Wednesday Mar 18, 2015

Compatibililty Mode for Oracle Utilities Products

For customers wishing to run Oracle Utilities products on Internet Explorer versions greater than Internet Explorer 8, you must use compatibility mode to support the vastly different levels of standards represented by the different versions of Internet Explorer.

There are a number of ways to do this:

  • In IE9 and IE10 you can open the site and then click the Compatibility Mode icon next to the URL to add the sites URL to the compatibility list. Refer to the article from Microsoft on this.
  • In IE11 you can access the Compatibility Mode Settings from the Tools menu and add the URL directly. Refer to this help page for details.
  • Customers using Microsoft's Enterprise utilities such as IEAK and others such as Group Policy, can prepopulate this list using Enterprise Mode. Refer to this document for details of this process.

Use of compatibility mode ensures a wide range of Internet Explorer versions can work with Oracle Utilities applications allowing customers to migrate their sites to newer versions as necessary.

This article is also available from My Oracle Support at  Running Oracle Utilities Applications in Internet Explorer Compatibility Mode (Doc Id: 1997802.1)

Tuesday Mar 17, 2015

The Benefits of Information Lifecycle Management (ILM)

In the 4.2.0.2.0 release of Oracle Utilities Application Framework, a new ILM based data management solution was implemented to allow customers to manage the increasing cost of storage for their Oracle Utilities products. It is being progressively rolled out across each of the Oracle Utilities products over the next year. With utilities across the world having to deal with larger and larger data volumes over time, the cost of storing that data and ensuring appropriate access by the business to that data become key concerns. ILM offers tools to address that.

The benefits of using this facility are as follows:

  • ILM is about designing the lifecycle of your transaction data in a storage point of view. The first step of implementing the approach is for the business to define the data retention period for individual objects within the product itself. This defines the active period of the data, in days, where the business wants active update actions on the data. One of the major issues in data storage is the ability for the business and IT to commit to communicate when the business needs active access to the data. This addresses this by making it explicit in configuration.
  • When a transactional object, that is ILM enabled, is created, the data is then automatically tracked internally using ILM specific fields. This defines when the date to consider the data active from (ILM_DT) and a flag indicating the ILM status of the record (ILM_ARCH_SW) in terms of the business. An easy way to remember this is that the date set for ILM is basically a ticking clock. As soon as the record is created, the ILM clock starts. It tells the product when to consider the before mentioned retention period from in respect to that individual object.
  • As the ILM data is part of the object itself, it can be manipulated by any custom business process if desired. For example, say some customer transaction data was due to expire but the utility receives a complaint at the last minute on that data. It is possible to create a customization to delay the individual records, to keep them active, till the complaint is resolved. This basically means the ILM data can be manipulated by a business process, if desired.
  • A dedicated background process, known as an ILM Crawler, assesses data when it expires to make sure nothing is outstanding on the object and indicates this state using an ILM flag. This tells the IT group that the individual data is now considered less-active by the business so the IT group can now manage the storage using Oracle's ILM facilities.
  • The ILM flag effectively protects the data from any storage based solutions as long as it is needed by the business. The business can defer the lifecycle of the individual objects as needed and internal processes affecting the flag will ensure the data is protected if it is still active.
  • The IT Group is free to reuse their storage solutions capabilities or use the ILM features within the database such as partitioning, compression and now in Oracle Database 12c, Automatic Data Optimization.
  • The cost savings in terms of storage can be realized in a number of ways:
    • Partitioning - Product tables can be partitioning along data retention times to realize cost savings using tiered storage solutions. For example, placing less active data on lower cost storage saves costs. Partitioning also means you can use Transportable Tablespaces to quickly remove data that is dormant (not needed by the business at all). Transportable tablespaces are also useful for restoring data.
    • Compression - Oracle offers a full range of compression options from basic compression built into the database, the optional Advanced Compression option which offers flexible row level compression optimized for OLTP systems to the high performance HCC compression offered by Oracle ExaData,
    • Automatic Data Optimization (ADO)/Heat Map - This allows real time tracking of data usage regardless of the state or business activity of the data. This feature coupled with Partitioning and/or Compression allows sites to realize additional savings regardless of the state data as it is based upon real usage rather than expected usage. For example, customers may want to keep two years of data as active on the database. In reality, they may not update the data after 1 year, ADO determines the last date/time the record was updated and can compress the data automatically if it detects that it has not been updated for a while, which realizes more savings.
  • The tools for the technical definition of ILM are available from the command line, Oracle Database Control, Oracle EM Express, ILM Assistant or Oracle Enterprise Manager. These are tools that most DBA's and technical people will already be familiar with so skills can be reused in this respect. 

The ILM based data management solution for Oracle Utilities, a powerful and flexible solution that marries the business needs for data against the storage costs associated with that retention. It allow sites to realize costs savings whilst retaining appropriate business access to data.

For more information about ILM refer to the ILM Planning Guide (Doc Id: 1682436.1) available from My Oracle Support.

Friday Feb 13, 2015

Multiple Utilities Pack versions on Self Update

Customers of the Oracle Application Management Pack for Oracle Utilities will notice that there are multiple entries for the pack within Self Update. Let me clarify:

  • The plugin, marked below, named the Oracle Utilities Application is the correct pack to install and use. This is the new addon version of the pack with the latest functionality.
  • The plugin named the Oracle Utilities is the original version of the pack. Whilst the version number is higher than the new pack, it is only listed for customers of that version to have access to the software.

Self Update

In the future, the Oracle Utilities entries will disappear and only the Oracle Utilities Application entries will remain.

In short, use the Oracle Utilities Application plugin not the Oracle Utilities plugins.

Tuesday Feb 03, 2015

Installing the Oracle Application Management Pack for Oracle Utilities

The Application Management Pack for Oracle Utilities is a plugin to the Oracle Enterprise Manager product to allow management, patching and monitoring of Oracle Utilities applications.

To install the pack you use the following technique:

  • If you are a customer who has installed the previous versions of the pack, all targets from that pack must be removed and the pack deinstalled prior to using the new version (12.1.0.1.0). This is because the new pack is a completely different set of software and it is recommended to remove old versions. This will only occur in this release as future releases will automatically upgrade.
  • Navigate to the Setup --> Extensibility --> Plugins and search for the "Oracle Utilities Application" plugin. Do not use the "Oracle Utilities" plugin as that is the previous release.
  • Press "Download" to download the plugin to your repository.
  • Press "Apply" to apply the pack to your OMS console instance. This will install the server components of the pack.
  • From the Plugin Manager (you will be directed there), you can deploy the pack to your OMS using Deploy On Management Servers.  This will start the deployment process.
  • After deployment to the server, you then can also deploy the plug in on any licensed Oracle Utilities Servers using the Deploy On Management Agents. Select the servers from the list.
  • You now have installed the Pack.
  • You should first, discover and promote the Oracle WebLogic targets for the domain, clusters (if used), servers and application deployments for the Oracle Utilities products.
  • Run the discover against the Oracle Utilities servers to discover the pack specific targets.

At this point you can create groups on the targets or even dashboards.

Monday Feb 02, 2015

Oracle Application Testing Suite for Oracle Utilities available

The initial release of the Oracle Application Testing Suite for Oracle Utilities is now available from eDelivery. This product is designed to help automate functional, regression and load testing for Oracle Utilities Application Framework based products.

The product features a set of reusable components for Oracle Utilities Application Framework based products that can be used within Oracle Application Testing Suite (Functional and Load Testing) to quickly build and deploy automated test scripts. The approach of using this product are as follows:

  • The components are prebuilt by the product and QA teams for the Oracle Utilities products. They are the components the product teams use to test the product internally. The contain all the interfacing, verifications, parameters and are already synchronized with the version of the product they support. This reduces the need for testing component development.
  • If you wish to customize a component then Oracle Application Testing Suite now includes Flow Builder which allows for components to be built or customized (they must be copied first).
  • The Oracle Flow Builder part of the Oracle Application Testing Suite can be used to assemble the components into flows that match your individual business processes. This is as simple as drag and drop to put the component in the right location within the flow. Data is automatically passed between components, though the flow can be altered to cover additional data or additional verifications (for example, you can create a verification component to email you the verification report).
  • Once a flow has been built, test data can be attached to complete the flow script. This can be manually entered in the UI or imported via a file such as a spreadsheet.
  • The Openscript can then be generated without the need to learn coding. The code is automatically generated for you.
  • You can execute the script in the OpenScript development component of the Oracle Application Testing Suite or the Test Manager product.
  • The script can also be loaded into the Load Testing component of the Oracle Application Testing Suite if you wish to perform performance testing. The Load Testing component requires that the Functional Testing component is installed as well (as the source of the test scripts).

This approach uses components to a great advantage over other testing approaches:

  •  The components are prebuilt and tested internally by our product teams for our own product QA. You are getting access to those same components.
  • As the components are certified for each release of the products then upgrading is as simple as regenerating your test flows. Oracle Application Testing Suite includes management tools to assist with that function. You simply install the new version of the components, transfer your flows over and regenerate them to use the new version of the component.
  • The Oracle Application Testing Suite for Oracle Utilities will include components for each product and version it supports. It is possible to create cross product flows easily if you want.
  • The Oracle Application Testing Suite for Oracle Utilities is licensed the same way as Oracle Application Testing Suite. It is licensed on Testing users, regardless of the number of targets tested against or numbers of products installed. The Load Testing component is licensed on number of simulated users.

The initial version of this testing product only supports Oracle Utilities Mobile Workforce Management V2.2+ and Oracle Real Time Scheduler V2.2+. Other products will be added over the next few releases.

Over the next few weeks, additional material will be published about this product including best practices.

Updated Application Management Pack for Oracle Utilities available

The Application Management Pack for Oracle Utilities has been updated with new and updated functionality. The whitepaper Oracle Application Management Pack for Oracle Utilities Overview  (Doc Id: 1474435.1) available from My Oracle Support has been updated with the latest information including an overview of how to upgrade from previous versions.

The new and changed functionality is as follows:

  • The pack is a complete rewrite of the original pack using a lower level API to Oracle Enterprise Manager. This means deep integration to features in Oracle Enterprise Manager and integrations to other Oracle Enterprise Manager plugins.
  • There is a completely new target model which recognizes individual components of the architecture. In past release of the pack, there was a single target type (Oracle Utilities Environment) which did not really reflect the diverse architectures that customers and partners implemented. In this new release, the Web Application, Service Application, Batch Application and Software locations are all detected and registered individually. A composite target called "Oracle Utilities Environment" now is a collection of these other targets.
  • This new target model and the adoption of the Oracle Enterprise Manager security model allows greater flexibility in security. It is now possible to authorize at an individual target level as well as a task level (or combinations) with multiple levels of permissions. This allows customers and partners to model their IT organizational permissions within the target model.
  • The new pack includes most of the features of the last pack with new interfaces using standard menus and each to use quick buttons. A few features have been removed to be added in future releases:
    • The Assessment feature has been removed and will be replaced with Compliance Frameworks in a future release.
    • The Log Viewing/Configuration File Viewing feature has been removed and will be replaced with the OEM Log Query feature in a future release.
    • IBM WebSphere support has been temporarily removed and will be added in a patch release in the future.
  • The new pack features over 100+ product specific metrics tracking online performance and real time batch performance. This is on top of the already 200+ metrics available from the WebLogic instance targets.
  • The new pack uses the Oracle WebLogic targets within Oracle Enterprise Manager. This allows direct seemless migration from Oracle Utilities targets to Oracle WebLogic targets. This means if you have the Oracle WebLogic packs installed then you can use advanced facilities directly from Oracle Utilities targets.
  • Online performance can be tracked from the new Oracle Utilities Web Service target type. It is also possible to set transactions onto a watch list.
  • Batch Threadpools and threads can be managed from Oracle Utilities Batch Server targets across the batch cluster. This also gives you detailed metrics about performance of individual active threads.

Over the next few weeks, look for more information in this blog about individual features. The new pack is denoted as version 12.1.0.1.0 to reflect the new addon status of the pack and is available from Oracle Enterprise Manager Self Update.

Note: Customers of the previous versions of the pack MUST follow the instructions in the Installation Guides for the new pack to upgrade. The old pack MUST be removed before the new pack can be used.

Note: This pack is tightly integrated with Oracle WebLogic targets in the base Oracle Enterprise Manager. BEFORE discovering any Oracle Utilities targets ensure all Oracle WebLogic targets for the Oracle Utilities domain are registered.

Thursday Jan 29, 2015

Defining Cache nodes with BatchEdit

In Oracle Utilities Application Framework V4.2.0.2.0, a new batch command line based wizard, named Batch Edit (or bedit for short), was introduced to simplify the configuration of the batch architecture. It allows for clusters, threadpools and submitters to be defined quickly using predefined templates.

A new article has been made available which focuses on the implementation of cache nodes within the cluster. Cache nodes are extremely useful for clusters where you have lots of  threadpools and/or threads executing by optimizing the network traffic between individual nodes. A cache node does not execute threads, it is only there to act as a conduit for all the threads it is linked with. Think of it as a supervisor process that concentrates the traffic leaving the threads to do their work whilst keeping a "eye" on them on behalf of the cluster.

Typically one or more cache nodes should exist per physical node in your cluster to act as a concentrator.

The instructions on how to do this are now documented in FW 2.4.0.2 Cache Nodes Configuration using BatchEdit utility (Doc ID 1965395.1) available from My Oracle Support.

Wednesday Jan 07, 2015

Updated Native Install/Clustering Whitepapers

The Implementing Oracle ExaLogic and/or Oracle WebLogic Clustering  (Doc Id: 1334558.1) and Native Installation Oracle Utilities Application Framework (Doc Id: 1544969.1) have been updated with the latest information and advice from customers and partners.

The updates include:

  • Configuring additional parameters for UTF8 sites
  • Compatibility settings for various versions of Oracle WebLogic
  • Java Flight Control configuration for Java 7.

The whitepapers are available from My Oracle Support.

Wednesday Dec 24, 2014

A prosperous New Year

It has been a very very 2014 and 2015 is shaping up to be a bumper year for a number of the products we deliver. I have no updated this blog as much as I wanted the last few months for various reasons, mainly I have been very busy getting new versions and new products out of the door. More about that in the new year.

2015 is shaping up to be a stellar year for the products I manage personally with announcements and exciting new features I am sure customers and partners will embrace.

I wish all my readers, our partners and our customers a happy holidays and a prosperous new year.

Tuesday Oct 21, 2014

Using ILM from Oracle Enterprise Manager

If you are upgrading to Oracle Database 12c for an Oracle Utilities Application Framework based product then you can use Oracle Enterprise Manager to manage your Information Lifecycle Management based data management solution.

To use it you simply install Oracle Enterprise Manager and then register the 12c database instance (PDB and non-PDB are supported) and then when selecting the database target use the Information Lifecycle Management menu option from the Administration --> Storage menus. For example:

ILM Menu option from OEM

This means that you can use Oracle Enterprise Manager as a viable alternative to ILM Assistant for Oracle Database 12c targets.

Wednesday Oct 08, 2014

Presentations Available from OpenWorld

Last week I conducted three sessions on a number of topics. The presentations used in those sessions are now available from the Sessions --> Content Catalog on the Oracle OpenWorld site.Just search for my name (Anthony Shorten) to download the presentations in PDF format.

The sessions available are:

I know a few customers and partners came to me after each session to get a copy of the presentation. They are now available as I pointed out.

Objects versus Insert Statements

A few times I have encountered issues and problems at customers that can defy explanation. After investigation I usually find out the cause and in some cases it is the way the implementation has created the data in the first place. In the majority of these types of issues, I find that interfaces or even people are using direct INSERT statements against the product database to create data. This is inherently dangerous for a number of reasons and therefore strongly discouraged:

  • Direct INSERT statements frequently miss important data in the object.
  • Direct INSERT statements ignore any product business logic which means the data is potentially inconsistent from the definition of the object. This can cause the product processing to misinterpret the data and may even cause data corruption in extreme cases.
  • Direct INSERT statements ignore product managed referential integrity. We do not use the referential integrity of the data within the database as we allow extensions to augment the behavior of the object and determine the optimal point of checking data integrity. The object has inbuilt referential integrity rules.

To avoid this situation we highly recommend that you only insert data through the object and NOT use direct INSERT statements. The interface to the object can be direct within the product or via Web Services (either directly or through your favorite middleware) to create data from an external source. Running through the object interface ensures not only that the data is complete but takes into account product referential integrity and conforms to the business rules that you configure for your data.

Take care and create data through the objects.

Wednesday Sep 24, 2014

ConfigTools Best Practices Whitepaper

The ConfigTools facility allows customers to implement customizations to Oracle Utilities products. A Best Practices whitepaper has been released to provide implementers additional advice and techniques for this facility to use it effectively.

The whitepaper covers such topics as:

  • Overview of each ConfigTools objects such as Business Objects, Business Services, Query Zones, UI Maps, Data Areas etc including additional advice and techniques for efficient use.
  • Using Fields, Managed Content, Standard components, Lookups and Extended Lookups for building flexible solutions
  • Developing Multi-lingual solutions
  • etc

The whitepaper is available at My Oracle Support from ConfigTool Best Practices (Doc Id: 1929040.1)

Friday Sep 12, 2014

Oracle OpenWorld Sessions - Oracle Utilities

I will be presenting three sessions at Oracle Openworld this year. Feel free to come to the sessions if you are attending and have a chat with me on your implementations and general feedback.

The three sessions I am conducting are:

I will also be around the Oracle Utilities area for general discussions with customers and also be appearing at demo grounds.

See you there.

Using Oracle's MAA with Oracle Utilities Products

The Oracle Utilities family of products use Oracle standard technology such as the Oracle Database and Oracle Fusion Middleware (a.k.a. Oracle WebLogic). As we use those technologies the features and techniques for those products in Oracle's Maximum Availability Architecture can be applied to Oracle Utilities products.

Oracle Maximum Availability Architecture is a set of processes and guidelines for implementing high availability solutions. For Oracle Utilities products the following MAA solutions are applicable:

Other MAA documents are also applicable for Oracle Exadata, Oracle ExaLogic and Oracle VM. The guidelines and processes can be used to design and configure specific MAA solutions for Oracle Utilities products at your site.

About

Anthony Shorten
Hi, I am Anthony Shorten, I am the Principal Product Manager for the Oracle Utilities Application Framework. I have been working for over 20+ years in the IT Business and am the author of many a technical whitepaper, manual and training material. I am one of the product managers working on strategy and designs for the next generation of the technology used for the Utilities and Tax markets. This blog is provided to announce new features, document tips and techniques and also outline features of the Oracle Utilities Application Framework based products. These products include Oracle Utilities Customer Care and Billing, Oracle Utilities Meter Data Management, Oracle Utilities Mobile Workforce Management and Oracle Public Service Revenue Management. I am the product manager for the Management Pack for these products.

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