Articles specific to Oracle software products, including the former Stellent product line

Running WebCenter Portal Pre-Built VM on Mac OSX

The WebCenter Portal team has put together a VirtualBox virtual machine to showcase the WebCenter Portal product. You can download it from Oracle. It's a big one: clocking in at 30 GB, so pack a lunch before downloading it.

The install instructions are pretty good for Windows and Linux clients... but if you're on a Mac (like me), it's missing one important tip. The file REAVDD-HOL-WC.ovf contains the information needed to import the files into a VirtualBox VM... but if you're running the free version of VirtualBox, it chokes on the import every time. The culprit is this line:

<SharedFolders> <SharedFolder name="Host" hostPath="D:\TEMP\Host" writable="false" autoMount="true"/> </SharedFolders>

If you're on Windows, and have a D drive, this works fine... but if you're on a Mac (and probably Linux), this will break the import. The fix? Use this XML instead:

<SharedFolders/>

And re-do the import... you'll need to re-set-up sharing once it's running. But at least now it will have a valid path!

NOTE: This is just meant to be a sandbox for testing integrations, and the like. It's not meant to be placed into a production environment... but, like all demo code, I'm sure I'l find it floating around in production eventually... and have to make it work.

WebCenter Mobile: PhoneGap and ADF Together at Last!

I was always a bit little skeptical about the initial mobile offerings for UCM and WebCenter. They never impressed me, because I felt strongly that these apps were fundamentally flawed in their design...

Why? Because they focused on being Mobile Applications instead of Mobile Web. The first time I held an iPhone, I noticed that it was running a browser that supported HTML5. The first Android was the same. This was at a time where HTML5 support was rare on desktop browsers, and few developers knew how to use it. Nevertheless, I predicted years ago that it would be the future... HTML5 was so powerful, that Flash and native mobile apps were unnecessary for 95% of applications. Many clients asked my advice on mobile apps, and my answer was always the same: "Skip native apps, and focus on the mobile web!"

This week, Oracle announced their next generation of the ADF Mobile toolkit... and (as I predicted) they are going the same route! Native code is no longer the focus: previously, you would create an ADF component, and it would be compiled down into native iOS or Android controls. No more! The next version will compile to HTML5 and be rendered in the mobile browser!

How can this be? With a technology called PhoneGap. It allows you to create your application in nothing but HTML5, render it in a browser, and still access native functionality (camera, location, files) with JavaScript functions. It's basically a wrapper around the built-in HTML5 browser, plus a plug-in library, which together give you an extremely powerful development environment. The next generation of ADF Mobile will be an ADF wrapper around PhoneGap, plus a few extra goodies (that I'm not allowed to talk about yet!). They call these hybrid applications because they are mostly HTML5, with a tiny bit of native code mixed in.

Well, what about those candy-coated user interfaces? How do I get those? The same way as always: mobile JavaScript toolkits. There are several available that can make very attractive interfaces, that render in any smartphone:

If you prefer to roll-your-own UI, I'd recommend Zepto as a minimalist framework instead...

What's next for the web, then? I believe that mobile application development will be the biggest driver for the adoption of HTML5 browsers. Yes, probably only 10% of mobile phones are HTML5-enabled smart phones... but people cycle through cell phones every 2 years. Compared that to the enterprise, some of which stubbornly refuse to upgrade from IE6!

I'd bet 90% of Americans will have a HTML5 mobile phone, before 90% of them are off IE6! Sad, but true... but good news for mobile developers!

UPDATE: Dang it! Just as soon as I blog about this, Adobe goes and purchases PhoneGap! What does this mean for Oracle? Tough to say... it's probably a good thing, since most of PhoneGap is open source. The only piece that's not Open Source is their nifty build engine. But, since Oracle already owns their own build engines (jDeveloper and Eclipse plugin), this is not a stumbling block.

UPDATE 2: It appears that Adobe has done "The Right Thing" and is submitting PhoneGap to the Apache group, and re-branding it as Project Callback. This will hep cement it as "the standard" toolkit for mobile app development.

WebCenter/UCM Performance Tuning, Black Box Style!

I love doing performance tuning... It's typically a mundane process of tiny tweaks and digging for gold in log files, but for some reason I find it a blast. I usually do it for every client, and sometimes I have projects dedicated exclusively to tuning.

One cropped up recently, where a client was having craaaaazy slow performance with an 11g custom component that Shall Remain Nameless. It worked fine with small data sets, but on a page with 1000 items, the load time was 12 minutes. Thus begins our adventure! But first, some wise words from the grandfather of performance optimization:

"We should forget about small efficiencies, say about 97% of the time: premature optimization is the root of all evil" -- Donald Knuth

Yarp... The first thing to do is establish a benchmark. Run some kind of automated test to time performance, and then start your tweaking. Also, be sure to put it in a nice table, so you can visually see just how awful the starting point is!

It's kind of a dull process-of-elimination to disable components, restart, and run another benchmark... but you have to do that in order to narrow down the offending code. I initially thought the problem was in one component... I was wrong... So, as boring as it is, it must be done to eliminate red herrings.

Once I found the offending component, I turned on some low-level tracing parameters. You can do this from the System Audit Information administration page. I usually turn on Verbose tracing, as well as these sections: requestaudit, pagecreation. When I did a small manual test, what I got back shocked me a bit:

pagecreation/6	09.13 17:55:47.774	IdcServer-31333	page generation took 10766 ms; gets 58863 funcs 24362 incs 9256 eval 160
requestaudit/6	09.13 17:55:48.012	IdcServer-31333	FOO_SERVICE 14.5684232711792(secs)

Woah... even a simple page was taking 14 seconds, 10 of which was in rendering the IdocScript! I checked, and these pages were far too complex for words. On a page with a 1000-item list, the component that Shall Remain Nameless was spitting out 15 Megs of HTML! Danger! Danger!

The fix? I used some of my tips from my web site performance tuning presentation, of course. I made a new custom interface, and leveraged the YUI Library that's built-in to UCM... specifically the DataTable widget. By bye IdocScript, hello JavaScript! That slimmed down the page from 15,000 KB to a manageable 300 KB, and all but eliminated the page generation time.

Problem solved, right? Not so fast... even with that the site was still slow. Next I suspected something in the database: bad histogram, missing index, whatever. So I turned on another low-level flag: systemdatabase. Please note: enabling this will turn your log files into a frigging Russian novel, so don't leave it on for too long... I ran another test, and got something like this:

systemdatabase/6	09.14 15:13:36.548	IdcServer-18413	53 ms. SELECT FOO_QUERY [Executed. Returned row(s): true]
systemdatabase/6	09.14 15:13:58.803	IdcServer-18413	Closing active result set
systemdatabase/6	09.14 15:13:58.804	IdcServer-18413	Closing statement in closing internals

Well... I was wrong again! Can you see the issue here? The query only took 53 milliseconds to run, so the database is hunky dory! But, it takes a full 12 seconds for UCM to release the connection. That means, somewhere deep inside the component that Shall Remain Nameless, some Java code is taking 12 seconds to post-process the database results. In some scenarios, it took over 40 seconds just to post-process the results.

What the heck is it doing???????

Don't know, don't care! Instead of digging through the component's code and trying to optimize that 40 second delay, I did what any sane web developer should do when faced with a poor performing black box: make a data cache! After quite a bit of digging, I found the magic function that was so very important that it took 40 seconds to run. So instead of calling it directly, I wrapped it up in a secure data cache. That cut the 40,000 milliseconds down to 4. You sometimes see stale data on the page, but that's always the case with a web interface... so it's usually a good tradeoff.

So... after improving their performance by 5 orders of magnitude, I patted myself on the back, and flew home...

The final benchmark numbers looked amazing... and I think that's why I find performance tuning is so satisfying. It's so very lovely to see the difference between the initial and final performance... and it's even better if you need to use a logarithmic scale to see them! ;-)

Oracle Open World!

Open World is barely a month away! I'll be heading there early for some Oracle ACE briefings and the like... I'm normally a "broadcast only" Twitter user, but when I'm at conferences I check it all the time, and tweet with location services on. If you want to meet up, just message me!

@bex

I have a couple of sessions this year... unfortunately they are all on Thursday! Dang it! I was hoping to leave the conference early -- since Michelle and I are having our first kid, and her due date is a few weeks after Open World. Alas, the scheduling gods were not with me:

  • Session: 10843
    • Creating a Global E-Commerce Site with Oracle E-Business Suite and Oracle Fusion Middleware
    • Thursday, 12:00 PM, Intercontinental - Intercontinental Ballroom B
  • Session: 9539
    • Integrating ECM into Your Enterprise: 5 Techniques to Try and 5 Traps to Avoid
    • Thursday, 03:00 PM, Intercontinental - Telegraph Hill

I know picking Open World sessions can be a bit of a baffling ordeal... so if you're pressed for time, I'll suggest a few tips. If you want to see WebCenter based content, check out the WebCenter partner sessions. Lots of good stuff there. If you're curious about non-WebCenter products but don't know where to start, I'd recommend the Oracle ACE sessions over just about everything else. ACE sessions are a good bet: speakers are usually very knowledgeable, very passionate, and very excited to share what they know. Translation: minimal marketing fluff. You don't get the title "Oracle ACE" by being a self-promoting fool!

Well... at least most of the time Oracle ACE's aren't self-promoting fools... there are exceptions.

Has Oracle MIX "Suggest-A-Session" Jumped the Shark???

Jump The Shark: (verb) a term to describe a moment when something that was once great has reached a point where it will now decline in quality and popularity.

Oracle MIX is a social software app to connect people in the Oracle universe. It was launched back in 2007 by The Apps Lab so people could network and stay connected during (and after) Open World. It was at the time the largest JRuby on Rails site out there. It's a decent site, and you Oracle monkeys should check it out...

I believe in 2008, they decided to try something new: allow the community to "suggest a session" for Open World. They had ten slots at Open World, and everybody was encouraged to submit a session for consideration, and vote on what they liked. The ten sessions with the most votes would get to present at Open World.

This was also a great idea... It was the ideal place for sessions outside the mainstream to get a voice at Open World... technology that might be too "bleeding edge" for a general audience, but is the bread-and-butter of geeks who only hit one conference per year. Social software, mashups, open source, installing Oracle on a Roomba... you get the idea. If you want to do a mainstream talk about a mainstream product, then submit it through the normal channels to the Open World committee... If your session isn't picked, then it probably wasn't good enough.

This model worked fine in 2008, 2009, and 2010... but I think something went really REALLY haywire this year...

MIX, being an open community, allowed people to take the voting data and mash it up in interesting ways... Greg Rahn over at Structured Data did exactly this, and presented his data analysis of the votes. Just looking at the data I saw a lot of anomalies, but to me the smoking gun is this:

  • Number of users who voted for exactly one author: 828
  • Number of users who voted for ALL sessions by EXACTLY one author: 826

Well, that ain't right... once you dig further, you see what probably happened: the Oracle MIX community has been invaded by a spammer...

Specifically... somebody out there has a mailing list with a few hundred people, and contacted them all asking for votes. Probably repeatedly. I don't know about others in the MIX community, but I personally got three such emails begging for votes... One of them was so shady it probably violated Oracle's Single-Sign-On policy. The line between self-promotion and SPAM is fuzzy... but it was clearly crossed by a lot of people this year.

I know what you're thinking... must be sour grapes, eh? But no, I did not submit a MIX session. Oracle was kind enough to approve both of my Open World presentations this year, so I thought the gracious thing to do would be to leave the MIX sessions for the community... so I'm very disappointed in the behavior of these people.

The rules as-is are broken... based on Greg's data, 200 people at Microsoft could all vote for sessions like "Reason #6734 Why Microsoft Rocks and Oracle People are Big Fat Stupid Heads"... and they'd win every slot.

All communities have this problem... once they become popular, they become valuable. Once they become valuable, some people try to extract more value than their fare share. Many large sites implement some form of moderation or karma points to keep cheating to a minimum... I think it's about time MIX did the same. I have a few ideas for "guidelines":

  1. promotion via tweets and blogs is allowed and encouraged
  2. mass communication via emails or social networks will be considered "social spam," and grounds for disqualification
  3. "down-voting" like Digg should be enabled to further prevent spammers from carpet-bombing their way to the top
  4. sessions should be outside of mainstream Oracle talks: sessions similar to ones given at Open World are discouraged
  5. a maximum of two talks can be submitted on behalf of an individual, organization, or community group
  6. a maximum of one talk can be selected on behalf of an individual, organization, or community group

Of course, this isn't perfect... the top 10 slots could still go to people with 1000 employees, and therefore 1000 reliable votes! Probably the ideal situation is to randomly select some Oracle ACEs to be the judges every year, based on community input. Not ideal, but really hard to rig...

So... how many of you feel like you were "spammed" this year?

UPDATE: Oracle is soliciting opinions for what worked and what didn't this year. If you have an opinion about what should be fixed, please leave a comment on their blog or contact Tim Bonnemann directly.

Presentations From Collaborate 2011

In case you weren't able to make it to IOUG Collaborate last month, you can feel free to peruse my presentations in the privacy of your own home ;-)

My first one was on UCM implementation patterns... or in general, what customizations/integrations are common for UCM, and how do we do them? That was pretty well attended:

I also presented on the Top 10 Security Vulnerabilities in web applications. This is my own take on the popular OWASP Top Ten presentations on the same subject. Many thanks to the OWASP people for compiling the top ten, and getting the word out about security:

In addition to these two, I gave presentations on managing a multi-language web site, and a fourth one on the next generation of Oracle Collaboration Tools, also known as Oracle Fusion UX Applications. Oracle was kind enough to give me a sneak peek at Fusion UX, and I was quite impressed, and volunteered to help spread the word.

Enjoy!

Countdown to IOUG Collaborate 2011

It's less than one week away!

I'm giving 4 presentations at Collaborate 2011 this year, but by some cruel, cruel, cruel twist of fate, all four of my presentations are on Wednesday... Seriously, like back-to-back starting at 8am. Yeesh! I apologize in advance if I bump into you on Wednesday and then run away... I won't have much time to chat with this schedule:

  • 8:00am: Implementation Patterns for Oracle Universal Content Management
  • 9:15am: Fusion Applications User Experience: Transforming Work into Insight
  • 10:30am: Top 10 Security Vulnerabilities in Web Applications
  • 1:00pm: Creating and Maintaining an International Web Site

Talk about variety! I'll start you off with some general UCM information, then show off the next generation of hyper-connected Oracle collaboration tools, followed with a reality check about how evil hackers read your email, and wind down the day with practical tips about managing a ginormous global web site.

If you'd like to meet up and talk tech, come on over to the Bezzotech booth! We're at booth 850, which is just in front of the big Oracle demo pods... we'll have videos of the software we'll be launching soon ;-)

If you want to meet up, follow me (@bex) on Twitter. I'll be sharing my location frequently...

How-To Component Samples for Oracle UCM 11g

Finally!

For those of you who don't know, the HowToComponents are a collection of "basic-advanced" customizations to Oracle UCM/ECM. They are very small samples that show off how to plug-in custom Java code. Everything from custom IdocScript, custom security checks, custom services, and Java filters. I originally made them about 10 years ago (while working at Stellent) to help people kick-start projects that needed to build upon them to make more advanced customizations.

A lot of things changed over the years... luckily, the HowToComponents still (mostly) work! I was mainly surprised that a 10-year old Yahoo web service still reliably delivers stock quotes... Mostly we just recompiled and repackaged them, with a few changes...

First, a new security feature in 11g requires a token to be present in every we request. So, we needed to add this code on pretty much all of the web forms:

<input type="hidden" name="idcToken" value="<$idcToken$>"/>

Also, the code for adding new items to the menus changed quite a bit... look at the resources CoreMenuItems and CoreMenuItemRelationships in each component for some sample code.

Also, the DynamicPrefix component no longer uses the validateStandard filter event to change the Content ID upon check-in... that's because in 11g you have to use the new event preComputeDocName. You can still use validateStandard for most metadata alteration/validation... but the dDocName is special and needs to be treated differently.

FYI, to compile these components for 11g, be sure to use the correct To compile, the libraries are here:

<Fusion-Middleware-Home>/Oracle_ECM1/ucm/idc/jlib/idcserver.jar

These components are only "semi-official." The folks I know at Oracle didn't have time to polish these up for 11g, so we at Bezzotech decided to step up and do it ourselves. The code is licensed as Apache 2.0 code... which in short means: do whatever you want, except blame us for what you did!

You may download the HowToComponents from the Bezzotech Library page. You can download previous versions (7.5/10gr3) of the HowToComponents from the Oracle UCM Samples page.

Enjoy!

Putting Enterprise 2.0 To Work

There's always been a lot of buzz around the concept of Enterprise 2.0... We know all about the features, but what are the benefits? What are people actually doing with it, and how successful are these projects? Should you be concerned about the potential risks?

Andy MacMillan -- Oracle VP and collaborator on my second book -- will be presenting a free webinar about Putting Enterprise 2.0 to work, along with Doug Miles of AIIM:

When: Jan 26, 2011 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM EST
Where: Online!

They'll be presenting AIIM's latest market research on the subject... I'm hoping to see some hard numbers about who is doing what, what works, and why...

Don't forget to register for the conference!

5 ECM New Year's Resolutions

Happy new year! Most people use the first post of the year to go over their own blog statistics of popular posts... but since my blog's fiscal year ends in April, I decided to do new years resolutions instead. Below are 5 ECM maintenance tasks that I'd recommend:

1) Test your backup plan!

Yes, I'm certain you have one -- whether it's written in stone or just in the minds of your administrators -- but the only way to be sure you have a backup plan is to simulate an outage, and see how long it takes you to get up and running.

2) Eliminate some metadata fields

You know you have them... custom fields that seemed to make sense at the time, but now are not used at all. Go through your custom fields, see which ones are commonly used, and which ones are not. Odds are good that you can eliminate the unused ones... although be sure to make a backup before you delete information!

3) Normalize your metadata model

This is similar to #2 above... How many metadata fields are either blank, or only have the default data? Do you really need them? Do you still have items tagged as being authored by people who are no longer employees? Isn't it about time to simplify and clarify the values in your option list, and re-tag all items with the new values?

4) Audit the security access of your users

Who has what access to which pieces of content? If you are like most people, a lot of your users -- especially power users and test users -- have more access than they really need. Be sure to go through your LDAP repository, and make sure people don't have more access than needed.

5) Create a report of popular content

One good way to improve user adoption is by creating reports on "what's hot." Another option is to run reports to see what people have the most popular content, and then share with your team. There's nothing like a little competition to encourage people to contribute higher quality content ;-)

What additional resolutions would you recommend? Find the comments...

Web Conference: One-Click Web Content Management

Quick announcement...

This Thursday -- November 11th -- Oracle is having a web conference on One-Click Web Content Management. This is the principle behind the new Universal Content Management 11g release for Site Studio. If you're curious about what's new in UCM 11g for your existing applications, you should register for the event.

This is the technology behind what was once called Open WCM, and is now called Site Studio for eXternal Applications (SSXA). These are a collection of web services that allow you to embed new or existing Site Studio content into new or existing applications with JSP taglibraries. The primary benefit here is that if you want the ability to change the text on a web application -- without having to redeploy your WARs, JARs, or EARs -- just plop down a couple of tags, and you're good to go! This is one of my favorite new features in UCM 11g...

The web conference is at 11am PST / 2pm EST... join if you can!

Happy Halloween!

Hat tip Andrew Sullivan. Enjoy yourselves, uber geeks ;-)

For more fun, check out my experiments with programming a robot cylon pumpkin.

Oracle Owns Java, And The Masses Are Restless

This year was the first time that Java One and Oracle Open World occurred at the same time... which meant I got to meet a lot of folks who reeeeeeeeeaaaallllly looooooooooooooove jaaaaaaaaavaaaaaaa. Naturally, they are a bit skittish about Oracle now being Java's primary caretaker. A lot of their attitude comes from fear, uncertainty, and doubt... so I'd like to give my thoughts.

Firstly... I'd like to make it clear that people seem to be holding Oracle to a higher standard than other companies... Let's compare Java to 2 other relatively popular languages:

  • .NET: The backbone of new Microsoft applications. Changes to the language are fully controlled by one company, but with an open source implementation (Mono) --
  • Objective C: The backbone of all Apple products (OS X, iPod, iPhone, iPad). Changes to the language are fully controlled by one company, but with an open source implementation (Cocotron)
  • Java: The backbone of most enterprise software. Changes to the language are fully controlled by one company, but with several open source implementations (Apache Harmony and Open JDK being two)

Why are people only freaking out about the last one on that list?

The new Open JDK initiative is a good start... this was announced at Java One 2010, but it appears that Oracle has been working on it for quite some time. It's also very telling that IBM Joined the Open JDK initiative.

Some are afraid that Oracle will drop the Java Community Process (JCP) and go their own way. Well... perhaps. Will Java grow better and faster without the JCP? Based on how long Sun took to get Java 1.6 out the door, I'd wager that Oracle is probably going to streamline the process... the roadmap for Java 1.7 and 1.8 is pretty aggressive, and Oracle seems dedicated to speeding up the development cycle. That of course means that not everything you want will be in Java 1.7... but on the plus side, you'll get it faster!

Also... I want to make this clear: Oracle is far too invested in Java to think they can ignore building a consensus.

Think about it... Java is popular because it is a nice blend openness and enterprise sponsorship. According to some estimates, Oracle software revenue is 2/3 reliant on Java. What would happen if they tried to skip the consensus-building aspect of the Java community? Folks like IBM, HP, SAP, Intel, AMD, and Google might start looking elsewhere for their platform of choice... If this were to happen, Java would become less popular... They might fork Java, or just do something completely different. That path would ultimately hurt Oracle, and they are smart enough to know it.

Does Oracle's ownership of Java give it an advantage? Of course! Oracle will be putting cool new features into Java that Oracle customers want, and Oracle Java products that use these new features will have a head start... not to mention access to the original engineers. This feedback loop does benefit Oracle's Java applications, but it also ensures better Java.

But we need to keep this in perspective... Oracle is just one of several organizations that pay developers to improve Java, and an organization's true influence on open source projects is directly proportional to the number of great developers they dedicate to it... If Google or IBM decided that they absolutely needed new features in Java 1.7, there's a very simple solution: hire developers that can make it happen. If your company is paying for the code, it's a heck of a lot easier to get the community to agree with your ideas...

In all, I think Oracle's dedication to rapid releases of Java is a good thing... They have said they want to update the JCP, but have also said that they will continue to build consensus. Also, it would be bad for Java, and bad for Oracle for them to not build consensus... and everybody knows it.

Site Studio 10gr4 Samples

Since the Oracle 11g launch, they've been shuffling around where their samples are. And if you Google for them, you'll find nothing but broken links. Luckily, if you search for "10gr4" on Oracle's site, you will eventually find your way down to the official Oracle Site Studio Samples page.

There's a few viewlets, some documentation, and some sample web sites that demonstrate the 10gr4/11g way of designing web sites. It's a much better process than the old 7.5/10gr3 way of designing sites, but it will take some time to wrap your head around it.

Probably some time soon they'll have some info on one-click WCM with existing web applications... but that might take a few more weeks ;-)

Creating and Maintaining an Internationalized Web Site

It's alive! I put together this presentation to help folks who might have questions about how to create and maintain a website in multiple languages, and multiple countries. Big surprise: it depends!!! This presentation gives you some warnings, and a lot of questions you need to ask in order to get started.

I talked through a bunch of problems and risks, and how to mitigate them... I also covered a few ways to help cut the costs of translation, including the crowd-sourcing approach with Lingotek's software. I came across those guys a few months back, and thought that it was a pretty good idea: engage your employees, partners, and the rest of your community to help you select what items to translate, and actually do the translation. We recently made an integration with the UCM system: send Bezzotech an email if you want to learn more...

Open World: 3 Weeks Away!

As mentioned by Jake, Oracle Open World is nearly upon us! As usual, the hordes will descend upon Moscone Center in San Francisco September 19-23. I'll be there on the 16th to get a pre-briefing with Oracle along with the other Oracle ACEs. I'll only be giving one talk this year, but I hope you'll be able to make it!

Creating and Maintaining Internationalized Web Sites (S315784)
Time: Sunday, Sept 19, 3pm
Location: Moscone West L2 room 2007

There aren't many published best practices on doing this kind of thing with Site Studio... and it's kind of a tricky problem. Every company has a different need for localized web sites, and they almost alway have different needs when it comes to keeping them up to date (not to mention budgeting for translation!) There are several add-on tools that can help you keep your site updated, and I plan on going through a few.

UPDATE: my presentation is now online for your consideration... be sure to "like" it on slideshare.

Who Will Oracle Buy Next?

I came across a post last week trying to figure out what company will Oracle acquire next? The author posted a few options and was taking a poll. I can't tell if this is an exercise in the wisdom of crowds or just an attempt for the author to know what stock to purchase next... but the analysis was still interesting.

UPDATE: The poll got about 1250 responses, and most folks predicted that Oracle might just "play it safe." You can view the full results on the author's web site.

I also liked their chart that showed all the companies Oracle acquired since Peoplesoft as blobs on a timeline... it was interesting to see Stellent as a respectably large blob on the chart.

The potential targets are listed below -- some much more likely than others:

  • Teradata
  • Informatica
  • TIBCO
  • Computer Associates
  • Sungard
  • Infor
  • Research in Motion
  • Juniper Networks
  • F5 Networks
  • Brocade
  • VMware
  • EMC
  • Salesforce.com
  • Allscripts

I've heard rumors for years about who Oracle might acquire... most of which never come to pass. But, amongst the author's picks, I think Teradata and TIBCO are the most likely. Acquiring F5 might also make sense, and I wouldn't be surprised considering the new integrations F5 is making with Oracle Fusion Middleware... Allscripts would also make sense, if the price was right.

Then there were the crazy ideas... Oracle acquiring Computer Associates would be a longshot -- CA has been coasting on past glories for so long their products ain't exactly cutting edge anymore. Same with Sunguard: Oracle culture is clearly geared towards being a software company, not a services company... so nuts to that.

So what do you think? Leave a comment, or take the poll...

Oracle 11g Webcast

It's time again for the Oracle UCM Community Webcast... and this one will of course focus on what's new in 11g. I strongly encourage you all to attend this one, since you'll be able to get answers for all your burning questions about 11g that you have been afraid to ask... as well as the ones Oracle wasn't allowed to answer until after the release!

You'll need to register for the event in order to attend. Be sure to log in with your company's email address so Oracle knows who you are!

Americas / EMEA Web Cast

  • Date: June 30, 2010
  • Time: 9:00am US PDT / 12:00pm US EDT / 16:00 GMT
  • Length: 1 hour

Asia / Pacific Repeat Web Cast

  • Date: July 1, 2010
  • Time: 12:00pm Sydney AEST, 10:00am Singapore
  • Length: 1 hour

So... what questions do you plan on asking?

Apache mod_rewrite for Oracle UCM Users

Kyle had a useful tip a while back about a little-known feature in Oracle UCM: the WebUrlMapPlugin which allows friendly URLs for Site Studio pages. It's extensible, which means you can add your own friendly URLs to the map if you wish.

For example, you could make the URL http://example.com/file/foo automatically redirect to the GET_FILE service to download the item with the content ID of "foo." You set this by going to the page "Administration > Filter Administration > Edit Web Map Urls," then assigning the prefix /file to a map like this:

<!--$cgipath-->?IdcService=GET_FILE&dDocName=<!--$suffix-->&allowInterrupt=1&
        RevisionSelectionMethod=LatestReleased&Rendition=web&noSaveAs=1

Looks a bit hairy... but those are all the parameters you need to run the service. You can see why some URL aliases come in handy! Kyle has some more suggestions on his blog post.

This is fine and good for internal UCM products... but it can be somewhat limited. This map looks like it supports IdocScript, but you actually only have very limited token replacement functionality...

If you are using Apache, a better option would be to use mod_rewrite. This is an extremely powerful add-on module to Apache that allows you to "rewrite" URLs to make friendly aliases. It's one of the few Apache modules so popular that it has it's own book!

There are some good cheat sheets and beginners guides available for mod_rewrite... but lets' just dive in for a quick tour.

To get started, first we need to enable the module. This is almost always installed with Apache, so installation should be simple. Append the following code at the bottom of your httpd.conf Apache configuration file:

# load the rewrite module, if its not already loaded
<IfModule !rewrite_module>
       LoadModule rewrite_module /usr/lib64/httpd/modules/mod_rewrite.so
</IfModule>
# turn on rewrite debugging so we can figure out when redirects don't work
RewriteLog "/apache/logs/rewrite.log"
RewriteLogLevel 3
# turn it on
RewriteEngine On

Now, mod_rewrite should be running... the next step is to create a RewriteRule to match the pattern. The mod_rewrite module uses Regular Expressions to match patterns in the incoming URLs. If a pattern matches, then the rule applies. The first part of the rule is the pattern to match, the second part of the rule is where to redirect the URL to. A very simple example would be this:

RewriteRule /file/foo /bar

This rule would redirect all URLs that look like http://example.com/file/foo to http://example.com/bar. Once we add regular expressions, however, things get more interesting... instead of just matching the word "foo", let's say we wanted to redirect ALL of the pages to http://example.com/bar. The rule below would accomplish that:

RewriteRule /file/.* /bar

The "." character says "any character," and the "*" character says "zero or more of the previous character." So, this rule will match everything under http://example.com/file/, and redirect it to http://example.com/bar. Of course, this isn't terribly useful... so lets see if we can make the same file download URL as above.

First, let's add some security... the global wildcard is usually discouraged, because it does actually grab everything, and unless you really know what you're doing it can be a security hole. A better option is to use a token for just characters valid for a content ID... Which means lowercase "a" through "z", uppercase "A" through "Z", the numbers "0" through "9", and the underscore and dash characters... so we do this:

RewriteRule ^/file/([a-zA-Z0-9_-]*)$ /bar/$1

Hopefully this doesn't look too alien... Firstly, the ^ character represents the beginning, and the $ character represents the end of the URL. We then put the allowed characters in brackets "[a-zA-Z0-9_-]" and the "*" says "zero or more of the characters in that range." We put this whole thing in parenthesis to turn it into an "atom".

Once we match the pattern, we can re-use the "atom" in the subsequent redirect URL. The "$1" token represents the first atom found in the pattern... so our URL above will redirect http://example.com/file/foo to http://example.com/bar/foo. For complex redirects, you can use multiple atoms in the same rewrite rule, which can be extremely handy for organizing quick links to content.

Finally, we need to change "/bar/$1" to something that will actually download the file... so we will redirect to a content server service instead, like so:

RewriteRule ^/file/([a-zA-Z0-9_-]*)$ 
        http://%{HTTP_HOST}/idc/idcplg?IdcService=GET_FILE&RevisionSelectionMethod=Latest&dDocName=$1

Ta da! Now the url http://example.com/file/foo will redirect to http://example.com/idc/idcplg?IdcService=GET_FILE&RevisionSelectionMethod=Latest&dDocName=foo.

To support URLs of the type http://example.com/file/foo.txt, you'd modify it to look like this:

RewriteRule ^/file/([a-zA-Z0-9_-]*)\.([a-zA-Z]*)$
        http://%{HTTP_HOST}/idc/idcplg?IdcService=GET_FILE&RevisionSelectionMethod=Latest&dDocName=$1

This rewrite rule has two atoms, but we only need the first atom, so we just ignore the second. However, we could get clever and use a different rewrite rule depending on the file extension... or we can just ignore the extension since the content ID is all that matters.

Oracle UCM 11g Now Released!

Good news! The 11g version of Oracle UCM is finally available! This version is a bit of a re-write to run on top of the WebLogic application server. Oracle has been talking about this release for some time, so I'm glad to see it finally available.

Despite the architecture change, the basic administration interface should be familiar to existing UCM customers. The install is a lot different, and you'll need to learn basic WebLogic application server administration. This isn't as tough as it sounds... you can refer to my presentation on the top 10 things UCM admin need to know about WebLogic to get started. Once you wrap your head around the concepts of instances, servers, and domains, it's not too difficult.

There are a ton of new performance enhancements in this release... when using a half-rack Exadata Machine, they were able to get 180 million 100k document check-ins per day. Note: these are full document check-ins; not merely lightweight "object" storage. Now that UCM is the repository for IPM, you can imagine how Exadata makes an excellent addition to a high-ingestion setup.

Download performance is pretty good as well... using the new Open WCM technologies, Oracle was getting about 120 Site Studio web page hits per second on commodity hardware... Is that a lot? Well, by way of comparison, Wikipedia has a farm of 249 servers, and each node gets on average 80-200 hits per second per server... sometimes spiking to 250... and Wikipedia is using a very lightweight LAMP stack, as opposed to the full enterprise JEE stack that Oracle was using for their tests. I'm sure with a additional tuning (like a CDN) you could get more than 120 hits per second with UCM... but as a general rule, if you need more than 120 hits per second, you really need more than one server!

You can download the new software in the usual place. The documentation is bundled with the rest of the Oracle Fusion Middleware documentation,

Since 11g is so new... Oracle University doesn't have any training for it yet. Luckily, my company -- Bezzotech -- can do Oracle UCM 11g training if you need it.

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