Wednesday Jan 20, 2010

Microsoft Office 2003 and 2007 Certified with Oracle E-Business Suite

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

Microsoft Office 2003 and 2007 are certified with Oracle E-Business Suite Release 11i and 12.  While this isn't a new announcement, per se, a recent surge of Office-related questions suggests that it's worth covering this topic here.

How does the E-Business Suite work with Microsoft Office?

The Oracle E-Business Suite is comprised of several product families such as Financials, Supply Chain Management, Human Resources, and so on.  These product families group together collections of individual products.  Some of these products may be optionally integrated with one or more Microsoft Office components such as Excel, Word, and Projects.
Individual E-Business Suite product teams have the option of building integrations between their products and one or more Microsoft Office components.  This is not mandatory.  Over forty E-Business Suite teams offer these kinds of Office integrations today.

Examples of these integrations include:
  • HRMS Payroll integrations with Microsoft Excel
  • Supply Chain Management Contracts Core integration with Microsoft Word
  • Financials General Ledger (GL) integration with Microsoft Excel
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Proposals integration with Microsoft Word
What Does "Certified" Mean?

It's easy enough to state that Oracle E-Business Suite is certified with Microsoft Office.  But the E-Business Suite is a collection of multiple products, just like Microsoft Office.  So what does the generalized statement of "certified" really mean?

If an E-Business Suite team integrates their product with Microsoft Office, they are responsible for ensuring that these integrations continue to work with all of their new releases and patches.  They are also responsible for testing their products with new versions of Microsoft Office, including major Office patches and Service Packs. 

When a specific product team completes their testing of their product with a given version of, say, Microsoft Excel 2007, they are permitted to state that their product is certified with that Office version and component. 

When all product teams with Office dependencies complete their tests of, say, E-Business Suite 12 with Office 2007, then we consider that E-Business Suite release to be certified with that version of Microsoft Office.

Where are these integrations documented?

Individual product teams are responsible for ensuring that their product documentation describes their integration points and procedures for using Microsoft Office.  This documentation is decentralized and distributed today, and I would expect things to continue along those lines.  

We understand that it would be helpful to have a central document that acts like a Table of Contents or integration roadmap with pointers to the product-specific Office documentation.  We've scheduled this documentation project; watch this blog for more details when that supplemental documentation is released.

How are these integrations supported?

You can log Service Requests against the E-Business Suite product that you're trying to integrate with Microsoft Office. 

For example, you might be trying to take advantage of CRM Marketing (AMS) 12.1.2's integration with Excel 2007.  To get support, you can log an SR against CRM Marketing directly. 

The Support team for that product will help you diagnose and resolve the problem.  If the issue is isolated to a Microsoft product, then it may be necessary to log a corresponding support ticket with Microsoft, as well.

What about Microsoft Office 2010?

Microsoft has recently released a beta of Office 2010.  Our EBS product teams are evaluating this release now.  I'll post more details about our plans for certifying Office 2010 with the E-Business Suite as soon as they're available.

What about StarOffice and OpenOffice variants?

Our existing E-Business Suite integrations with Microsoft are built on a variety of published Microsoft technologies, including Microsoft's Visual Basic (VBA) macro functions and Microsoft document filetypes. 

StarOffice, OpenOffice and its many open source variants offer a lot of functionality that is very similar or equivalent to Microsoft Office.  However, these open source applications are not drop-in replacements for their Microsoft Office equivalents, given that they do not offer VBA macro compatibility. 

If your organisation currently uses Microsoft Office with the E-Business Suite and is considering a large-scale cutover from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice or another open source equivalent, please drop me an email with the following details:
  1. Name of your organisation
  2. EBS Release (e.g. 11.5.10.2, 12.1.2)
  3. EBS+Office integrations that you're using today
  4. Microsoft Office version that you're using today
  5. Number of end-user desktops affected
  6. Windows versions used by those EBS+Office end-users
  7. OpenOffice distribution and versions to be deployed
  8. Will there be a mix of Microsoft Office and OpenOffice deployments? 
  9. Migration schedule to OpenOffice or open source equivalent
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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.

Sunday Jan 17, 2010

Deploying E-Business Suite on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud

[Editor: This is the fourth of a five-part series on virtualization and cloud topics from Ivo Dujmovic, an architect in our Applications Technology Integration group.]

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is the quintessential public cloud.  Oracle has partnered extensively with Amazon Web Services (AWS), and in this article I hope to clarify were we currently stand with using E-Business Suite on Amazon EC2.

Public Clouds can introduce uncertified stack additions in the virtualization layer (hypervisor, provisioning tools). They also introduce a lack of control over physical hardware: neither the end-customer nor Oracle has control of the hardware or the virtualization stack below the OS.  This is a new factor in the relationship between Oracle and its customers.


amazon_cloud.png

Amazon EC2 for non-production EBS environments 

For the time being, the novelty of public clouds and the currently-low number of proof points means that we must initially take a prudent and cautious strategy for using Amazon EC2 to host E-Business Suite instances.

Since Amazon EC2 uses a virtualization engine that is not supported by Oracle and has not been certified with E-Business Suite, this environment is not supported for production usage of E-Business Suite.  Using Amazon EC2 for hosting E-Business Suite instances may be suitable for non-production instances such as demonstration instances, test environments, and development environments.

For non-production instances, Oracle will provide support for issues that reproduce on standard certified configurations.  Users will be directed to Amazon for any virtualization-related issues.

Four Reasons to use Amazon EC2 Features for E-Business Suite environments

  1. Virtual private cloud: VPN-based extension to the customer's intranet
  2. Elastic IPs: allow sticky IP addresses for persistent references between nodes
  3. Large file import service: for DBFs larger than 5 TB, it is better to ship them on 2TB disks to Amazon -- you could have your instance up in 4-5 days
  4. High-memory instance types: EBS needs higher memory-to-CPU ratios, and higher I/O bandwidth
We expect the future to bring more great functionality and even tighter integration between E-Business Suite and Amazon's web services. Stay tuned...

References
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Thursday Jan 07, 2010

New Minimum Patching Baselines for E-Business Suite 11i Extended Support

Premier Support for Oracle E-Business Suite Release 11i ends in November 2010.  Extended Support begins when Premier Support ends.  Extended Support comes at an additional cost, but these are waived for Oracle E-Business Suite Release 11i through November 2011. I'm in EBS Development and not sales, so you should contact your Oracle account manager with questions about Extended Support costs. 

Here is a comparison of the different support levels:

Comparison table showing the different coverages for Premier Support vs Extended Support vs Sustaining Support
A new set of minimum technical requirements for Apps 11i goes into effect when Extended Support begins in November 2010.  These new minimum baseline patch requirements are listed in:
What are the impacts of this new baseline?

As always, Oracle Support will assist with diagnosis, triage, and debugging of any issues that you report for your E-Business Suite environment.  You will continue to have access to any existing online support tools, knowledge base documentation, and pre-existing fixes.

If you report a new issue that requires a new bug fix, you should be aware that new patches will be released only for the new baseline patches listed in the Minimum Baseline Patch Requirements Note.  You should plan to apply the baseline patches (at minimum) listed in Note 883202.1 by November 2010 in order to receive any new bug fixes.

Minimum Baseline Patch Requirements
  • Oracle E-Business Suite Release 11.5.10 Consolidated Update 2 plus additional patches listed in Note 883202.1
  • ATG Rollup Patchset 6 (11i.ATG_PF.H.delta.6, Patch 5903765)
  • 10.2.0.4 Database or 11.1.0.7 Database
  • Forms6i Patchset 19 (version 6.0.8.28, Patch 6194129)
  • Oracle HTTP Server MLR Patchset 4393827
  • Sun Java Runtime Engine (JRE) 1.6.0_03 or higher
The baseline versions listed here (and in the Note) are current as of the document's release date but may change in the future.  Any changes will be communicated via Note 883202.1.  If you've found this article as the result of a web search, I would strongly encourage you to check the latest version of the Note for the current information.

What EBS 11i products are affected by this new baseline?

In addition to the major technology stack components shown above, Note 883202.1 contains additional minimum baseline requirements for:
  • Applications Technology
    • Common Applications Calendar
  • Contracts
    • Core Contracts
    • Procurement Contracts
    • Project Contracts
    • Sales Contracts
    • Service Contracts
  • Customer Data Management
    • Customers Online
    • Trading Community
  • Financials
    • Assets
    • iAssets
    • Advanced Collections
    • Bill Presentment Architecture
    • Cash Management
    • E-Business Tax
    • Financials for the Americas
    • Financials for Asia/Pacific
    • Financials Common Country
    • Financials for EMEA
    • Financials for India
    • Internet Expenses
    • Lease Management
    • Loans
    • Payables
    • Payments
    • Property Manager
    • Public Sector Budgeting
    • Public Sector Financials
    • Public Sector Financials (International)
    • Receivables
    • iReceivables
    • Treasury
    • U.S. Federal Financials
  • Human Resources
    • Advanced Benefits
    • Approvals Management
    • HR Intelligence
    • Human Resources
    • Labor Distribution
    • Learning Management
    • Payroll (All Localizations)
    • Payroll (International/Custom)
    • iRecruitment
    • Self-Service Human Resources
    • Time and Labor
    • US Federal Human Resources
  • Intelligence
    • Balanced Scorecard
    • E-Business Intelligence
  • Interaction Center
    • Customer Interaction History
  • Logistics
    • Inventory Management
    • Warehouse Management
  • Manufacturing
    • Cost Management
    • Quality
    • Supply Chain Globalization
    • Work in Process
  • Marketing and Sales
    • Incentive Compensation
    • Marketing
    • Partner Management
    • Quoting
    • Sales
    • Sales for Handheld
    • Sales Offline
    • Territory Management
    • Trade Management
  • Order Management
    • Advanced Pricing
    • Configurator
    • Order Capture
    • Order Management
  • Procurement
    • iProcurement
    • Purchasing
    • Sourcing
    • iSupplier Portal
    • Supplier Scheduling
  • Product Lifecycle Management
    • Advanced Product Catalog
    • Bills of Material
    • Document Management and Collaboration
    • Engineering
    • Item Master
  • Projects
    • Grants Accounting
    • Project Billing
    • Project Collaboration
    • Project Costing
    • Project Portfolio Analysis
    • Project Foundation
    • Project Resource Management
    • Projects
  • Service
    • Advanced Scheduler
    • Complex Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul
    • Customer Care
    • Depot Repair
    • Field Service
    • iSupport
    • Teleservice
  • Supply Chain Planning
    • Demand Planning
    • Production Scheduling
    • Strategic Network Optimization
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Sunday Oct 11, 2009

OpenWorld 2009: E-Business Suite Technology Stack Certification Roadmap

OpenWorld 2009 has kicked off with a bang.  As in previous years, I was invited to share our latest E-Business Suite technology stack certification roadmap with the OAUG EBS Technology Stack Special Interest Group (SIG) members.

Openworld_2009_logo.png
Most of what I covered in this SIG discussion will be familiar to regular readers of this blog.  Even if you've been keeping up with this blog's announcements, the convenient thing about this Roadmap presentation is that it summarizes our latest techstack certifications, desupport notices, support policy updates, and other important topics from the last year in a single, cohesive presentation.

Topics from this presentation include:
  • E-Business Release 12.1.1 technology stack components
  • Important Oracle Support policy updates for the E-Business Suite, Server Technologies, and Fusion Middleware products
  • Summary of the latest desupport notices relevant to EBS environments, covering desktop clients, browsers, database releases, and internal and external application tier servers
  • Listing of the current and recommended EBS certifications
  • Glimpse of upcoming certifications
This presentation is available here:
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Tuesday Sep 22, 2009

Six Options for Getting Help for E-Business Suite Issues

[Sept 24, 2009 Update: Removed references to the Oracle Critical Accounts program.]

Some E-Business Suite implementations go smoothly.  Some don't.  Even battle-scarred veteran Apps sysadmins have to call upon Oracle for help at some point.  One of the most-surprising things I hear from customers is that many of you don't know what options exist for you to get help when you need it.  Depending on your circumstances, there's a wide range of alternatives that may work for your needs.

Taking the wrong approach can waste a lot of time and efforts on all sides.  If you need help, here's a list of the best options for ensuring that you get the help that you need:
  1. Do your homework
  2. Log a Service Request (SR)
  3. Escalate your Service Request with Support
  4. Escalate with your Oracle account manager
  5. Get a Service Delivery Manager assigned
  6. Register with the Applications Development Customer Program
Oracle Advanced Customer Services.png

Option 1: Do Your Homework

A good way of wasting time is to log a Service Request before you've searched for the answer yourself.  Google is your friend, of course, so running searches should always be your first step.

As an aside: I am repeatedly bemused by the emails I receive from people who haven't done even the most-rudimentary web searches.  Interestingly, this includes questions from Oracle staff who should (presumably) know better. 

Oracle resources that you should search before logging an EBS Service Request:
The Knowledge tab on My Oracle Support is your entry-point into the collective published body of knowledge from Oracle Development, Support, and Consulting.  It almost goes without saying that you should search for your issue here.  The only caveat is that the Knowledge repository is extremely wide-ranging and deep, and can potentially be intimidating to explore for new users.  Stick with it, though; this is the definitive resource for all Oracle product issues.

It's important to remember that all Oracle bloggers are doing this in their spare time.  If they're brave enough to reach out to customers, you should remember that Oracle bloggers have varying amounts of bandwidth available to answer your questions.  My fellow bloggers on my E-Business Suite Technology Stack blog are always happy to help with your Apps techstack questions, but we hope that you've searched our site for answers before you post your question.

Forums are a different matter.  Remember that these public forums are monitored by your customer peers and occasionally someone from Oracle.  These forums yield answers that may vary in quality.  Some of these -- like the impressive Apps R12 Upgrade and OA Framework forums -- have a dedicated and superb group of volunteers who provide crisp and accurate answers to all questions posted.  Others, not so much.

If these sources solve your problem, great.  If not, then your next step is to get an answer from an authoritative source:  Oracle Support.  If you have a time-sensitive issue for which you need a guaranteed and authoritative response, your best bet is to log a formal Service Request with Oracle Support.

Option 2: Log a Service Request

Logging Service Requests (formerly Technical Assistance Requests or TARs) is a necessary first step for any conversation with anyone within Oracle about a particular technical issue.  You log Service Requests via My Oracle Support.  Service Requests are always the starting point for all technical issues. 

Many of you post conceptual or architectural questions here.  This blog's panel of authors are always happy to answer those questions.  However, this blog isn't really set up to handle diagnostics and investigate technical issues; that's Oracle Support's job. 

If you email us directly or post a question about a specific technical issue that you're encountering, our first follow-up question will inevitably be, "What's your Service Request number?"  If necessary, we can help the Oracle Support engineer get to the bottom of your issue -- but only if you've logged a Service Request first. 

The key thing to remember about Service Requests is that the quality of Oracle's assistance depends upon the quality of information that you provide.  Garbage in, garbage out.  Make sure that you provide a good description of the problem, detailed error messages, logs, information about your environment, screen captures, results of your own investigations and tests, and reproducible test cases. 

Option 3: Escalate Your Service Request with Support

If your Service Request is getting bogged down for some reason, or is going off in a direction that doesn't seem quite right, it may be time to escalate your case.

Chris Warticki, a fellow Oracle blogger from Support, has written an excellent article on the Support Escalation process.  I strongly recommend that you check out his article; he makes many insightful comments about how to escalate your issue effectively.  To summarize his key points:
  • Speak with the Oracle Support Escalation Manager (formerly the Duty Manager).
  • Review your concerns.
  • Work up an action plan.
  • Follow up on the agreed-upon actions.
  • Ask the Escalation Manager to follow up with Development on associated bugs.
Option 4: Escalate with Your Oracle Account Manager

Escalating through the regular Support channel doesn't always work as well as it might.  If you still find yourself struggling after doing that, then there are other options.

Some customers may think of Oracle account teams as being useful only when negotiating licencing contracts.  From my vantage in Apps Development, I see Oracle account teams quite differently.  I consider your Oracle account manager to be your advocate and your ombudsman within Oracle.  If you're having difficulty getting any issues resolved through the official channels (e.g. via escalating Service Requests), then your Oracle account manager is your next call.  Your Oracle account manager can escalate a Service Request with management teams in Oracle Support and Development.
 
That's the theory, at least.  The reality is that some Oracle account managers may be relatively new to their jobs, so you may need to encourage them to seek help via internal Oracle channels on this.  Oracle account managers should be motivated to help you resolve issues, since happy customers tend to be more willing to do repeat business than unhappy ones.

Option 5: Get a Service Delivery Manager Assigned

This option isn't for everyone, but you should at least know that it exists.  It is possible for you to work with your Oracle account manager and Oracle Advanced Customer Services to get a Service Delivery Manager assigned to your organization.  A Service Delivery Manager can act as your primary contact within Oracle Support, and can help escalate Service Requests, engage Development teams, and coordinate responses from multiple groups for complex issues.

My experience is that this option is very useful for large, complex organizations who have equally large, complex, and time-sensitive E-Business Suite projects underway.  In situations where you're logging a large number of interrelated or overlapping Service Requests against many different Oracle products, having a Service Delivery Manager can be useful in keeping track of everything.  Service Delivery Managers can also hold regular status calls to review your open issues, and can escalate open Service Requests directly to Oracle Development teams.

It's also important to note that Oracle Advanced Customer Services offers the option of technical teams that can be engaged proactively to provide guidance and hands-on services that may help avoid Service Requests entirely. 

Option 6: Register with the Applications Development Customer Program

Another customer support program within the E-Business Suite division exists:  the Applications Development Customer Program. 

The Applications Development Customer Program is primarily responsible for managing the Applications development portion of key customer projects and customer escalations. This involves engaging development resources across the Applications Suite Development Division, coordinating with Oracle Support and Oracle Consulting, and keeping Oracle executive management up to date on the most strategic customer projects and most critical escalations.

Your Oracle account manager can help get your organization registered with this program.  If your Oracle account manager is unfamiliar with this program, he or she can find out more at this internal Oracle Applications Development Customer Program website (also no external customer access).

Be Proactive, Be Assertive, Be Persistent

My experience is that large, complex organizations benefit from registering with both the Critical Accounts Program and the Applications Development Customer Program before embarking upon major upgrades.  For example, if you're planning on upgrading from Oracle E-Business Suite Release 11i to 12, it would be worth considering getting registered before you start your project.

The advantages of being proactive are legion:  you get a predetermined escalation path, Development organizations become familiar with your requirements and environment before you start logging Service Requests, and you effectively prime the pump in case you run into issues.

And lastly: be assertive, and don't give up.  I see Service Requests where customers have only just begun to investigate an issue with Support and/or Development... only to have the customer disappear.  Some customers just stop responding to requests for more information in their Service Requests. 

I find this a bit mystifying.  As you can see, if you're not getting what you need to resolve your issues, there are many options for getting help.  Be persistent and escalate up the channels as needed.

Related Articles

Wednesday Aug 12, 2009

Confused About E-Business Server vs. Desktop Operating System Certifications?

The E-Business Suite is designed to support a three-tier architecture, with functions running on a client tier, an application server tier (also called a middle tier), and a database tier.  I handled a customer question on an internal Oracle mailing list today that suggested that there was confusion about our certification policies for these tiers.  I then realized that I've answered variants of this question many times lately, so it's clearly of broader interest. 

These two questions are mirror images of each other:
  • Can I install the E-Business Suite on a desktop operating system like Windows Vista?
  • Can I run end-user E-Business Suite functions on a server operating system like Oracle Enterprise Linux?
EBS-R12-architecture-diagram2.png
Certifying End-User Functions on Desktop Operating Systems

The first guiding principle is that we certify E-Business Suite end-user client functions on end-user desktop operating systems.  Examples of EBS end-user client functions include:
  • Accessing web-based Self-Service applications from browsers
  • Running Forms-based applications under the native Sun JRE plug-in.
The certified end-user desktop operating systems are:
  • Windows XP
  • Windows Vista
  • Mac OS X
We intend to certify Microsoft Windows 7 and Apple Mac OS X Snow Leopard (10.6) desktop operating systems to run EBS end-user client functions in the future.  I can't discuss schedules for these certifications, but you're welcome to monitor or subscribe to this blog for updates.  

We have no current plans to certify Linux desktop operating systems (e.g. Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian, CentOS, etc) to run E-Business Suite end-user client functions.

Certifying Server-Based Components on Server Operating Systems
 
The second guiding principle is that we certify E-Business Suite's server-based components on server-based operating systems.  Server-based components are designed to run on application tier servers and database tier servers.  Server-based components include the Oracle Database, Oracle Forms, JServ, OC4J, and so on.

Server-based operating systems include:
  • Microsoft Windows Server
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux
  • Oracle Enterprise Linux
  • Sun Solaris
  • IBM AIX
  • IBM Linux on System z
  • IBM Linux on POWER
  • HP-UX
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES)
Mixing and Matching Server vs. Desktop Certifications

We have no plans to certify E-Business Suite end-user client-based functions on server operating systems. 
 
Likewise, we also have no plans to certify E-Business Suite database or application-tier server components on end-user desktop operating systems. 

Security Implications of Running Something on the Wrong Platform
 
The security implications of running the wrong thing on the wrong platform must be considered.  Today's question from a customer asked whether it's possible to run the E-Business Suite's end-user functions from geographically-distributed machines running Windows Server. 

Now, I'm assuming that those distributed machines are acting as real servers running mission-critical multi-user applications.  If I were a security administrator, I wouldn't want an end-user to use that server to do email, surf the web, or run other end-user applications.  Given the propensity of end-users to click on suspicious email attachments, hit questionable websites, and install dodgy P2P apps, that's a good way of contaminating the server and breaching security.  I can't think of any scenario where this would be a good idea.

Support Implications of Running Something on the Wrong Platform

We can't prevent customers from doing dangerous things with machines connecting to the E-Business Suite.  I'm reminded of Robin Williams' piece on unarmed bobbies in the UK: "Stop, or I'll yell, 'Stop' again!"  [No, no, I'm not making any statements about gun control either way, I'm just underlining Oracle's lack of omnipotence.]

What we can do is ensure that you get fixes for issues that occur on the tiers on which EBS components were designed to run. 

From a support perspective, we can produce E-Business Suite patches only for end-user client issues that can be reproduced on a certified desktop operating system configuration.

Likewise, we can produce E-Business Suite patches only for server-based component issues that can be reproduced on a certified server operating system.

Related Articles

Monday Aug 10, 2009

Can E-Business Users Apply Database Patch Set Updates?

[Nov. 29, 2010 update: For a list of overlay patches required to address conflicts between database PSUs and EBS patch requirements, see Note 1147107.1]

[Aug 11, 2009 update: fixed typo and replaced Note 584428.1 references with correct Note 854428.1]


The Oracle Server Technologies' division introduced a new release vehicle in late July 2009:  Patch Set Updates (PSU).  Patch Set Updates are cumulative patches containing between 50 to 100 recommended bug fixes for the Oracle Database.  Patch Set Updates include:
  • Field-tested fixes for critical technical issues that may affect a large number of customers
  • Critical Patch Update fixes

db10204_download_screenshot.png

Patch Set Updates will be released on the same quarterly schedule as Critical Patch Updates (CPU), specifically the Tuesday closest to the 15th of January, April, July, and October.  Also notable is that PSU patches do not include:
  • Changes that require re-certification (e.g. fixes that cause optimizer plan changes)
  • Fixes that require configuration changes
Patch Set Updates are identified by the fifth digit of the database version number.  For example the initial PSU for the 10gR2 10.2.0.4 Database is 10.2.0.4.1.  The next PSU will be 10.2.0.4.2.

More details about Patch Set Updates are described here:
Safe to Apply to E-Business Environments?

Yes.  Database Patch Set Updates may safely be applied to Oracle E-Business Suite Release 11i and 12 environments. 

We explicitly run certification tests with E-Business Suite products against major database releases such as 10gR2 version 10.2.0.4 and 11gR1 version 11.1.0.7.  We do not perform formal EBS certification testing for individual interim, emergency, or "one-off" patchsets for the Oracle database, but consider them to be fully compatible and supported for use with the E-Business Suite. 

Patch Set Updates (e.g. 10.2.0.4.1) are simply bundles of interim or emergency patches released on top of major database releases.  Therefore, Patch Set Updates are also fully compatible and supported for use with the E-Business Suite.

Will EBS Ever Formally Certify PSU Content?

Yes, but only indirectly.  Future major database releases are expected to include all released PSU patches.  For example, if the Server Technologies division ever releases a 10.2.0.5 update, then I would expect it to include PSU 10.2.0.4.1, 10.2.0.4.2, and so on.  If 10.2.0.5 is ever released, it would be certified with the E-Business Suite, thus certifying all of the previously-released PSU patches in the process.

Note that I am speaking strictly hypothetically and illustratively about 10.2.0.5 -- I haven't heard any confirmed plans around any future major releases on the 10gR2 database codeline.

What's the Support Process for Patch Set Updates?

The support process is the same for PSUs as it is for other emergency or "one-off" database patches: formal Service Requests logged using My Oracle Support (formerly Metalink).  If the Server Technologies team finds that there's a problem with a particular PSU, they will issue a fix for it.  If the Server Technologies team finds that the underlying problem is with the E-Business Suite, they will transfer the issue to the E-Business Suite division for us to investigate in an Apps environment. 

Your feedback is welcome

Just like all of the other topics we cover on this blog, your feedback about the usefulness of Patch Set Updates in your E-Business Suite environments is welcome.  Please feel free to drop me a line or post your comments here about your experiences with these PSUs.

Related

Tuesday Aug 04, 2009

Is It Safe to Use SANs for EBS R12 Instance Tops?

Our documentation about sharing filesystems between multiple Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12 application servers recommends that you install the Instance Top (INST_TOP) on a local filesystem. This has prompted an interesting discussion about whether this is really mandatory, or whether it's technically feasible to put the Instance Top on, say, a dedicated fibre-attached SAN. 

Release 12 shared filesystem:

Our guidance on the INST_TOP being installed on a local file system is based on three major considerations:

  1. Separation of duties and security implications
  2. Impact of SAN performance on Apache
  3. Additional troubleshooting complexity

1. Separation of Duties & Security Implications

Our recommended configuration allows for different file system privileges and ownership between the Instance Top (INST_TOP) and the Code Top (ORACLE_HOMEs & APPL_TOP). This allows for the segregation of duties between administrators for the respective servers. Patching can be done on the Code Top by central system administrators who own the central shared portion of the file system. Instance Tops can be owned by instance sysadmins, who usually already own the CPU box with local storage.

Some instance-specific, run-time-generated files (e.g. reports, temp files) can include unencrypted data. Contrast those with database files (DBFs), which can be self-encrypted or contain encrypted data. Even with encrypted file system solution in place, there is less depth in defenses around some of the INST_TOP files.

2. Impact of SAN Performance on Apache

Apache performance is highly sensitive to mutex file access latency, and at higher loads is also sensitive to I/Os per second.  We tried using a central SAN for INST_TOPs in our internal EBS development environments but found the performance to be unacceptable.  However, not all SANs are created equal, and depending on the SAN, it might be good for even production use.

A very good article on this point is available from the SQLTeam web site:

3. Additional Troubleshooting Complexity

A network storage access problem can have a spectrum of symptoms, including performance slow downs and even as intermittent end-user session failures. Some of the affected code paths were made more resilient over the years, but we still prefer to err on the side of prudence and not potentially cause these (hard to diagnose) problems.

Your Mileage May Vary

All that said, you might decide that your testing of SAN performance demonstrates that its latency and I/O transaction throughput are good enough for your requirements. 

Our Support and Development teams will attempt to reproduce any reported issues in a multinode environment where the INST_TOPs are stored on a local filesystem.  If the issues are isolated to the external placement of the Instance Tops, our recommendations would be to either revert back to local storage, or to work with your SAN vendor to optimize the SAN's performance.

References

Related Articles

Tuesday Jul 28, 2009

Latest Apps 11i Techstack (ATG RUP 7) Now Available

I'm very pleased to announce that the latest ATG Family Pack H Rollup 7 for the E-Business Suite Release 11i technology stack is now available for download from Metalink.

Screenshot of download page for patch 6241631

The official name for this patch is:

In other words, this is the seventh consolidated rollup of patches released on top of 11i.ATG_PF.H. For the Oracryptoanalysts out there who like to track nomenclature variants of these things, this patch is also referred to as the Applications Technology Group (ATG) Family Pack H Rollup 7.

This Rollup patch is a collection of technology-stack patches that can safely be applied on top of the ATG Family Pack H. This Rollup patch is cumulative: all previous patches released for Family Pack H since the initial 11.5.10 release are included in this latest patch, including:

Why Is This Rollup Important?

As with the previous ATG Rollup 6, we've spent a huge amount of effort both within the Applications Technology Group and across the entire Applications Suite to test and certify this Rollup patch.

Our focus for this latest Rollup has been to consolidate all known safe defect fixes, performance improvements and security enhancements into one well integrated and fully certified update. We also focused on eliminating as many "co-requisite" patches as possible (application product patches required to interoperate with new ATG Rollups), by working to restore backward compatibility with earlier application levels wherever possible.

Our standing recommendation is that all customers should make plans to move to Rollup 7 as quickly as possible, especially any customers who are not already at ATG Rollup 6.

Changes and Fixes in Rollup 7

Oracle Applications Technology 11i.ATG_PF.H.delta.7 (RUP7) contains Oracle Applications Technology (ATG) security fixes for core ATG products from the January 2005 Critical Patch Update (CPUJan2005) through the July 2009  Critical Patch Update (CPUJul2009).

The following core ATG products are included in 11i.ATG_PF.H.delta.7: FND, OAM, OWF, FWK, JTT, JTA, TXK, XDO, ECX, EC, AK, ALR, UMX, BNE, and FRM.

ATG Family Pack H Rollup 7 (11i.ATG_PF.H RUP 7, Patch 6241631) includes a range of new features and bug fixes for:

Full details about what's new in RUP7 are listed here:

Prerequisites

Oracle Applications Technology ATG_PF.H RUP7 can be applied only to an existing Oracle Applications Release 11.5.10.2 system.  If you don't already have a running Release 11.5.10.2 (11.5.10 CU2) system, then you must first install the Oracle E-Business Suite 11.5.10.2.

Special Advisory for Single Sign-On 10g Users

The SSO 10g Integration patch for Rollup 7 (Patch 6936696) has been released concurrently with this patch. It is available immediately for download. Details about upgrading your SSO-integrated environment to use this patch can be found in the latest version of Note 233436.1.

Supporting the Current and Previous ATG RUPs

Way back in 2006, in this blog's salad days, I posted this article:

Remember that our support baseline for the E-Business Suite is comprised of the current (N) and immediately preceding (N-1) ATG RUPs.  New EBS patches are tested and released on top of these two technology stack baseline configurations. 

What Does This Have to do with ATG RUP 7?

Apps 11i ATG RUP 7 is supported along with ATG RUP 6.  In other words, if you encounter any issues with ATG RUP 6 or 7, we'll be able to release new E-Business Suite patches for those configurations as necessary.

If your Apps 11i environment is still running ATG RUP 5 or older, you will no longer be able to request new patches for those technology stack levels.  You can still get access to existing patches, of course.

A Short Aside About Related Support Policies

This is similar but not identical to the support policy for our Server Technologies and Fusion Middleware products, which I've discussed in more detail in these important articles:

Remember that our Server Technologies and Fusion Middleware support policies are subtly different and from EBS policies:  they support the current (N), as well as the immediately preceding (N-1) release for 12 months after the N release.

Related Articles

Wednesday Jul 08, 2009

Choosing a Shared File System for Oracle E-Business Suite

[March 18, 2013 Update: Added ACFS information captured in the comments to the article body]

[March 10, 2010 Update:  OCFS2 for Linux is now certified for EBS 12 application tier servers; see this article for details.]

It's possible to scale up your E-Business Suite environment with multiple application tier servers to improve fault tolerance and performance.  It's also possible to share a single filesystem between them: all application tier files are installed on a single shared disk resource that's mounted from each application tier node.  In Release 12, that would look like this:

Release 12 shared filesystem:

This allows you to apply patches once to the central filesystem, rather than maintaining each application tier server node individually.  We recommend this approach; it reduces maintenance overheads for those multiple servers and shortens your patching downtimes. 

Beginning with Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12, we also allow you to share an applications tier file system between multiple E-Business Suite database instances, too. For more details about this advanced option, see this article.

Customers embarking upon this path inevitably ask, "Which shared filesystem do you recommend?"  The short answer is that we don't recommend any specific filesystem, but there's more to it than just that.

Does Oracle Certify Storage Systems?

Not any more.  Our Server Technologies division used to run an Oracle Storage Compatibility Program (OSCP) to validate specialized storage products.  At one time, Oracle and its partners worked together to validate specialized storage technology including NFS file servers, remote mirroring, and snapshot products.  The storage industry matured over time, and this program was ended in January, 2007. 

The successor to this program is the Oracle Certification Environment (OCE) group.  This group provides resources for third-party vendors to certify their own products with Oracle technology.  The OCE team works with Oracle Partner Management and third party vendors for approving support statements published by third party vendors with respect to certification projects with Oracle.

It's important to note that these certifications are performed by the third-party vendors themselves and not the E-Business Suite Development division.  Certification statements made by third-party vendors partnering with the Oracle Certification Environment group are not reviewed or endorsed by the E-Business Suite division.  

Does the E-Business Suite Division Certify Storage Systems?

No, I'm afraid not.  EBS Development doesn't have the resources to certify or compare even a subset of the leading filesystems.  Since we don't have hands-on experience with different filesystems in a controlled test environment, we can't make any informed recommendations for a given product.  We generally suggest that customers either perform their own product testing or consult a trusted consultancy that compares the relative merits of each product against a consistent set of criteria.

What are the EBS Requirements for a Shared Filesystem?

Shared filesystems must be transparent to the calling application, in this case, the E-Business Suite.  In other words, no modifications to the E-Business Suite should be necessary to ensure compatibility with the shared filesystem.

Our Frequently Asked Questions: Sharing the Application Tier File System in Oracle Applications 11i (Note 243880.1) states:

... your shared application tier file system can reside on any type of shared disk resource. Examples of shared disk resources include an NFS mounted disk or a disk array. The shared disk resource does not have to be local to the machine, and it can also be a standalone disk array. Usual tuning considerations apply.

The same thing applies to Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12, too.

What About OCFS2 or GFS?

There are many different shared filesystems out there, too many to list here.  The general statements about EBS requirements for a shared filesystem above apply to all third-party file system products.

However, we get a lot of questions about three specific products due to their close relationship and packaging with Oracle's own operating system releases:

Here's the E-Business Suite position on these three shared file systems:

Oracle Clustered File System (OCFS2)

The E-Business Suite's database tier is built on the Oracle Database.  The Oracle Database is certified with OCFS2.   Therefore, OCFS2 is supported for the E-Business Suite database tier, too. 

The E-Business Suite's application tier is built on Oracle Application Server.  Oracle Application Server is not yet certified to run on OCFS2. 

If our Fusion Middleware group ever certifies Oracle9i Application Server 1.0.2.2.2 (used by Apps 11i) or Oracle Application Server 10g (used by Apps 12) to run on OCFS2, then the E-Business Suite's application tier will be certified on that file system. 

Red Hat Global File System (GFS)

Specific versions of the Oracle Database are certified with GFS running on specific Red Hat and Oracle Enterprise Linux releases.   Therefore, those GFS combinations are supported for the E-Business Suite database tier, too.

Sadly, I haven't been able to locate any externally-published statements about Oracle Application Server compatibility with GFS.  This usually means that these two products haven't been tested together.  If you want an explicit statement of support for GFS for Fusion Middleware products, your best bet would be to log a Service Request against the Oracle Application Server product in question.

Back to the database and GFS:  there are some special support provisions for this database configuration.  See the "Support Process for GFS 6.0 and 6.1" section of Using Redhat Global File System (GFS) as shared storage for RAC (Note 329530.1), which states:

Oracle's product support teams will not take support calls on Red Hat GFS. All issues known to be related to Red Hat GFS must be opened with Red Hat directly. When an Oracle SR is opened for an Oracle product or a Red Hat Enterprise Linux issue in a configuration that includes GFS, Oracle Support will do their best effort to determine if the issue is GFS software related. In that case, Oracle will hand-off the GFS related issue to Red Hat Support.

It's important to note that the E-Business Suite division does not test the E-Business Suite with GFS. We haven't performed any certification or compatibility tests with that filesystem and don't have any empirical data about how well this particular combination will work.

Oracle ASM Clustered File System (ACFS)

  1. The E-Business Suite database tier is certified on ACFS.
  2. The E-Business Suite application tier is not certified on ACFS.

Most Oracle Database releases are certified to run on ACFS.  You can refer to the Certify database on My Oracle Support for the latest supported certifications. You can run EBS database servers for those certified combinations on ACFS.  

Amongst other things, EBS 11i uses Forms 6i, Oracle9i Application Server 1.0.2.2.2, and JServ on the application tier.  EBS 12.0, and 12.1 use Forms 10g, Oracle Application Server 10g, and OC4J on the application tier. on ACFS.  These Fusion Middleware product versions are not certified on ACFS.  There are no plans for those certifications.  Since the E-Business Suite depends on those products, EBS 11i, 12.0, and 12.1 application tiers cannot run on ACFS.

What Does EBS Development Use Internally?

We're in Development, not marketing, and we're expressly not able to endorse third-party products.  What we can do is give you a glimpse of what we use internally within Oracle for the E-Business Suite Development division.

At any given time we have hundreds of E-Business Suite environments running simultaneously within the EBS Development division.  These are centrally managed by our terrific EBS/Fusion Operations group.  This internal Oracle group has has created some really interesting infrastructure over the years.  One of the most useful custom solutions allows developers to get a new EBS environment on demand.  Shortly after their request, an automated process instantiates a new Apps environment and the developer is off to the races.

The underpinnings of this are Network File System (NFS) mounted filesystems running on NetApp.  Our Operations group has tested ZFS-based filers, which are also NFS-mounted filesystems.

In practical terms, this means that nearly all of our development, testing, and certification environments for the E-Business Suite are all running on NFS mounts.  We explicitly assume that our use of NFS generalizes to all shared file systems. 

What Does Oracle Use Internally for its Production Global Single Instance?

Our EBS development use of NFS is paralleled by Oracle's own global single instance deployment of Apps 12.  Our production EBS instance connects via Gigabit Ethernet to a shared NFS (NAS) NetApp FAS960 clustered storage system running NetApp 7.2.4. 

Our four production Sun F25K database servers are equipped with 44 dual core CPUs and over 176 GB RAM, Sun Solaris 9, Sun Cluster 3.1, and Veritas VxVM/VxFS 4.0* mp02.  Each of these database nodes has three GigE cards connecting them to the backend database storage, an EMC Symmetrix DMX3000 storage system.

Architecture diagram of Oracle's own global single instance EBS 12 deployment

Remember, this isn't an endorsement or a recommendation; it's merely a peek into what we use here internally at Oracle.

References

Related Articles

Friday Jun 26, 2009

Roundup: Oracle JInitiator 1.3 Desupported for EBS Customers in July 2009

[June 29, 2009 Update: The July 2009 desupport date for JInitiator 1.3 applies to E-Business Suite customers only. Generic Oracle Forms customers should see Note 761159.1 for generic JInitiator desupport dates.]

We've covered the impending demise of JInitiator and the certification of the native Sun Java client in many articles already.  With the sun setting on Oracle Jinitiator next month, this is a good time to summarize the essentials about running Windows-based Java clients with the E-Business Suite:

  1. Sun's Java Runtime Engine (JRE) is certified with both EBS 11i and 12
  2. JInitiator 1.3 will be desupported for E-Business Suite customers at the end of July 2009
  3. JInitiator 1.1.8 was desupported at the end of December, 2008
  4. JInitiator cannot be run on Vista Desktops

If you haven't already started migrating your E-Business Suite end-users to the native Sun JRE plug-in, I'd strongly recommend that you begin this process immediately.

Sun Java Website screenshot Screencap of Sun's Java SE website

1. Sun's Java Runtime Engine (JRE) is Certified with EBS 11i & 12

Oracle JInitiator was originally released as a licenced version of Sun's Java client back when specific features were required to support Oracle Forms. This was particularly necessary for E-Business Suite Forms-based functionality, since the E-Business Suite pushed the envelope of what Forms and Java could do collectively from a user interface perspective.

Sun has since incorporated all of the enhancements needed to support Oracle Forms into their native Sun Java Runtime Engine plug-in. This eliminates the need for Oracle to package its own Java client just for running Oracle Forms-based applications. 

To convert your E-Business Suite environment from JInitiator to the native Sun Java plug-in, see:

Benefits of Switching to the Sun Java Client

The elimination of Oracle JInitiator simplifies your desktop administration environment.  Apps DBAs who have migrated their users to the native Sun JRE no longer have to struggle with compatibility and coexistence problems between JInitiator and other Java runtime clients on the same desktop.

Minimizing Risks of Switching from JInitiator to Sun Java Clients

The majority of customers switching from Oracle JInitiator to the Sun Java Runtime Engine have experienced minimal issues with this conversion.  However, some customers have reported problems, some rather painful.  Problems typically fall into the following categories:

  1. Missing prerequisite E-Business Suite patches or configuration steps
  2. Known issues, e.g. focus-related problems
  3. Conflicts with legacy Java-based application requirements

I strongly recommend a careful review of the Notes above, to ensure that you don't miss any prerequisites or configuration steps.  We document all of the known issues in the respective Notes for Oracle E-Business Suite Release 11i and 12.  We also update our Notes regularly whenever we find new JRE-related compatibility issues with the E-Business Suite.

Some of you might have legacy Java-based applications that require earlier Java clients.  Those legacy applications might only be certified with an old Java release like 1.4.x, and will not work with later JRE releases such as 1.5 or 1.6.  Oracle doesn't have much guidance on third-party Java application compatibility, naturally, so your best option in those situations would be to lobby your legacy application vendor to upgrade their certifications to include the latest Java clients. 

Sun has changed the options for handling multiple Java plug-ins through their "Classic Java Plug-in" and "Next-generation Java Plug-in" technologies.  Handling your requirements for multiple Java plug-ins will vary based upon the JRE versions installed and your default corporate browsers.  If you have multiple Java clients installed on the same Windows desktop, I would strongly recommend that you review the "Static vs. Non-Static Versioning and Set-Up Options" appendices in either Note 290807.1 or 393931.1. 

If you're encountering issues with your EBS conversion to use the Sun Java client, you might find the following document useful:

Minimum JRE Versions Required for E-Business Suite

Apps 11i was originally certified with Oracle JInitiator to run Oracle Forms-based content.  Apps 11i is now certified with the native Sun Java Runtime Engine plug-in.  Apps 11i end-users can use JRE releases on either of the following version levels:

  • JRE 1.5.0_13 and higher
  • JRE 1.6.0_03 and higher

Apps 12 was certified only with the native Sun Java Runtime Engine.  Oracle JInitiator is not certified or supported with Apps 12.

EBS Compatibility and Support for Future JRE Releases

E-Business Suite end-users can upgrade their JRE clients whenever Sun releases a new JRE release on either the 1.5 or 1.6 versions.  EBS users do not need to wait for Oracle to certify new JRE 1.5 or 1.6 plug-in updates with the E-Business Suite.

2.  JInitiator 1.3 will be Desupported for E-Business Suite customers at the end of July 2009

JInitiator 1.3.1.30 was the final certified version for Apps 11i.

Oracle JInitiator 1.3 was built on Sun's JDK 1.3.  Sun has long-since desupported JDK 1.3, so JInitiator 1.3 must be desupported, as well.  Oracle Forms Development has no plans to port JInitiator to JDK 1.4 or higher.

Support Implications for JInitiator Users

Here's what you can expect if you log an Oracle E-Business Suite Release 11i Service Request against JInitiator after the respective dates shown above:

  1. Oracle Support will help you diagnose and isolate the root cause of any compatibility issues between JInitiator and the E-Business Suite.

  2. If there's a workaround or an existing Forms or JInitiator patch, Oracle Support will help you obtain the fix.

  3. If the issue requires a new Forms patch and can be reproduced using the native Sun JRE plug-in, a new bug will be logged against Oracle Forms.

  4. If the issue cannot be reproduced with the native Sun JRE client, no new Forms or JInitiator bugs will be logged.

3.  JInitiator 1.1.8 was desupported at the end of December, 2008

JInitiator 1.1.8.27 was the final certified version for Apps 11i.

I know that some of you continue to run JInitiator 1.1.8 with your E-Business Suite Release 11i environments for legacy compatibility reasons.  I'm afraid that the time has come for you to retire JInitiator 1.1.8.  Error Correction Support for JInitiator 1.1.8 ended on December 31, 2008.  In other words, the Oracle Forms group will no longer issue bug fixes via new versions of JInitiator 1.1.8.x as of December 31, 2008.

The "Support Implications for JInitiator Users" section, above, applies equally to JInitiator 1.1.8, also.

By the way, Oracle Forms Development has (somewhat inexplicably) published Metalink Note 789049.1 indicating that JInitiator will be generically supported until March 29, 2010.  I can't say that I understand this, myself, but the December 2008 desupport notice for JInitiator 1.1.8 for Apps 11i clients is published in Note 472154.1.

4.  JInitiator cannot be run on Vista Desktops

It's not possible to run Oracle JInitiator 1.3 on Microsoft Vista.  Here's why:

  • Oracle JInitiator 1.3 is based on Sun's JDK 1.3
  • Sun's JDK 1.3 is incompatible with Vista.
  • Sun has desupported JDK 1.3, so they have no plans to make it Vista compatible
  • Therefore, JInitiator is fundamentally incompatible with Vista due to its JDK 1.3 dependencies

On Hacking Up JInitiator

Various creative individuals have discovered that it's possible to replace a certain DLL in Oracle JInitiator 1.3 with a JVM from, say, JDK 1.6.  I can't personally testify that these hacks work.  I can say that this kind of surgery makes me intensely uncomfortable.

While it's nice to see creative initiative, I have to remind you that Oracle would regard this as a customization.  We don't recommend customizing Oracle JInitiator for production environments.

What Happens When Something Goes Wrong?

If you do choose to customize Oracle JInitiator 1.3, you should consider the support implications for your users.  If you encounter any issues specific to your customized version of JInitiator, Oracle's default recommendation will be to use the native Sun JRE plug-in.

What Does Oracle Recommend for Vista?

We recommend using the native Sun Java plug-in for Vista client desktops connecting to either Oracle E-Business Suite Release 11i or 12.  The native JRE client is the only certified and supported Java client for E-Business Suite desktops end-users running on Microsoft Windows Vista.

Getting Support from Oracle for Your Conversion

Naturally, we're very interested in helping you get through this upgrade process with a minimum of pain.  If you hit any problems with your conversion to the native Sun JRE plug-in, please log a formal Service Request via Metalink.  Our Support engineers will work with you on this, and also track the underlying issues to see whether changes to our documentation or patches are warranted.  If necessary, we'll work with Sun to get fixes prioritized for future JRE releases, too.

Given my position in Oracle Development and the visibility of this blog, I sometimes think that my perspective on customer deployments might be a little skewed.  This blog's readers tend to be seasoned and highly-skilled Apps sysadmins and Oracle DBAs.  

I'd appreciate your help in getting an accurate view of how these conversions are going for you. I'd be very interested in hearing about your experiences, good or bad.  What went well?  What went sideways?  Please feel free to sound off in the comments or drop me a private email with more details about your migration.

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Friday Apr 10, 2009

Support Policies for Virtualization Technologies and Oracle E-Business Suite

We've previously written about our certification and support stance for virtualization technologies with the E-Business Suite in a series of related articles (see below).  Our Applications Platforms Group has revisited this subject and has published an official statement in a new Metalink Note:

If you've been looking for an authoritative Metalink Note that summarizes our previous blog articles succinctly, this is what you've been waiting for.

This new Note discusses our general support strategy for third-party platform virtualization technologies such as:

  • Sun Solaris 10 Containers
  • IBM AIX Workload Partitioning (WPAR)
  • HP Integrity Virtual Machines (Integrity VM)
  • Microsoft Virtual Server
  • VMWare
  • Citrix

The Note emphasizes that the list above is meant to provide some illustrative examples of the types of virtualization products and technologies covered by this policy.  It's not meant to be a comprehensive list of products, of course.  The Note covers the support implications of using generic virtualization technologies with the E-Business Suite, and is worth reading to refresh your understanding of what kind of support you can expect from us when using these types of tools.

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Tuesday Mar 24, 2009

Running JInitiator on Vista Desktops

Somewhere in this now-sprawling blog is an article about using JInitiator on Vista.   Sadly, I can't find it.  I've been seeing a few troubling things popping up on the web about various JInitiator hacks, so it's time to reprise that content.

Diagram showing Forms JRE JInitiator desktop client architecture layers

It's not possible to run Oracle JInitiator 1.3 on Microsoft Vista.  Here's why:

  • Oracle JInitiator 1.3 is based on Sun's JDK 1.3
  • Sun's JDK 1.3 is incompatible with Vista.
  • Sun has desupported JDK 1.3, so they have no plans to make it Vista compatible
  • Therefore, JInitiator is fundamentally incompatible with Vista due to its JDK 1.3 dependencies

On Hacking Up JInitiator

Various creative individuals have discovered that it's possible to replace a certain DLL in Oracle JInitiator 1.3 with a JVM from, say, JDK 1.6.  I can't personally testify that these hacks work.  I can say that this kind of surgery makes me intensely uncomfortable.

While it's nice to see creative initiative, I have to remind you that Oracle would regard this as a customization.  We don't recommend customizing Oracle JInitiator for production environments.

What Happens When Something Goes Wrong?

If you do choose to customize Oracle JInitiator 1.3, you should consider the support implications for your users.  Oracle Support and Forms Development can provide patches only for issues that can be reproduced with an unmodified version of Oracle JInitiator. 

If you encounter any issues specific to your customized version of JInitiator, Oracle's default recommendation will be to roll back to an unmodified version.

What Does Oracle Recommend for Vista?

We recommend using the native Sun Java plug-in (Java Runtime Engine) for Vista client desktops connecting to either Oracle E-Business Suite Release 11i or 12.  The native JRE client is the only certified and supported Java client for E-Business Suite desktops end-users running on Microsoft Windows.

If you haven't already started migrating your end-users to the native Sun JRE plug-in, I'd strongly recommend that you begin this process immediately.

Why Choose the Native Sun JRE over JInitiator 1.3?

Two reasons:

The elimination of Oracle JInitiator simplifies your desktop administration environment. Apps DBAs who have migrated their users to the native Sun JRE no longer have to struggle with compatibility and coexistence problems between JInitiator and other Java runtime clients on the same desktop.

Which JRE Versions Are Certified With Which Browsers?

Apps 11i is certified with the native Sun Java (JRE) plug-in. You can use any JRE release from 1.5.0_13 and higher, or 1.6.0_03 and higher. Your end-users can upgrade their JRE clients whenever Sun releases a new JRE release on either codeline -- without waiting for Oracle to certify these new JRE plug-ins with EBS 11i.

Apps 12 is certified with the native Sun Java (JRE) plug-in.  You can use any JRE relese from 1.6.0_03 and higher.  Your end-users can upgrade their JRE clients whenever Sun releases a new JRE release on either codeline -- without waiting for Oracle to certify these new JRE plug-ins with EBS 12.

The upgrade process is documented here:

Related Articles

Monday Mar 02, 2009

Certified Oracle RAC Scenarios for Oracle E-Business Suite Cloning

[Editor's note: EBS cloning can be pretty involved. There are many different cloning scenarios, including cloning a RAC-based environment to an identical RAC environment, cloning from a RAC-based environment to a non-RAC environment, and adding or subtracting RAC nodes while cloning. Our Applications Technology Group has had to make some decisions about the relative priority of these scenarios. Filesystems like ASM, OMF, OCFS2, and NFS add further complexity to the certification matrix. If you would like to share your opinions about these decisions, post a comment below. Your feedback will be sent directly to our ATG Product Management team.]

Cloning an Oracle E-Business Suite system that uses an Oracle Real Application Clusters (Oracle RAC) enabled database involves numerous different technology components and steps, and would therefore be a complex, error-prone process if carried out manually. To speed up, simplify, and enhance the reliability of the process, Oracle offers the following tools for use in cloning RAC-enabled Oracle E-Business Suite systems:

Cloning-techniques2.png

[Read More]

Wednesday Nov 08, 2006

Mod_plsql Not Supported in E-Business Suite Release 12

[July 11, 2008 Update:  Many readers 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.  For a pointer to that whitepaper, see this article.]

[June 4, 2008 Update:  It should be stressed that 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. 

It must be emphasized 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.]

One of my degrees is in psychology -- cognitive science, to be exact -- so it's interesting when that world intersects with my present work in the IT industry.  A landmark text in grief counseling is Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' On Death and Dying, in which she described the general grieving process as proceeding in roughly five stages:
  • Denial and isolation
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance
Floyd Teter has astutely pointed out that OpenWorld's news of mod_plsql's demise in Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12 may trigger this process for some of you.  So, to help you through the first stage of denial, on behalf of the Applications Technology Group, I'll officially reiterate that here:
  • Release 12 will not support the use mod_plsql
Switching to Oracle Application Framework in Release 12

If you're planning on upgrading to R12 and you currently have Release 11i customizations that depend on mod_plsql, you would be well-advised to do the following things immediately:
  1. Inform your management about this upcoming change

  2. Prepare a comprehensive inventory of all of your existing 11i mod_plsql customizations and dependencies

  3. Review R12 capabilities with your business users and stakeholders, to see if your customizations are still needed

  4. If yes, budget time in your R12 upgrade cycle for:
  • A test install of an R12 demonstration environment to support a functional review with your business users, to see if the customizations can be further weeded out by relying on native R12 functionality

  • Training yourself and your developers in the Oracle Application Framework (OAF)

  • Doing the actual conversion from mod_plsql to the OA Framework model
For obvious reasons, the Release 12 Oracle Application Framework documentation is not available publicly yet.  In the meantime, it can't hurt to review the existing OA Framework documentation for Release 11i, which will help you get a general sense of the migration process. 

We plan to release some specific technical guidance on preparing your custom development for R12 soon; watch this space for that announcement.

Related
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. 

Thursday Sep 21, 2006

OCFS2 or ASM for Apps 11i?

[March 10, 2010 Update: OCFS2 for Linux is now certified for EBS 12 application tier servers; see this article for details.]

Hmmm.  Let's see how many cryptic acronyms we can stuff into a six-word title... There's been a flurry of Oracle Cluster File System-related queries this week; must have something to do with the impending Autumnal equinox. 

Simultaneous Write Access to a Data File

When you deploy Real Application Clusters (RAC) in your Apps environment, you deploy a cluster of database servers that access datafiles on a shared storage system, like this:

RAC ASM Shared Cache Architecture:

Conventional file systems lock a file whenever it's accessed, preventing others from modifying it at the same time.  Serializing write accesses between multiple database servers undermines the very point of having a RAC cluster, so operating system vendors and various others have come up with a range of solutions.

Oracle has two technologies that support this: 
The former -- for Linux platforms -- has gone through a few iterations and is now dubbed OCFS2.  Oracle has released OCFS2 under the GNU General Public Licence (GPL).

Oracle Cluster File System or Automatic Storage Management?

Given the choice between using OCFS2 or ASM, the Applications Technology Group strongly recommends the use of Automatic Storage Management for E-Business Suite database servers.  E-Business Suite Release 11i is formally certified with Automatic Storage Management.  For an in-depth discussion of what "E-Business Suite certification" really means, see:
Supported for use with Apps Database Servers Only

Due to our focus on Release 12 and Fusion, the Applications Technology Group does not plan to perform formal certification of the E-Business Suite Release 11i with OCFS2.  The underlying OCFS2 technology has been certified for use with Oracle databases and Real Application Clusters.  So, it should work transparently with E-Business Suite databases, too.

The Applications Technology Group will support the use of OCFS2 for the E-Business Suite 11i database tier but not the application server tier.

OCFS2 is certified with a specific set of RAC versions, so Apps customers interested in using this technology must check the OCFS2 documentation to ensure that their desired Oracle database and Linux combinations are certified together.

What Does "Support" Mean?

As is the usual case for these types of "supported but not certified" configurations, you should thoroughly test OCFS2-based E-Business Suite RAC environments prior to production rollouts.

If you report any issues with this configuration, Oracle will attempt to issue a fix or workaround for OCFS2 or the E-Business Suite.  This may not be technically feasible in all cases.  If it isn't technically feasible, the Applications Technology Group may recommend that you convert your E-Business Suite RAC implementations to use Automatic Storage Management instead.

Related

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. 

Wednesday Jun 14, 2006

Using Third-Party Networking Hardware with Oracle Application Server 10g

If you recall, the E-Business Suite isn't explicitly certified with third-party networking components but is expected to work with them. 

Load-balancer with OracleAS 10g Identity Management:

If you're integrating the E-Business Suite with Oracle Application Server 10g, there's another piece that you can add to the puzzle.

Oracle Application Server 10g isn't explicitly certified with third-party networking components, either, but some testing has been performed with specific vendor products.

These tests cover load-balancers, firewalls, and SSL accelerators.  Some of the load-balancer vendors and products include F5's BIG-IP, Foundry, Citrix's NetScaler, Nortel, and Radware.  The firewall and SSL vendors include Check Point, Cisco, Sonic Wall, and Ingrian.

Remember that Oracle testing doesn't equate to certification.  It's the responsibility of the third-party vendor to certify their hardware with Oracle Application Server 10g.  Regardless of that, you might find it reassuring to know that Oracle's tried some of these combinations in the Oracle Application Server 10g labs. 

Even if your networking vendor hasn't certified their hardware explicitly Oracle Application Server (or even the E-Business Suite), it's generally expected that their products will work if they're standards-compliant.

References

Friday Jun 09, 2006

New Minimum Release 11i Techstack Standards

With the upcoming desupport of E-Business Suite Releases 11.5.1 through 11.5.6, the minimum technology stack configuration baselines that we support have been revised.

OAM Patch Wizard:

What's a "Baseline"?

Recall the key point made in my Blue Bridge of Death article:  it's impossible to test all possible combinations of Apps patches and configurations.

So, all E-Business Suite technology stack patches are regression-tested against a fixed set of standard 11i configurations and patches for each given release. 

These standard configurations are called our testing baseline.  There are different baseline configurations of technology stack patches for 11.5.1, 11.5.2, and so on.

New Minimum Technology Stack Baselines for 11.5.7 through 11.5.10

As of July, 2006, we're raising the bar for Releases 11.5.7 through 11.5.10.  This means that all new technology stack patches will be tested only against the new baselines listed here:
Procrastination and Risk

A surprising number of problems disappear if you wait long enough, although, strangely, yard work and pruning don't fall into this category. 

Like landscaping, E-Business Suite technology stack patching gets more arduous and risky the more you procrastinate. 

If your E-Business Suite technology stack doesn't meet the new baseline minimums, your risk of applying new patches to your environment goes up.  After all, those patches will not have been tested with your configuration, so it's much harder for us to guarantee that they won't have any adverse effects.

Highly recommended:  Use the new published Apps baselines to convince your management to support an upgrade to the new baseline configuration for your release as soon as possible. 

Better yet, use the Oracle Applications Manager Patch Wizard to generate a full list of recommended patches for your environment, and schedule all upgrades at the same time.

Related Articles:

Friday Jun 02, 2006

Desupport for E-Business Suite 11.5.1 through 11.5.6

The desupport notice for E-Business Suite Releases 11.5.1 through 11.5.6 has been published for about a year now.  Since the sun's at the horizon for these releases, it's worth highlighting the issue here.

July 31, 2006 is the date at which we're no longer going to release patches for Releases 11.5.1 through 11.5.6.  If you're on those releases, our recommendation is that you upgrade to 11.5.10 Consolidated Update #2.

Upgrading Other Techstack Components

An old axiom comes to mind:  "If you don't have time to do it right the first time, you definitely won't have time to do it again." 

This applies to E-Business Suite upgrades as well as life in general.  If you're going to upgrade, you might as well consider the upcoming Discoverer 4i, Login Server 3.0.9, Portal 3.0.9, and Oracle Internet Directory 3.0.1 desupport dates, too. 

Support Terminology Confusion

If you read the official desupport notice below, you'll see references to "Error Correction Support" (ECS) and "Extended Support" (ES). 

If you read Oracle's Lifetime Support website, you'll see references to "Premier Support," "Extended Support," and "Sustaining Support."

I've had a number of well-meaning Support managers try to explain how these concepts map to each other.  Unfortunately, even after multiple rounds I confess that this remains largely impenetrable to me; I just can't seem to digest marketing terms devoid of semantic content.  No matter, there are (thankfully) other people whose jobs it is to explain this. 

If you really desire an explanation, it would be worth asking your Oracle Account Manager to decrypt these terms for you in the context of your current contract.

The Pragmatic View:  New Patches

From a pragmatic perspective, what you need to know is that after July 31, 2006:
  • All E-Business Suite patches will be tested only with 11.5.7 and higher
  • You won't be able to request patch backports to 11.5.1 through 11.5.6
From a systems and risk management perspective, your best and safest bet is to upgrade to the 11.5.10 Consolidated Update #2 as soon as you possibly can.

Reference:

Thursday May 18, 2006

Certification and Support for Third-Party Products

One of the most frequently asked questions I answer daily is this:  "Is my third-party product __________ certified with the E-Business Suite?"

The short answer is, "No, it's not."  But wait...don't leave just yet!  That doesn't mean that you can't use these products with the E-Business Suite, it just means that we haven't certified them ourselves.

To understand how this affects you, we need to make a distinction between certification and support for third-party products in E-Business Suite environments.

How Are Technology Stack Components Certified?

From an E-Business Suite standpoint, our certification process looks like this:

Phase 1:  Applications Technology Group Testing
  • Creation of formal installation documentation and patches
  • Installation into one or more Linux-based technology stack testbed environments, testing upgrade paths from previous older configurations, and compatibility testing with other architectural deployment options such as load-balancers and firewalls
  • Manual and automated regression testing of core technology stack functions and a subset of key Apps business flows
Phase 2:  E-Business Suite Division-Wide Testing
  • Installation into one or more Linux-based testbed environments shared by all Applications products
  • Testing by one or more Applications product teams, including manual and automated regression tests of key product functionality
Phase 3:  Platform-Specific Testing
  • Installation into testbed environments running on other platforms, such as HP-UX, Sun Solaris, IBM AIX, and Microsoft Windows
  • Manual and automated regression tests of key product functionality
Phase 4:  Early Adopter Program Testing

For highly-complex or potentially disruptive new technologies, we sometimes include this final phase:
Once all of the phases are passed successfully, we release the associated documentation and patches and the configuration is considered Generally Available and certified.

We Support More Than We Certify

The number of possible configurations and third-party components far exceeds the number of things that we certify through the process above. 

Our general policy is that our generic documentation should apply to all third-party components, even if we haven't certified those products specifically. 

For example:

We support the use of demilitarized zones and firewalls with the E-Business Suite. 

It isn't possible for us to put every single commercial firewall through the certification process above, so we've developed generic patches and documentation for this configuration.  These generic patches and documentation should apply to all firewall vendors' products.  Regardless of what firewall you choose, the E-Business Suite should work the same way. 

So, all firewalls are supported with the E-Business Suite, provided that they meet the minimum functional requirements listed in our DMZ documentation.

What Does "Support" Really Mean?

If you encounter a problem with a third-party component, the odds are that we won't have a setup that's identical to yours.  Here's what you can expect when logging a Service Request for a third-party component in your E-Business Suite environment:
  1. Oracle Support will check that you've followed the standard configuration documentation in setting up your environment.

  2. Oracle Support may attempt to replicate your issue in a generic environment that most-closely resembles your environment.
  3. Oracle Support may work with you to see if the problem goes away when the third-party component is temporarily removed or deactivated.
  4. If the problem exists in a generic environment or when the third-party component is temporarily deactivated, then Oracle Support will attempt to identify a patch or workaround for the issue.  A bug may be logged to request a new patch.
  5. If the problem disappears when the third-party product is removed, then it suggests that the third-party product is the source of the issue.  If so, Oracle Support may suggest that you contact the third-party vendor for their help in debugging their product.
Third-Party Hardware and Software

The processes and policies that I've described above apply to nearly all third-party products in E-Business Suite environments.   This includes software (like Citrix) and hardware (like F5 or Cisco load-balancers) alike.

Escalate As Needed

A major part of my job is working directly with customers, and I know that you can sometimes find these integration issues frustrating to work through. 

Remember:  we won't turn your Support Requests away -- we'll do our best to reproduce and isolate the issue in a generic environment. 

If you get stuck or feel that your Service Request is going around in circles, don't hesitate to contact an Oracle Support Duty Manager and ask for your Service Request to be escalated.  Sometimes, trickier architecture issues may require direct help from us in the Applications Technology Group; Support will log a bug in those cases to get us engaged.

Reference:

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