Thursday Aug 26, 2010

Securing E-Business Suite Web Services with Integrated SOA Gateway

The Oracle E-Business Suite Integrated SOA Gateway service-enables Oracle E-Business Suite public APIs for Service Oriented Architecture.  This feature was released in Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12.1.1. 

One of the most common questions that Oracle E-Business Suite developers have is, "How do you secure E-Business Suite web services?"  Generally, web service security consists of authentication, message integrity and confidentiality.  I'll discuss the authentication aspect of web service security in this article.
The WS-Security specification describes enhancements to SOAP that increase the protection and confidentiality of messages. It provides this protection by defining mechanisms for associating tokens with Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) messages.

AuthenticationType.jpg
To secure and authenticate Oracle E-Business Suite web service operations, the E-Business Suite Integrated SOA Gateway supports Username Token-based WS-Security.  In addition, it supports SAML Token (Sender Vouches) based security in Oracle E-Business Suite 12.1.3 and higher.

An Oracle E-Business Suite Integration Repository administrator can select the appropriate authentication type for each Web service-enabled interface.  The authentication type should be selected before deploying the API as a standard web service.  Integration Repository administrators can grant user access to E-Business Suite web service operations.

Username Token based security
The username token carries basic authentication information.  The username-token element propagates user name and password information to authenticate the message.  The information provided in the token and the trust relationship provides the basis for establishing the identity of the user.

A typical WS-Security header in a SOAP Request looks like this:

wsheader.jpg
When invoking Oracle E-Business Suite Web services through SOA Provider using username token-based security, these security headers should be passed along with the SOAP request. The username/password discussed here in wsse:security is the Oracle E-Business Suite username/password (or the username/password created through the Users window in defining an application user).

SAML Token-based security

SAML security tokens (Sender Vouches) are composed of assertions: one or more statements about a user, such as an authentication or attribute statement.  SAML tokens are attached to SOAP messages by placing assertion elements inside the header. SAML security tokens enable interoperable single-sign-on and federated identity for E-Business Suite Web services.

When invoking Oracle E-Business Suite Web services through SOA Provider using SAML Tokens, the SOAP request should contain a sender-vouches SAML assertion. The Assertion and the Body elements should be digitally signed.  A reference to the certificate used to verify the signature should be provided in the header.  The basis of trust is the Web service Requester's certificate.  The Requester's private key is used to sign both the SAML Assertion and the message Body. The SOA Provider relies on the Web service Requester, who vouches for the contents of the User message and the SAML Assertion.

Your Feedback is Welcome

We're extremely interested in hearing about your use cases and your experiences with our Integrated SOA Gateway.  If you've used this product -- or are evaluating it -- please post a comment here or drop us a line with your thoughts.

References
Related Articles

Thursday Apr 29, 2010

EBS 12.1.1 Test Starter Kit now Available for Oracle Application Testing Suite

We've discussed automated testing tools for the E-Business Suite several times on this blog, since testing is such a key part of everyone's implementation lifecycle.  An important part of our testing arsenal in E-Business Suite Development is the Oracle Application Testing Suite.  The Oracle Application Testing Suite (OATS) is built on the foundation of the e-TEST suite of products acquired from Empirix  in 2008.  The testing suite is comprised of:

   1. Oracle Load Testing for scalability, performance, and load testing
   2. Oracle Functional Testing for automated functional and regression testing
   3. Oracle Test Manager for test process management, test execution, and defect tracking

Oracle Application Testing Suite 9.0 has been supported for use with the E-Business Suite since 2009.  I'm very pleased to let you know that our E-Business Suite Release 12.1.1 Test Starter Kit is now available for Oracle Application Testing Suite 9.1.  You can download it here:

oats-load-testing-screenshot.png
Oracle E-Business Suite Accelerators Now Available

Starting with OATS 9.0, the Applications Testing Suite includes Oracle E-Business Suite Accelerators, which offer support for automated functional testing and load testing for both Oracle E-Business Suite Releases 11i and 12.

In addition to using the sample Test Starter Kits that we provide, you can now create test scripts that automate both E-Business Suite Web and Oracle Forms-based screens. Using the OpenScript graphical scripting interface, your end-users can record automated test scripts by stepping through their Oracle E-Business Suite business transactions in their browsers. You can use the same interface to run scripts, parameterize script inputs, add custom test cases to validate content and extend scripts programmatically in Java.

You can also use the same interface to create automated load test scripts for Oracle Load Testing to simulate thousands of concurrent virtual users.

Your feedback is welcome

Our OATS team is very interested in hearing your feedback about how well this suite of testing tools (and the Test Starter Kit) meets your testing requirements.  If you post any comments here about your experiences with these tools, I'll be sure to pass them on to the OATS team.  

Related Articles

Friday Feb 12, 2010

Build Custom WebADI Integrators with EBS 12.1.2 Desktop Integration Framework

[Nov. 22, 2010 Update:  Office 2010 (32-Bit) is now certified with the E-Business Suite; see this article for details]

Oracle Web Application Desktop Integrator (Web ADI) is Oracle E-Business Suite's solution for integrating E-Business Suite applications with desktop applications such as Microsoft Excel, Word and Projects.  "Integrators" encapsulate the metadata and other information needed to integrate a particular Oracle E-Business Suite task with a desktop application.

I'm pleased to announce the availability of Oracle E-Business Suite Desktop Integration Framework (DIF), a design time framework that you can use to create custom integrators for Oracle Web ADI in Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12.1.2.

Several Oracle E-Business Suite applications provide seeded integrators out-of-the-box. You can now use the Desktop Integration Framework to define custom integrators for tasks of your own.

dif1.jpg

Oracle E-Business Suite Desktop Integration Framework provides a graphical user interface which you can use to define integrators and associated supporting objects.  You can reduce development time by using the GUI instead of working directly with the underlying Oracle Web ADI tables and APIs.  This user interface makes it easier to maintain your integrators, too.  The Desktop Integration Framework supports native Oracle Application Framework (OAF) UI widgets like Flex-fields, List Of Values, Pop-lists and Date pickers.

dif2.jpg
The Desktop Integration Framework allows you to:
  • Create Integrators using a wizard-based user interface
  • Define Integrators to upload data through PL/SQL APIs or directly to tables
  • Define Integrators to download data from text files or using SQL Queries
  • Define data validation rules
  • Embed UI widgets (List of values, Pop lists, Date pickers, Flexfields) in spreadsheets
  • Use the Oracle E-Business Suite Security Model
  • Define layouts and mappings for custom integrators
Your feedback is welcome

We are very interested in hearing about your experiences with this new tool.  Please post your comments here or drop me an email at email.jpg

Tuesday Oct 20, 2009

Oracle Application Testing Suite 9.0 Supported with Oracle E-Business Suite

Our recent article about our internal use of automated regression testing tools within E-Business Suite Development prompted many questions about the Oracle Application Testing Suite.  I'm pleased to announce that the Oracle Application Testing Suite 9.0 is supported for use with the E-Business Suite.

oats-load-testing-screenshot.png
The Oracle Automated Testing Suite (OATS) is built on the foundation of the e-TEST suite of products acquired from Empirix in 2008.  The testing suite is comprised of:
  1. Oracle Load Testing for scalability, performance, and load testing
  2. Oracle Functional Testing for automated functional and regression testing
  3. Oracle Test Manager for test process management, test execution, and defect tracking

Oracle E-Business Suite Accelerators Now Available

This latest version includes new Oracle E-Business Suite Accelerators, which offer support for automated functional testing and load testing for both Oracle E-Business Suite Releases 11i and 12.

You can now create test scripts that automate both E-Business Suite Web and Oracle Forms-based screens. Using the new OpenScript graphical scripting interface, your end-users can record automated test scripts by stepping through their Oracle E-Business Suite business transactions in their browsers. You can use the same interface to run scripts, parameterize script inputs, add custom test cases to validate content and extend scripts programmatically in Java.

You can also use the same interface to create automated load test scripts for Oracle Load Testing to simulate thousands of concurrent virtual users.  

When Will New Test Starter Kits be Available?

As I mentioned in a previous article, our E-Business Suite Quality Assurance teams have been working with the Oracle Application Testing Suite for some time now.  We're excited about using this new set of tools, and the OATS team is even building out some new enhancements specifically for our internal Apps testing requirements.

Our EBS QA teams haven't provided any firm schedules on when our existing E-Business Suite WinRunner and QTP automated test scripts will be fully converted to OATS.  The number of existing test scripts that need to be converted is very large, with separate sets of scripts that span at least three Oracle Apps releases:  11.5.10.2, 12.0.4, and 12.1.

It wouldn't be surprising if the conversion process takes some time.

I would expect that a set of new Test Starter Kits containing the OATS scripts will be released in the future, but I don't have any details about which E-Business Suite products will be covered.

You're welcome to monitor or subscribe to this blog for updates, which I'll post as soon as soon as they're available.

Have You Tried OATS with EBS Yet?

Our Oracle Application Testing Suite team is eager to hear about your experiences with their latest release in E-Business Suite environments.  You're welcome to post your comments here, or drop me a line privately.  I'll be sure to pass on your feedback and questions on to the OATS team for you.

Related Articles
The preceding is intended to outline our general product direction.  It is intended for information purposes only, and may not be incorporated into any contract.   It is not a commitment to deliver any material, code, or functionality, and should not be relied upon in making purchasing decision.  The development, release, and timing of any features or functionality described for Oracle's products remains at the sole discretion of Oracle.

Tuesday Aug 18, 2009

Using the Oracle Applications Testing Suite with EBS: Interim Update #1

It's encouraging to hear that many of you are interested in automated regression testing for your E-Business Suite environments.  Yesterday's article about our WinRunner and QTP automated regression tests prompted a number of follow-up questions about our plans for using Oracle Application Testing Suite with the E-Business Suite.

The Oracle Automated Testing Suite (OATS) is built on the foundation of the e-TEST suite of products acquired from Empirix in 2008.  The testing suite is comprised of:

  1. Load Testing for Web Applications:  for scalability, performance, and load testing
  2. Functional Testing for Web Applications:  for automated functional and regression testing
  3. Test Manager for Web Applications:  for test process management, test execution, and defect tracking

oats-load-testing-screenshot.png

EBS Evaluations Underway Now

Our E-Business Suite Quality Assurance teams have been evaluating the Oracle Application Testing Suite for some time now.  An initial challenge was that the original versions of OATS didn't support either Oracle Forms or IE 8, both of which are key requirements for testing the E-Business Suite.

The Applications Testing Suite development team has since provided us with betas that support those technologies (along with some interesting new features, too).  We're continuing our internal testing with those betas, and are in the process of evaluating and planning our conversion to OATS right now.

When Will New Test Starter Kits be Available?

Our QA teams haven't provided any firm schedules on when our existing E-Business Suite WinRunner and QTP automated test scripts will be fully converted to OATS.  The number of existing test scripts that need to be converted is very large, with separate sets of scripts that span at least three Oracle Apps releases:  11.5.10.2, 12.0.4, and 12.1. 

It wouldn't be surprising if the conversion process takes some time.

I would expect that a set of new Test Starter Kits containing the OATS scripts will be released in the future, but I don't have any details about which E-Business Suite products will be covered. 

You're welcome to monitor or subscribe to this blog for updates, which I'll post as soon as soon as they're available.  

Related Articles

The preceding is intended to outline our general product direction.  It is intended for information purposes only, and may not be incorporated into any contract.   It is not a commitment to deliver any material, code, or functionality, and should not be relied upon in making purchasing decision.  The development, release, and timing of any features or functionality described for Oracle's products remains at the sole discretion of Oracle.

Monday Aug 17, 2009

Evolutionary Steps for Automated Testing for E-Business Suite

My, how time flies.  It's been over two years since I last covered automated regression testing for the E-Business Suite. Our strategy for this area continues to evolve, so it's high time for an update.

The E-Business Suite Test Starter Kits consist of sample test scripts from our own E-Business Suite QA group, along with a Starter Guide, Best Practices Guide, and Installation instructions.  The test scripts were created against an EBS Vision Demo database displaying American English.  You can use these kits as a model for building out your own automated regression tests for your Apps environment.

screenshot_patch8408886.png
Back in 2006, you could download our Quality Assurance teams' automated WinRunner QA scripts for Oracle E-Business Suite Release 11i via a Test Starter Kit.  A few things have changed since then:

Test Starter Kits for WinRunner are Still Available

If you're still using WinRunner, you'll be pleased to learn that you can still download:

  • WinRunner Test Starter Kit for Release 12.0.4 - Patch 6799654
  • WinRunner Test Starter Kit for Release 12.0 - Patch 5845794
  • WinRunner Test Starter Kit for Release 11.5.10.2 - Patch 4520701
  • WinRunner Test Starter Kit for Release 11.5.10 - Patch 4064542
  • WinRunner Test Starter Kit for Release 11.5.9 - Patch 2983563
  • WinRunner Test Starter Kit for Release 11.5.8 - Patch 2739616
  • WinRunner Test Starter Kit for Release 11.5.7 - Patch 2471695

New Test Starter Kits for QTP are Available

If you've switched over to HP's QuickTest Professional (QTP) testing set of tools, you can now download the following new Test Starter Kits:

  • QTP Test Starter Kit for Release 12.1.1 - Patch 8408886
  • QTP Test Starter Kit for Release 12.0.4 - Patch 6845309
  • QTP Test Starter Kit for Release 12.0 - Patch 5845799
  • QTP Test Starter Kit for Release 11.5.10.2 - Patch 4611398
  • QTP Test Starter Kit for Release 11.5.10 - Patch 4355248
  • QTP Test Starter Kit for Release 11.5.9 - Patch 3313315

Only a subset of the E-Business Suite products with automated WinRunner scripts have QTP equivalents; the READMEs for the respective kits have more details about their contents.

The master list of Test Starter Kits available for Apps is published in:

Related Articles

Tuesday May 06, 2008

E-Business Suite + Fusion Middleware Best Practices Center Launched

If you've been watching Oracle's ERP strategy, you'll notice that there's been a profound shift in emphasis over the last few years.  The E-Business Suite is now acknowledged to be only one part of your organization's overall software environment, and we're investing heavily in integration technologies such as Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA).

FMW Best Practices Screenshot: Screenshot of Oracle E-Business Suite + Fusion Middleware Best Practices Center

My colleagues in the Fusion Middleware group have just launched a new Oracle E-Business Suite & Fusion Middleware Best Practice Center.  This site has step-by-step tutorials covering topics that include:
They've also started a blog that already has a rich set of deep technical articles covering topics such as:
If you're already developing SOA-based applications involving the E-Business Suite, or just curious about what's now possible with our latest tools, this site is worth a look.

Related Articles

Tuesday Apr 22, 2008

New Whitepaper: E-Business Suite Development Using OAF & ADF

Customers, partners and system integrators often develop extensions to Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) applications. Such extensions have traditionally used the same technology stack (Forms or OA Framework) that the original EBS application was built with.  This ensured that the extensions are fully compatible with the rest of the installed EBS applications.

R12 OAF Techstack: Block diagram showing the OA Framework Technology Stack for E-Business Suite Release 12

With the emergence of the next generation Fusion Middleware technology stack, especially the Application Develoment Framework (ADF), an increasingly-common question is whether to use OAF or ADF to develop E-Business Suite Release 12 extensions.

Our E-Business Suite Applications Technology group has released a long-awaited whitepaper addressing this question. This whitepaper discusses the similarities, differences and overlaps between the OAF and ADF stacks. 

If you're considering these technology stacks for your Apps R12 extensions, I'd strongly recommend reviewing this whitepaper:
Related Articles

Tuesday Sep 11, 2007

Latest JDeveloper 10g with OA Extension Now Available for Apps 12

[Nov 6, 2007 Update:  A newer version for Apps 12.0.3 has just been released.  See this article for details]

A new update has just been released for Oracle JDeveloper 10g with OA Extension for E-Business Suite Release 12 environments.  The latest release of JDeveloper and the Oracle Applications Extension allows developers to build OA Framework-based applications for Apps 12.0.2 and ATG RUP 2.

Expenses R12 Screenshot:

The latest update is released as:
This update requires:
See the patch's README for more details about prerequisites, installation, and configuration.

A plethora of information on personalizing and extending OA Framework-based applications for E-Business Suite Release 12 can be found in this documentation roadmap:
Related

Tuesday Sep 04, 2007

Using Forms + Reports 10g Builders with Release 12

[Oct 19, 2007 Update:  A bug prevented the execution of any Oracle Reports on 10.1.2.2 on the IBM AIX platform.  Patch 6341158 has been released to resolve this issue]

Good things always seem to happen while I'm out of the office.  This may be a good incentive for me to spend more time on vacation (even though my groaning inbox begs to differ).

Expenses R12 Screenshot:

While I was out, a new Note was published externally:
The newly-published Note 444248.1 provides the rest of the picture outlined in this companion document:
How Do These Notes Relate?

We now have a complementary set of documents.  Once you've upgraded your E-Business Suite Release 12 environment with the latest version of Forms & Reports 10g using Note 437878.1, you can configure your development environment using the guidelines and procedures in the newly-published Note 444248.1.

The latter Note is full of tips on:
  • Running the Forms 10g Builder
  • Running the Reports 10g Builder
  • Setting up an R12 environment with a separated Developer Suite 10.1.2 instance
  • Compiling forms and reports

Related

Monday Aug 13, 2007

Upgrading Release 12 to Forms 10.1.2.2

I'm pleased to announce that you can now upgrade your Release 12 environments to use the latest version of Forms & Reports 10g.  This caps off a string of recent new certifications, including Single Sign-On 10.1.4.0.1, Portal 10.1.4.1, and Web Cache 10.1.2.2.

Expenses R12 Screenshot:

This update allows Release 12 users to take advantage of the latest stability, performance, and security updates in the latest Forms & Reports 10g 10.1.2.2 release. 

Supported Platforms
  • Linux x86-32
  • Linux x86-64
  • Sun Sparc Solaris
  • HP-UX PARisc
  • HP-UX Itanium
  • IBM AIX
  • Microsoft Windows 2003
For More Information
Related


Saturday Aug 11, 2007

Portal 10g (10.1.4.1) Certified with Apps 11i and 12

Oracle Portal 10g (10.1.4.1) is now certified with E-Business Suite Release 11i and 12.  Apps 11i and 12 users can integrate their environments with custom portals built with Oracle Portal.

Applications Navigator Portlet R12:


Supported Configurations

Release 11i
  • E-Business Suite 11.5.8 and higher
  • Portal 10g 10.1.4.1
Release 12
  • E-Business Suite 12.0.0 and higher
  • Portal 10g 10.1.4.1
Upgrading to Portal 10g 10.1.4.1

E-Business Suite Release 11i and 12 customers can get to Portal 10g 10.1.4.1 in the following ways:
  1. Install Portal 10.1.4 and upgrade it to 10.1.4.1 by applying the Oracle Application Server 10g Release 2 Patch Set 2 (10.1.2.2)
  2. Install Portal 10.1.2.0.2, upgrade it to Portal 10.1.4, and then upgrade to 10.1.4.1 by applying the Oracle Application Server 10g Release 2 Patch Set 2 (10.1.2.2)
For More Information
Related

Thursday Jun 28, 2007

OA Framework or ADF?

[Editor Update 4/22/2008:  A new whitepaper from the Oracle Appliations Technology Group comparing OAF and ADF is now available.  See this article for more details.]

[July 9, 2007 - see "One more thing to consider", below - Sara]


A question I've been getting recently is "Should I use OA Framework (OAF) or the Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF) to develop extensions to E-Business Suite (EBS) products?  I know we are moving away from Oracle Forms, and I want to 'future-proof' my extensions as much as possible."

With all the buzz about Fusion (both the coming Fusion Applications and the current Fusion Middleware technology stack) and JDeveloper with ADF, it's hard not to get excited about using all the features of the latest versions of Fusion Middleware.  So would we recommend using OAF or ADF?

My general advice is to stick with OAF so long as you are working with the E-Business Suite, and wait until you move to the Fusion Applications before moving to ADF.  OAF is the development platform for the HTML EBS applications, so it makes sense to use the same development platform for custom extensions to the EBS applications.  OAF provides you with automatic, seamless integration with the EBS applications in terms of EBS menus, security, look and feel, flexfields, personalization, attachments, and so on.  These integrated EBS features aren't part of ADF.

Another part of the integrated OAF/EBS technology stack is Oracle Application Object Library (AOL), which provides many services to OAF, including security, messages, flexfields, and so on.  Developers using OAF also use the OA Extension, which is a JDeveloper add-in bundled with JDeveloper in specific EBS development environment patches.  OA Extension is an extension to JDeveloper 9.0.3 for EBS 11i, and to JDeveloper 10g (10.1.3) for EBS 12.  AOL and OA Extension are not parts of the ADF technology stack for the Fusion Applications.

A terminology note: "ADF UIX" is the same UIX that is used by OAF as the HTML UI display component.  Developers using OAF use ADF UIX indirectly by using OAF components.  ADF UIX is not part of the "ADF" Fusion Applications technology stack that I am discussing here. "ADF Faces" is the UI component of the ADF technology stack. 

Going It Alone

If you intend to build a completely standalone application that just happens to use the EBS tables, you can certainly use ADF, but you'd need to deal with things like security, look and feel, and so on yourself.  You also wouldn't have the personalization, flexfields, attachments, or other infrastructure that OAF provides.

Using ADF to build integrated extensions to the E-Biz Suite is an untested combination, so you won't find much experienced help available if you take that path.  Also, ADF isn't certified for use with E-Business Suite (EBS), and there are no plans for this certification.  ADF is a standalone development tool and is expected to be a key part of the Fusion Applications platform.  It's a very different technology stack from OAF, other than the business components.  Business Components for Java (BC4J) becomes ADF Business Components (ADF BC). 

Your Business Logic Moves Forward

Business logic that you create now with BC4J with the OAF technology stack will be transferable to the Fusion Applications technology stack later (possibly with minor changes).  If you follow our OAF coding standards, build your pages declaratively as much as possible, and avoid putting much code into controllers if you can, you'll have a much easier time moving to Fusion later.  All your business logic, validation, and so on should be in your BC4J objects.

Technology Directions

One further note: it's part of the general EBS Applications Technology and OAF direction (as part of Applications Unlimited), that we want to bring as much "Fusion technology" into the EBS applications as possible in our ongoing releases.  So over time, the technology stack gap will likely get smaller, and customers will get to use some of the newer technology within the E-Biz Suite until they are ready to move to the Fusion Applications. 

One example of this direction is that we now use JDeveloper 10g (10.1.3) for Release 12, instead of JDeveloper 9.0.3, which is used with Release 11.5.10.  So customers can now take advantage of new JDeveloper 10g features such as a much better Java coding/editing environment.  JDeveloper 10.1.3 can also dynamically recognize which files are in your path for a project.  One of my correspondents thinks that feature alone is a good reason to use 10.1.3!

Happy extending!

[July 9, 2007 - One more thing to consider: how big is the project?  If you are embarking on small extensions, a few pages here and there that you want to integrate into the existing applications, it's better to use the existing tool for that product line (EBS, Peoplesoft, etc.).  If you are building entirely new, monolithic applications (large applications with many pages),  where seamless integration with the current application pages isn't so important, you may want to use ADF (with ADF BC and ADF Faces).  Then you won't need to convert your custom applications when you move to the Fusion Applications later.]

Related

Monday Feb 19, 2007

Personalizing and Extending Release 12

The JDeveloper 10g with OA Extension was recently released for use with the E-Business Suite Release 12.  Following on that theme of extending and personalizing Release 12, you might find it useful to review Sara Woodhull's excellent presentation on this topic from OpenWorld 2006.


Release 12 Personalization Screenshot:

Sara's OOW presentation covers the E-Business Suite Release 12's Oracle Applications Framework (OAF) architecture, which is designed to provide rich and upgradable personalization and extensibility capabilities in a declarative, object oriented model.  This allows Release 12 to be extended and customized without the overhead of traditional development projects.  Topics included in this presentation are:
  • OA Framework Model-View-Controller architecture and key features
  • Personalizations features, including:
    • The ability to hide and show page items and regions, reordering page items, adding new items, adding corporate branding
    • Importing and exporting personalizations with the Personalization Document Manager
    • New user interface for creating personalizations
    • Matching the Release 12 colors and fonts to match your corporate website
    • Using simple expression (SPEL) bindings for more control over fields, items, and regions
  •  Extensibility features, including:
    • The ability to add new business logic to existing screens
    • Durability of extensions, allowing them to be preserved across upgrades
    • Use of Oracle JDeveloper 10g with OA Extension to support J2EE development and integration with Release 12
    • Support for service interfaces, standalone components that can be deployed as web services, EJB session beans, or as co-located Java APIs
You can download her presentation here:
Related

Tuesday Jul 18, 2006

Forms Personalization - Get It While It's Hot!

 So, it's all about J2EE, right?


Well, it will be - and we're all excited by the move to the Fusion Applications platform, and its early form, Oracle Applications Framework.


But we still live in a world with Oracle Forms, and we will continue to do so for  Release 12. Importantly, you can stay on these releases as long as they provide you business value, so you can move to Fusion Applications on your timeframe, not ours. (Close your eyes and say 'Applications Unlimited' . Feels good, doesn't it?)


So it's important for us to let you change your business practices at the lowest cost of ownership on the Forms stack, and Forms Personalization lets you do that. It's a feature that's been out just under 2 years, but this is a great venue to highlight it to make sure you're taking maximum advantage of it.


What now?


Forms Personalization takes the Custom Library (CUSTOM.PLL) concepts and makes them much easier to implement. Like much easier. Like going from your VCR to a Tivo easier. CUSTOM.PLL coding is all hand-tooled PL/SQL which is controlled in a single source file, by default. It allows implementers to trap various Forms triggers and take actions based on them.


All Forms Personalizations, on the other hand, are stored as metadata, and so they are all seamlessly upgraded without needing to be re-applied or addressed - just like Flexfields or Folder definitions! Forms Personalization provides tools to perform the same configurations, in the form of a Form. (Say that fast, huh?)


Open any Form in 11i10, and go to Help->Diagnostics->Custom Code-> Personalize. This brings up the Personalization Form in the context of the Form and Function that you were in. This is where you build the Personalizations specific to that Form or Function.


The page has two major tabs: Conditions and Actions. Forms Personalization is basically a big set of if-then statements that can execute because of various events that take place on that Form.


If...


Conditions determine IF a personalization executes after a specific event or Forms trigger (including MENU or SPECIAL triggers). Triggers (WHEN-NEW-ITEM-INSTANCE, WHEN-VALIDATE, etc.) can be attached to objects, such as this example - when the user tabs out of the Purchase Order Type field into the Supplier Name field. Note that Conditions include conditional logic (only if the PO Type is 'Planned Purchase Order', e.g.), and scopes (only for Purchasing Superuser responsibility or Vision Operations organization or Joe the useless intern).


Conditions:


Then...


Actions are the list of specific things that you want to have happen. The major actions are:



  • Builtin: Form or PL/SQL built-ins like executing a procedure, mimicking a key stroke, navigating to another function, opening a URL, etc. Very powerful indeed.


  • Property: Set the Forms property value of a form item (If it's a Planned Purchase Order, set the Required property of the Description item in the PO_Header block to TRUE, e.g.)


  • Message: put up a prompt warning like an OK box (cool because you can populate the message with data from screen variables, lookups, or calculations)


  • Menu: Enables a special menu entry, defining its label, icon name and blocks to which it applies.

Actions:


How now? (.... 'brown cow?')


Those are the basics, and I think you can see how much more accessible this power is now. It's easily managed, as well. For example, there are delivered FNDLOAD scripts for migrating these personalizations between instances (DEV > TEST > PROD), as well as entering them in version control systems.


Also, there is a central form for identifying the personalizations and turning them off! Pretty good if you completely hose up the WHEN-NEW-FORM-INSTANCE event... (Not that I've done that. Not that I would tell you, anyway.)


Couple of last notes


Forms Personalization receives events before CUSTOM.PLL does but then passes them normally to CUSTOM.PLL... Your existing CUSTOM.PLL logic will continue to work, but you can introduce these Personalizations first.


Forms Personalization was tested for performance and has been found to have very low impact. So don't worry about using this on heavily trafficked forms.


You need FND 11.5.10 minipack (FND.H), patch 3262159; alternately, it's included in ATG Family Pack H with additional niceties.


In all, it's great stuff, and while many folks have already done a bunch of CUSTOM.PLL library work, some may have shied away from it, or might have other small tasks that can now be trivially done. Of course, if you're just implementing, you'll find this very valuable.


References




Tuesday Jun 20, 2006

Using Virtual Private Database in E-Business Environments

It's interesting how certain questions seem to surge in clusters.  Lately there's been a bountiful harvest of questions about using Virtual Private Database (VPD) functionality in E-Business Suite Release 11i environments.

Virtual Private Database example:

VPD in a Nutshell

Virtual Private Database (VPD) enables programmers and database administrators to enforce security, to a fine level of granularity, directly on tables, views, or synonyms. Because security policies are attached directly to tables, views, or synonyms and automatically applied whenever a user accesses data, there's no way to bypass security.

When a user directly or indirectly accesses an object protected with a VPD policy, the server dynamically modifies the SQL statement of the user. The modification creates a WHERE condition returned by a function implementing the security policy. The statement is modified dynamically, transparently to the user.

In the example diagram above, a customer can only see his orders in the 'orders' table when he is listed in the 'customers' table.

Not a Walk in the Park


Apps makes some use of VPD internally in Release 11i, but enabling your own VPD policies across the E-Business Suite isn't as simple as flipping a switch, unfortunately.

For example, let's say you decide to apply VPD policies to a particular Workflow or concurrent processing table.  If your custom VPD policies lock out a set of users, there may be unknown side-effects in other dependent Apps products that need generic administrative access to these tables.

Although it's technically possible to use VPD to implement your own data security extensions, there's a decidedly non-trivial amount of custom work involved.  This requires deep understanding of the E-Business Suite data model and is not for the faint-hearted.  Supporting these kind of customizations is outside of our scope here in Apps Development, but there are Oracle Consultants who may have the right expertise for this.

Is It Supported for E-Business Suite Environments?

If you create custom VPD policies for your E-Business Suite environment, Oracle Support will regard these like any other customization or third-party products in your environment, namely:
  • If you report issues that can be reproduced in standard, uncustomized environments, those issues will be resolved via workarounds or patches. 
  • If the issues can't be reproduced in standard environments and are isolated to your custom VPD policies, the outcome will be a recommendation to remove or fix your VPD policies.
Future Plans for Documentation and Release 12

The Applications Technology Group doesn't currently document how VPD extensions should be performed in the E-Business Suite.  There are plans for future documentation that will describe what session context is available for use in VPD policies, but no firm schedules.

In Release 12, VPD will be used as part of the new implementation of Multi-Organization Access Control (MOAC).

The above is intended to outline our general product direction.  It is intended for information purposes only, and may not be incorporated into any contract.   It is not a commitment to deliver any material, code, or functionality, and should not be relied upon in making purchasing decision.  The development, release, and timing of any features or functionality described for Oracle's products remains at the sole discretion of Oracle. 

Friday May 26, 2006

Process Management in Release 12

Oracle executives have been justifiably devoting a lot of slides in recent customer briefings to Oracle BPEL Process Manager: it's the cornerstone for our corporate integration strategy.  This begs the obvious question: what's going to be included in Release 12?


Workflow in Release 12

The Rapid Install for Release 12 will include Oracle Workflow out-of-the-box.  At present, we expect that the version included will be Workflow 2.6, but as always, this is subject to change. 

The practical implication of including Workflow in Release 12 is that all of your existing customized workflows will continue to function with minimal disruption and effort if you're upgrading from Release 11i.

Optional R12 Integration with BPEL Process Manager

If you're excited about working with BPEL Process Manager, you'll have the option of doing that, too. 

BPEL Logical Architecture:

Given that the E-Business Suite provides standard SOA web services, all that you'll need to do is to install OracleAS 10g and and BPEL Process Manager on a separate instance and point it to business service endpoints available from the E-Business Suite Release 12. 

Getting Started with BPEL Process Manager and Release 11i

The BPEL Process Manager is considered a standalone tool outside of the E-Business Suite space, so you don't need to wait until Release 12.  You can use BPEL Process Manager and other Oracle Integration connectors with Release 11i today.  That's a good way of getting a headstart if you plan to upgrade to the combination of Release 12 and BPEL Process Manager in the future, or if you'd like to kick the tires and take this for a test drive today.

The above is intended to outline our general product direction.  It is intended for information purposes only, and may not be incorporated into any contract.   It is not a commitment to deliver any material, code, or functionality, and should not be relied upon in making purchasing decision.  The development, release, and timing of any features or functionality described for Oracle's products remains at the sole discretion of Oracle.

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