question isn't answered here, then logging an SR with Metalink is the next step.

  6. Best Practices for Adopting Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12 (Metalink Note 580299.1)
    This whitepaper from Oracle Development pulls together a diverse range of tips and practical suggestions for implementation, preparation and cleanup, and product-specific considerations for the R12 versions of Oracle Financials and other products. Highly recommended.

  7. Case Study: Oracle's Own Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12 Upgrade
    In addition to being a useful primer about R12, this excellent presentation summarizes practical tips and technical insights from the Oracle internal team that upgraded Oracle's own E-Business Suite Global Single Instance from Release 11i to 12. As you'd expect, and their notes represent an insider's glimpse into how an organization with access to the most-skilled EBS talent on the planet performed this upgrade. Highly recommended.
Related Articles

Thursday Apr 03, 2008

Changing Application Tier Platforms for E-Business Suite Release 12

Here's another significant piece of news:  it's now possible to migrate your E-Business Suite Release 12 application tier servers from one operating system platform to another.  We're pleased to announce the availability of our new Oracle Applications Platform Migration Methodology for E-Business Suite Release 12.

This process provides a way to quickly and easily move an existing Oracle E-Business Suite middle tier (applications tier) system to a different platform.  The migration utility retains the exact E-Business Suite patch level; no APPL_TOP or Database synchronization is necessary.  This allows you to retain existing customizations.

Considerations

  • This migration methodology requires E-Business Suite 12.0.4 or higher
  • This methodology applies to the Application Tier (middle tier) only.  The database tier is not covered by this process.
  • Migration to Windows-based target servers is not supported at this time
Certified Target Platforms
  • Linux x86-32 (32-bit)
  • Linux x86-64 (64-bit)
  • HP-UX Itanium
  • HP-UX PA-RISC
  • IBM AIX
  • Sun SPARC Solaris
References
Related Articles

Tuesday Feb 19, 2008

Optimizing R12 Performance via OC4J Load-Balancing

Oracle Application Server provides features that allow customers to load balance their middle tier deployments.  OC4J Clustering in OracleAS 10g is one such deployment that is widely used in load balanced configurations.

Starting with Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12.0.2 (Release Update Pack 2), we support OC4J Clustering as part of AutoConfig's load balancing deployment options. This configuration option is supported for the OC4J instance running out of R12's 10.1.3 ORACLE_HOME.

Clustering Model

Oracle Application Server 10g 10.1.3 supports various models for OC4J clustering:
  • Dynamic node discovery
  • Static discovery servers
  • Cross topology gateways
  • Manual node configuration.
E-Business Suite Release 12 uses the manual node configuration model, which is also referred to as static node-to-node communication. Node and port information is manually specified in this mode. Configuration details are managed by Autoconfig, which handles all necessary settings in the R12 configuration files.

Figure-1 static node-to-node communication model

static-communication:

Deployment Options


Release 12 supports the following deployment options with OC4J clustering:
  1. Single Web Entry Point
  2. Multiple Web Entry Points

Prerequisites

  1. Oracle Applications Technology Stack Patch Set 2 5917601 or higher.
    • This Patch Set is included in the R12.ATG_PF.A.DELTA.2 5917344 and the Release 12.0.2 (Release Update Pack 2)
  2. A correctly-configured hardware load balancer

Configuring OC4J Load Balancing

Configuring both deployment options requires:
  1. Changing the E-Business Suite Context file using the Context File Editor
  2. Running AutoConfig
  3. Restarting the application tier server processes.
Single Web Entry Point

In this deployment option, there is single web entry point for the OC4J applications - oacore, forms and oafm services are configured to run on all or some of the application tier nodes.

Figure-2: Deployment model with Single Web Entry point and OC4J application running on all the nodes

SingleWebEntry: Architecture diagram showing an E-Business Suite environment with two application tier servers and a single webentry point

Multiple Web Entry Points

In this deployment option, there are multiple web entry points with OC4J applications running on selected application tier nodes.

Figure-3: Deployment model with Multiple Web Entry points and OC4J applications running on selected nodes

multipleweb: Architecture diagram showing a multinode Apps environment

References
Related Articles

Wednesday Jan 23, 2008

Hidden Features Revealed: Technology Inventory Utility for Apps 12

[Oct 24, 2008 Update: It turns out that this utility is documented in Chapter 5 of the "System Administrator's Guide - Maintenance." Who knew? So much documentation, so little time.]

[Editor:  One of the best-kept secrets in the Release 12 technology stack is an undocumented utility for generating reports about your servers.  This tool is a useful complement to the R12 Diagnostic Tools, and a handy way of getting a snapshot of the different ORACLE_HOMEs for a given node in your environment.  In this article, Prasad gives a quick rundown on using this hidden tool.]


The Technology Inventory Utility for Release 12 is a perl utility that uses the perl infrastructure installed with the Oracle E-Business Suite R12 technology stack. Here's a screenshot of the first few lines of the report (there's much more -- see the samples linked, below):

Technology Inventory Utility Sample Screenshot: Screenshot of sample Technology Inventory Utility report for E-Business Suite Release 12

This utility is available with the Release Update Pack 12.0.3 and higher. If you don't wish to apply that entire RUP, this utility can be applied via the latest Autoconfig patchset:

How to run the utility

On each of the Applications tier nodes:
  1. Source the env file on each of the Applications tier node
  2. Run the following command (all on a single line):

    $ADPERLPRG $FND_TOP/patch/115/bin/TXKScript.pl -script=$FND_TOP/patch/115/bin/txkInventory.pl
    -txktop=$APPLTMP
    -outfile=$APPLTMP/Report_Inventory.html


  3. Enter the apps password at the prompt
  4. Check the report generated in the location specified in the outfile argument of the command above.
The report generated by this utility is HTML by default. A text report also can be generated using a command line option.

On each of the DB tier nodes:
  1. Source the env file on each of the DB tier node
  2. Run the following command (all on a single line):

    $ADPERLPRG $ORACLE_HOME/appsutil/bin/TXKScript.pl 
    -script=$ORACLE_HOME/appsutil/bin/txkInventory.pl
    -txktop=$ORACLE_HOME/appsutil/temp
    -contextfile=$CONTEXT_FILE
    -outfile=$ORACLE_HOME/appsutil/temp/rep.html

  3. Enter the apps password at the prompt
  4. Check the report generated in the location specified in the outfile argument of the command above.
Information in the Report

This utility generates three different tables with node-specific information.

Overview of your system
  • Time stamp, Host name,Enabled services(depending on the node type, the following services will be displayed - Root Service, Web Entry Point Services, Web Application Services, Other Services)
  • Instance name, Platform, OS release,DB Host
  • Context file location,Report file location
List of Component Versions and Properties

The information listed here depends on the node type.

For a middle-tier HTTP service, versions of the following components are listed:
    • Oracle Application Server, Sun JDK, JDK on HTTP server node, AOLJ, BC4J, BI Beans, HTTP client, Java object cache, JRAD libraries, MDS, OA Framework, Oracle Help for Web, Oracle XML driver, UIX, OJSP, JDK version used by AD utilities on HTTP node, DB client(RSF) in 10.1.3 the Oracle Home, OWA packages
For a middle-tier Forms service, versions of the following components are listed:
    • 10g Developer, DB client(RSF) in the 10.1.2 Oracle Home, Forms run time configuration, JDK used by AD utilities in the Forms service node, Oracle Applciation Server patchset
For a middle-tier Concurrent Processing service, versions of the following components are listed:
    • JDK and JDK used by the AD utilities
For the DB-tier service, the following information is generated:
    • Database version, DB patchset version
    • init.ora parameters set by Autoconfig
    • If the node is RAC enabled or not
List of Applied Patches

The Code Inventory table list the one-off patches applied on each of the Oracle Home based on the node type.
    • For a middle-tier node - list of the one-off patches and the date they were applied on the C-Oracle Home ( 10.1.2), on the Java Oracle Home ( 10.1.3 OC4J)

    • For a DB tier node - list of the one-off patches and the date they were applied on the DB Oracle Home.
Sample Reports

Two samples of the database tier and application tier reports are available here:
Related Articles

Thursday Nov 29, 2007

Best Practices for Upgrading to Release 12

If you've been considering the best way to upgrade your E-Business Suite Release 11i environment to Release 12, I strongly recommend that you check out Eugene Weinstein and Nigel Cooper's excellent OpenWorld 2007 presentation:

Supported R12 Upgrade Paths: Supported upgrade paths from E-Business Suite (Applications) 11.0, 11.5.1 to 11.5.10 to Release 12

Eugene and Nigel cover the following topics:
  • Overview of the R12 Upgrade process
    • The R12 filesystem
    • Supported upgrade paths
    • Technology improvements
    • The R12 upgrade flow
    • Options for omitting the upgrade of historical data (Upgrade by Request)
  • Best practices for the upgrade
    • Staffing & planning
    • Pre-upgrade, upgrade, and post-upgrade tips
Perhaps most significantly, Eugene and Nigel discuss Oracle's own experiences in upgrading our 10 TB Global Single Instance from Apps 11i to 12.  Upgrading an Apps database with over 28.5 billion rows of data is a serious undertaking, and it's always instructive to see how the best Apps IT organization in the world does things. 

Highly recommended reading, even if you've already performed one or more test upgrades already.

Related

Monday Nov 26, 2007

Analyzing Memory vs Performance of Apps 11i and 12 Clients

I've recently published a new Oracle whitepaper that compares combinations of browsers with JInitiator and the native Sun Java plug-in (JRE) to determine which is best for low-specification clients.  It provides specific scenarios and examples showing where there is little difference between low and high specification clients in terms of end-user performance.

This white paper takes a completely different approach from the usual emphasis on tuning Windows clients. Instead, this paper focuses on analyzing the memory requirements for a range of Oracle E-Business Suite Forms and OA Framework (OAF) web-based HTML screens.  I touch on Windows tuning in an appendix.

There are two main concepts in the paper:

Establish your minimum desktop configurations

While the latest and fastest machines will help provide the best performance, the latest technology tends to command a price premium. Budgetary constraints and asset life dictate that the price/performance goal is to balance the return on investment while providing reasonable longevity. The information will help you establish the minimum requirements for a specific price-performance point, and identify a specific configuration that will achieve the throughput necessary to support your business

Extend the life of existing PCs

The second concept concentrated on how to extend the useful life of slow or low-memory PC clients and where upgrading to faster clients would make very little difference meaning that you may have to look elsewhere, such as the network, for a solution.

I Have Fast Clients - Why Do I Care?

If you have what would normally be considered a high-specification machine, you may still encounter memory problems when running several applications simultaneously, so the ideas and concepts will still help.

Do I Need CPU, Memory Or Both?

Microsoft states that adding memory makes a significant difference to Windows performance. This is also true for some Oracle E-Business Suite components. Note that this statement does not mention CPU speed, and therefore it appears that they consider this less significant. In order to answer this question the charts show the difference in performance across a range of clients. The answer is very clear.

Browser Add-ons and plugins

Add-ons and plugins can make a huge difference to the amount of memory needed just by the browser. The following chart from the paper compares the memory profiles of the certified browsers with and without browser add-ons (Adobe Acrobat, Google Toolbar, and Skype). As you can see, even this limited number of additional components can almost double the amount of memory required by the browser. In reality, you will probably have many many more add-ons and plugins that are not necessary for a business environment, and so the paper includes a comprehensive list of components and their relative affect on the browser profile, including for example, browser themes, toolbars, extensions, plug-ins, and helper applications.

Browser Memory Use Comparisons: Bar chart comparing browser add-on memory profiles, including Adobe Acrobat, Google Toolbar, Skype.  Browsers reviewed include Firefox 2, IE 7, IE 6.

After investigating a range of OAF/HTML screens and Oracle Forms, and accepting that there may be some exceptions, the products can be grouped by type as shown in the following chart. Clearly, the amount of data will affect the amount of memory and an example is displaying thousands of tasks on screen simultaneously as in some of the largest Gantt charts.

Memory Consumption All Tests: Comparing Memory Averages by Group for Menus, OAF / HTML, Forms, Gantt Charts for Firefox 2, IE 7, IE 6

Although the memory used by a combination of forms and OAF/HTML screens used in a business flow does not scale linearly, the generalizations shown in this chart can be useful if you can broadly categorize your Oracle E-Business Suite usage by product type for a particular part of your organization..

It is very unlikely that this paper could match the exact combination of forms and screens, client specification, and the specific combination of other software that you use. Instead, general guidelines have been provided that can be applied to your own environment as needed.

What Else Can You Do?

The paper includes some working practices that have been extensively deployed by certain customers that has extended the life of their existing clients. It makes very specific recommendations about the best technology combinations for low specification clients, and clients that run low on resources. It clearly identifies scenarios where a very low specification machine can be deployed usefully and shows others where it is unlikely that the throughput would be sufficient to support the business.

For full details, download the whitepaper here:
Related

Wednesday Jan 10, 2007

The Software Vendor's Dilemma

Last year was another big one for us in terms of releases, and there are more new certifications and patches in the pipeline for the E-Business Suite.  This bounty creates challenges for IT managers.  In the last month or so, I've been involved in a number of customer dialogues where I've had to discuss The Software Vendor's Dilemma and its concomitant implications for IT management policies. 


The Software Vendor's Dilemma

For the limited purposes of this discussion, let's make the following assertions:
  • All software has bugs of some kind
  • A given bug will impact some customers more than others
  • Some bugs will be hidden until other bugs are fixed
  • Some bug fixes will introduce new bugs
  • Customers incur direct and indirect costs when applying bug fixes
This gives rise to The Software Vendor's Dilemma:
  • If you don't issue bug fixes quickly, some users will complain
  • If you do issue bug fixes quickly, other users will complain
The IT Manager's Dilemma

Assuming that your software vendors provide patches, that leads naturally and inevitably to the IT Manager's Dilemma:
  • If you don't apply patches, your end-users will complain
  • If you do apply patches, your end-users will complain... about maintenance downtimes and new rounds of User Acceptance Tests
Getting Concrete

So far, I've been speaking in generalities.  Let's get concrete and talk about what we do here in the Oracle Applications Technology Group.  When we fix E-Business Suite technology stack bugs, there are several major ways of getting those fixes into your hands:
  1. A small patch that fixes a single problem for a specific technology stack component
  2. A collection of patches for that particular technology stack component
    (e.g. for AutoConfig)
  3. A collection of patches for a set of interdependent technology stack components
    (e.g. Oracle Applications Framework)
  4. A collection of all patches released for all components in the Applications Technology Group product family
The further up the spectrum you go, the greater the patch's impact.  Accordingly, we subject patches in Category 4 to greater scrutiny than patches in Category 1.

Drawing the Line


Within the limited context of this discussion, one of our responsibilities here in the Applications Technology Group is to ensure that we get fixes to you as quickly as possible.  A given fix may appear in any one -- or all -- of the categories above. 

It's up to you to assess which categories of patches you should apply.  We don't have the right to dictate what patches you must install.  This is why we flag a given patch as recommended, or highly recommended, but never mandatory.

Likewise, we don't specify when you should apply them, how to test them, how to mitigate your operational risks, nor how to convince your management and business stakeholders to agree to the resulting maintenance downtimes and upgrades.  These important business questions are outside of Oracle Development's scope to answer, since their answers depend upon your own operational norms, business priorities, practices, processes, and beliefs.  That's the meat-and-potatoes of an IT manager's core responsibilities.

Some Considerations for Managing Applications Patches

I'm assuming that you already have a business framework for assessing and managing a patch's costs, benefits, and risks.  Here are some additional things from our own Oracle patching processes that you might wish to consider for E-Business Suite technology stack patches:
  • Here in Oracle, all Apps patches go through multiple staging environments, each with their own tests and exit criteria, before being deployed into production.  This may seem blindingly obvious, but I'm repeatedly surprised to hear that some of our large customers don't follow this kind of process to minimize risk.

  • DBAs, system administrators, and IT managers will have differing perspectives on the value and priority of a given patch, and input from all levels is often required to make a good operational decision.  And don't forget your end-users:  ignore their input at your own peril. 

  • All of the quarterly Critical Patch Updates are highly recommended, and we apply all of these -- without fail -- to all of our own Oracle environments

  • Individual "one-of-a-kind" emergency patches receive less testing than ATG Family Pack Rollup patches, so we only apply these to Oracle production environments when absolutely necessary, i.e. when the business benefits clearly outweigh the risks
  • We apply all ATG Family Pack Rollup patches to all critical environments as soon as they're released.  No questions, no exceptions.  These Rollup patches are cumulative and are subjected to the highest level of testing that we can bring to bear on a patch.
  • We use AutoConfig to minimize the overhead and hassle of managing a given patch's impact on configuration files.  And yes, even though we tell you not do so so, sometimes we have to customize those configuration files.  If you must customize a configuration file, follow our guidelines so that AutoConfig preserves your customizations.
  • Not all READMEs are created equal.  Our internal Oracle IT staff are not shy about telling us when a patch's README is ambiguous, misleading, or incomplete.  Their feedback can be rather pointed sometimes.  Likewise, if a patch's README leaves you baffled, log a Service Request via Metalink and get a definitive answer before applying a particular patch.
Planning For It

I don't know much, but I know these things to be true:  nobody likes going to the dentist, or mowing the lawn, or cleaning the toilet, but it's still something that you need to do regularly.  The longer you put it off, the worse it will be.

The same goes for patching your E-Business Suite environments.  Having a clearly-defined patch prioritization and management process and scheduling a few maintenance windows a year to apply Critical Patch Updates and E-Business Suite Family Packs is a lot less painful than having a Severity 1 patching crisis on the night before Thanksgiving. 

If you have tips on navigating the Scylla and Charybdis of E-Business Suite patching, I'd be delighted if you hit the Comment link and shared them with our readers.

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