Friday Jun 05, 2015

Oracle Utilities SDK has been released

The Oracle Utilities SDK V4. has been release and is available from My Oracle Support for download.This release is the latest SDK for extending Oracle Utilities Application Framework V4.3.x based applications.

The download is available from My Oracle Support as Patch 21180512.

Wednesday May 27, 2015

Keystore and Testing Suite Whitepapers available

Two new whitepapers are available for Oracle Utilities Application Framework based products from My Oracle Support.

The new whitepapers are:

  • Oracle Application Testing Suite for Oracle Utilities - Overview (Doc Id: 2014163.1) - This is an overview of the Functional and Load Testing accelerator released for Oracle Utilities applications that uses Oracle Application Testing Suite to accelerate functional, regression, load and performance testing. This whitepaper outlines the features of the accelerator, the role Oracle Application Testing Suite pays in the testing process and a frequently asked questions section to clarify the accelerator.
  • Oracle Utilities Application Framework - Keystore Configuration (Doc Id: 2014161.1) - This is an overview of keystore management for Oracle Utilities Application Framework based products. The keystore is used for advanced security of transport and for inbuilt application encryption.

Wednesday May 13, 2015

Using JVMD with Oracle Utilities Applications - Part 1 Online

One of the major advantages of the Oracle WebLogic Server Management Pack Enterprise Edition is the JVM Diagnostics (JVMD) engine. This tool allows java internals from JVM's to be sent to Oracle Enterprise Manager for analysis. It has a lot of advantages:

  • It provides class level diagnostics for all classes in executed including base and custom classes.
  • It provided end to end diagnostics when the engine is deployed with the application and the database.
  • It has minimal impact on performance as the engine uses the JVM monitoring API's in memory.

It is possible to use JVMD with Oracle Utilities Application Framework in a number of ways:

  • It is possible to deploy JVMD agent to the WebLogic servers used for the Online and Web Services tiers.
  • It is possible to deploy the JVMD database agent to the database to capture the code execution against the database.
  • It is possible to use standalone JVMD agent within threadpoolworkers to gather diagnostics for batch.

This article will outline the general process for deploying JVMD on the online servers. The other techniques will be discussed in future articles.

The architecture of JVMD can be summarized as follows:

  • JVMD Manager - A co-ordination and collection node that collates JVM diagnostic information sent by JVM Agents attached to JVM's. This manager exposes the information to Oracle Enterprise Manager. The Manager can be installed within an OMS, standalone and multiple JVM Managers are supported to support large networks of agents.
  • JVMD Agents - A small java based agent that is deployed within a JVM it is monitoring that collects Java diagnostics (primarily from memory, to minimize performance impact of collection) and sends them to a JVMD Manager. Each agent is hardwired to a particular JVMD Manager. JVMD Agents can be deployed to J2EE containers, standalone JVM's and the database.

The diagram below illustrates this architecture:

Before starting the process, ensure that the Oracle WebLogic Server Management Pack Enterprise Edition is licensed and installed (manually or via Self Update).

  • Install the JVMD Manager - Typically the JVMD Manager is deployed to the OMS Server but can also be deployed standalone and/or multiple JVMD managers can be installed for larger numbers of targets to manage. There is a video from Oracle Learning Library on Youtube explaining how to do this step.
  • Deploy the JVMD Agent to the Oracle WebLogic Server housing the product online using the Middleware Management function within Oracle Enterprise Manager using the Application Performance Management option. This will add the Agent to your installation.  There is a process for deploying the agent automatically to a running WebLogic Server. Again there is a Youtube video describing this technique.

One the agent is installed the JVMD agent will start sending diagnostics of java code running within that JVM to Oracle Enterprise Manager.

Customers using the Oracle Application Management Pack for Oracle Utilities will see the JVMD link from their Oracle Utilities targets (it is also available from the Oracle WebLogic targets). For example:

JVMD accessible from Oracle Utilities Targets

Once selecting the Java Virtual Machine Pool for the server you will get access to the full diagnostics information.

JVMD Home Page

This include historical analysis

JVMD Historical Analysis

JVMD is a useful tool for identifying bottlenecks in code and in the architecture. In future articles I will add database diagnostics and batch diagnostics to get a full end to end picture of diagnostics.

Monday May 04, 2015

theshortenspot on twitter!

If you want to be kept up to date on when a new article is published I recommend that you use subscribe to the twitter account for theshortenspot. Anytime a new article is posted a new tweet is also added to announce the article (with links to the article).

The twitter account is Use your favorite twitter client (or just the browser) to view the tweets...

Secure By Default in FW

One of the new features of Oracle Utilities Application Framework V4. for Oracle WebLogic customers is that new installation of the product will be using HTTPS rather than HTTP by default. In past releases it was always possible to use HTTPS instead of HTTP but the decision was an opt-in decision. In this release since the use of HTTPS is provided as the default option, the decision is an opt-out if you do not want to use the HTTPS installation option.

Customers upgrading will not be affected as the configuration decision is retained across upgrades.

If you do use the default HTTPS setup you should be aware of the following:

  • By default, a demonstration development certification is provided with Oracle WebLogic. This certificate is limited in its scope and is only provided to complete a basic HTTPS configuration within Oracle WebLogic. The certificate will be detected as not valid by your browser. This is not a bug but intentional behavior as Oracle cannot issue production quality certificates in Oracle WebLogic as part of its base installation. If the default certificate is used, developers can accept the certificate according their browser preferences (Mozilla Firefox will ask you to add an exception and Internet Explorer will ask you to confirm that is ok to proceed). If you proceed the browser will indicate you are using a digital certificate visually on the address bar of the browser (this will vary from browser to browser).
  • It is HIGHLY recommended that customers who want to use the HTTPS functionality obtain a valid digital certificate from a valid certificate issuing authority and implement the certificate as per the Installation Guide or WebLogic documentation.
  • To find out the valid Certificate issuing authorities supported by the java version you have use the following command:
keytool -list -v -keystore $JAVA_HOME/jre/lib/security/cacerts

The bottom line is that if you want to use HTTPS then get a valid certificate for your organization, otherwise you can opt-out and use HTTP if that is valid for your site. Typically, most installations are expected to use HTTP for non-production and HTTPS for production to minimize costs.

Updated Whats New in FW4 whitepaper

The What's New in FW4 whitepaper is a whitepaper that summarizes all the major changes from Oracle Utilities Application Framework V2.2 to Oracle Utilities Application Framework V4.

It has been updated for new functionality and changes implemented in Oracle Utilities Application Framework V4.

It is available from My Oracle Support at What's New In Oracle Utilities Application Framework V4 (Doc Id: 1177265.1).

Note: In earlier versions of Oracle Utilities Application Framework V4 some features have been introduced that have been replaced with newer features in Oracle Utilities Application Framework V4. In this case, the entries in the What's New have been altered to remove these replaced features. Refer to the release notes for the version of Oracle Utilities Application Framework for details of this replaced functionality.

Thursday Apr 30, 2015

New User Interface - Welcome to Alta

Oracle is progressively moving their products to a new exciting user experience called Oracle Alta.This new interface style optimizes the user interface for both desktop and mobile platforms with a unified user experience. The features of the new interface are too numerous to mention but here is a summary of the Oracle Alta implementation in Oracle Utilities Application Framework V4. and above:

  • The user interface is clearer and with a more modern look and feel. An example is shown below:

Example Alta Screen

  • The implementation of Oracle Alta for Oracle Utilities uses the Oracle Jet version of the Alta interface which was integrated into the Oracle Utilities Application Framework rendering engine.
  • For easier adoption, the existing product screens have been converted to Alta with as small amount of changes as possible. This means training for adoption is minimized and helps existing customers adopt the new user interface quicker. Over subsequent releases new user experiences will be added to existing screens or new screens to take full advantage of the user experience.
  • There are a few structural changes on the screens to improve the user experience as part of the Alta adoption:
    • The fly-out menu on left in past releases has been replaced with a new menu toolbar. The buttons that appear on the toolbar will depend on the services that user is connected to on their security definition. An example of the toolbar is shown below:

Alta Toolbar

    • User preferences and common user functions are now on a menu attached to the user. For example:

Example User menu

    • Portals and Zones now have page actions attached in the top right of their user interfaces (the example at the top of this article illustrates an example of this behavior). The buttons displayed are dynamic will vary from zone to zone, portal to portal and user to user depending on the available functions and the users security authorizations.
    • In query portals, searches can now be saved as named. In past releases, it was possible to only change the default view for an alternative. It is now possible to alter the criteria, column sequencing, column sorting and column view for a query view and save that as a named search to jump to. It is possible to have multiple different views of the same query zone available from a context menu. The end user can build new views, alter existing views or remove views as necessary. All of this functionality is security controlled to allow sites to define what individual users can and cannot do. Also, views can be inherited from template users in line with bookmarks, favorites etc. An example of the saved view context menu is shown below:

Example Search View context menu

    • Menu's have changed. In the past the menu item supported the Search action (the default action) or "+" to add a new record. In Alta, these are now separate submenu's. For example:

Example menu

    • Page titles have been moved to the top of zones to improve usability. The example at the top of this article illustrates this point. The User page title used to be above zone in the middle, now it is up the top left of the portal or zone.
    • Bookmarking has been introduced. This is akin to browser bookmarking where the page and the context for that page are stored with the bookmark for quick traversal. The Bookmark button will appear on pages that can be bookmarked.
  • The new user interface allows Oracle Utilities products to support a wide range of browsers and client platforms including mobile platforms. Refer to the Installation Guides for each product to find the browsers and client platforms supported at the time of release.

This article is just a summary of the user interface changes. There will other articles in the future to cover user interface aspects, and other enhancements, in more detail.

Technical Best Practices and Batch Best Practices updated for OUAF

The Technical best Practices and Batch Best Practices whitepapers have been updated with new and changed advice for Oracle Utilities Application Framework V4. Advice for previous versions of Oracle Utilities Application Framework have been included as well.

The whitepapers are available from My Oracle Support at the following document ids:

Technical Best Practices for Oracle Utilities Application Framework Based Products (Doc Id: 560367.1)
Batch Best Practices for Oracle Utilities Application Framework based products (Doc Id: 836362.1)

Wednesday Apr 29, 2015

OUAF and CCB 2.5 has been released

Oracle Utilities is pleased to announce the general availability of Oracle Utilities Customer Care And Billing V2.5 with the new Oracle Utilities Application Framework V4. This new release features the following:

  • New Look and Feel - The user experience has been upgraded to support the new Oracle Alta Look and Feel which is being progressively implemented across Oracle products. This release allows for better visibility with new useability features such as bookmarking, named query views as well as a cleaner user interface.
  • Support for different browsers - Oracle Utilities Customer Care And Billing 2.5 and Oracle Utilities Application Framework V4. now supports Microsoft Internet Explorer in native mode (compatibility mode is no longer required) and now supports Mozilla Firefox. Other browsers will be added in service packs.
  • 100 % Java implementation -  Oracle Utilities Customer Care And Billing 2.5 is now 100% java. Oracle Utilities Application Framework V4. has removed support for COBOL based extensions. This results in a simpler implementations with overall lower memory requirements. 
  • Optimized for latest Oracle technology - Oracle Utilities Application Framework has been optimized for use with Oracle Database 12c and Oracle WebLogic 12.1.3 and above.
  • New Graph engine - A new engine to generate graphs has been introduced that is backward compatible with existing graphs but now offers additional features to enhance the user experience and display data in a more flexible way. This also removes the necessity for Flash integration for graphs.
  • ConfigLab/Archiving Engine has been removed - The ConfigLab functionality has been removed from the product as the Configuration Migration Assistant, introduced in the past release, provides an alternative. The inbuilt Archiving engine has been removed from the product as the ILM based solution, introduced in Oracle Utilities Customer Care And Billing, provides a viable, more powerful and more flexible alternative.
  • XAI menu items migration - With the announced deprecation of XML Application Integration (XAI), components retained for future releases have been moved to a new External Message menu and renamed accordingly. XAI Servlet is provided in maintenance mode, with all potential enhancements frozen, in this release to allow customers to migrate to Inbound Web Services and other mechanisms accordingly. 
  • New platform versions supported - New platforms and versions have been added to this release to allow for maximum supportability and performance.

This information is available with more information in the release notes provided with the software download. The software is available for download on Oracle Software Delivery Cloud today. In the coming weeks a number of whitepapers will be release outlining the new features as well as a set of articles highlighting new features.

Monday Apr 13, 2015

Updated Technical Best Practices

A minor update has been added to the Technical Best Practices in response to some customer feedback. There are some instructions on how to build a data model for data modelling tools such as SQL Developer Data Modeler and Enterprise Manager's Data Masking and Subsetting Pack (formerly known as Test Data Management Pack).

The SQL to build the model has been updated to include some additional constraints available in OUAF 4.2 and above.

Customers intending to build the data model using this technique should refer to the updated instructions in Technical Best Practices for Oracle Utilities Application Framework Based Products (Doc Id: 560367.1) available from My Oracle Support.

Tuesday Mar 31, 2015

Oracle Utilities Customer Self Service (CSS)

In past releases of Oracle Utilities Customer Care And Billing, a sample Web Self Service (WSS) set of code was shipped for customers and partners to build their own Web Self Service applications.

The WSS sample code has been removed from the Oracle Utilities Customer Care And Billing product in Version and above.

It is highly recommended that customers using WSS consider migrating to Oracle Utilities Customer Self Service for a fully integrated self service solution.

The Oracle Utilities Customer Self Service has superior functionality with the following advantages:

For more information about the features of Oracle Utilities Customer Self Service refer to the Oracle Utilities Customer Self Service brochure.

Friday Mar 20, 2015

Using OEM System Targets with Oracle Utilities Products

One of the common requirements of an IT group is to rack the availability of a system. A system is the total end to end architecture for a particular product. All of the components need to be tracked to truly determine whether the system is available or not.

Within Oracle Enterprise Manager it is possible to track each component individually and is also possible to create a definition which groups the targets in an architecture together with some availability rules. This is known as a Generic System target within Oracle Enterprise Manager. Using the Oracle Application Management Pack for Oracle Utilities in combination with other targets it is possible to define such a target to track the overall availability of the Oracle Utilities product.

Here is how you can set it up. Note: The example below uses Oracle Utilities Customer Care And Billing as an example, this technique applies to any Oracle Utilities product supported by the Oracle Application Management Pack for Oracle Utilities.

  • Logon to Oracle Enterprise Manager using an appropriate administration user.
  • Navigate to the Setup --> Add Target --> Generic System menu option to initiate the maintenance of the Generic System target. For example:

Setup --> Add Target --> Generic System

  • Fill in the appropriate settings for your Generic System.
    • Name the system appropriately for your site.
    • Add comments which are useful for other administrators to understand the target. This might sound trivial but some comments can help other administrators understand the system represented by this target
    • The Privilege Propogating System allows administrators to grant priviledges to other administrators in a manner in which new administrators get the same privileges as its member targets. In other words, granting a privilege to a system target may grant the same privileges to the member targets, if Privilege Propogating System is enabled.
    • Time Zone is set for the target just like any other target for scheduling etc..
    • System Properties allows you to add additional tagging information.
Generic System Information
  • Select the targets to be added to the System definition. At a minimum consider the following:
    • Add the Oracle Utilities Batch Server, Oracle Utilities Web Application and Oracle Utilities Web Services Application to the Generic System. Avoid adding the Oracle Utilities Home and Oracle Utilities System Environment targets as they do not have any availability status.
    • Add the base Fusion Middleware targets including the Oracle WebLogic Domain, Oracle WebLogic Server and Application Deployment targets associated with Oracle Utilities products. Customers using Inbound Web Services should also add that Web Services Application Deployment to track Web Services availability. Oracle WebLogic Cluster targets can be also added if desired.
    • Add the database targets associated with the environment (if you want to track them as well) whether that the Database Instance target (for non-PDB or Oracle 11 and below targets) or Pluggable Database targets (for PDB implementations in Oracle 12c).
    • Avoid duplication of targets. For example, avoid adding Host targets as the child targets are already covered.
    • If you have other targets in your architecture then consider adding them such as SOA etc.. Remember that you may only use targets that are in the base Oracle Enterprise Manager or you have licensed.
Example Target selection
  • Once all the targets are selected, you can proceed to the next stages. For example:

Selecting Targets

  • Confirm the relationships between the targets. Oracle Enterprise Manager will typically default all of it for you but you can add or modify your own relationships as necessary. For example:

Confirming Relationships

  • The next step is to identify the Key Members used to track availability. Targets that are not Key Members are also tracked but do not contribute to the overall system definition of availability. You might ask then why we should added them into a definition. Well, Generic System targets are used for other purposes (that will be covered in another article). Here are a few guidelines:
    • Select targets that are key to the architecture that will represent the critical points of your architecture.
    • Use parent objects to cover as many child objects as possible. For example, use Oracle WebLogic Servers or Oracle WebLogic Cluster as Key Members to cover the Applications deployed within those servers/clusters. This optimizes the definition by minimizing the definitions.
    • Ensure you cover each component of the architecture at least once in your Key Member definition to cover the end to end architecture.
    • Decide whether you want to consider either all or at least one target is available to consider the system available.
    • At a minimum use Oracle WebLogic Server target associated with the Oracle Utilities product deployments to cover online and Web Services, at least one Oracle Utilities Batch Server to cover batch and the database as Key Members for Oracle Utilities products. For example:

Key Targets example

  • The next step allows you to define the metrics and columns to be displayed on the home screen and dashboard for the Generic System target. For the example, the defaults are taken. For example:

Portal Definition

  • Review the definition for completeness. You can alter the definition at any time after saving it or now using the breadcrumbs at the top of the page to navigate to the definition you want to change. For example:

Review the setup

  • The Generic System target is now available for your tracking within Oracle Enterprise Manager. For example:

  • The Generic System target is now also available from the targets page like all other targets. For example:

Example Target on target screen

These targets are very useful and can be defined at a low or high level (and any level in between those extremes). They can be modelled on your IT group or just generically. This technique can combine targets from many different compoennts of the architecture.

    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 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.


    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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