on 5 September 2014
I approached this book with some trepidation about how I would find the content, as I have worked with Oracle E-Business Suite for over 20 years and have had no exposure to Fusion Applications at all. Having had this book for a while now, I can say that my initial fears have proved to be unfounded.
The authors are recognized industry experts in their fields, and this comes across very well in the style and accuracy of the content. This book presents a well-paced and perfectly balanced approach to what can be achieved in developing, extending, and understanding Fusion Applications, and the Fusion Middleware Layer within Oracle. It is well pitched towards the Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) Technical consultant who is planning to move into Fusion development, and makes no assumptions on the reader having any pre-requisite knowledge of the “Fusion” technology. It would even suit an EBS Functional consultant too, providing that they had some understanding of the technology. An out-and-out Functional consultant may struggle with some of the more in-depth technical aspects of this book though.
The opening couple of chapters provide an introduction to the technology and customization methods applicable to Fusion Applications.
The first chapter covers topics such as WebLogic Server, middleware components for Fusion Applications and an overview of the administration tools. It provides just enough of an overview to explain the concepts and terminology, without plunging the reader into too much detail.
The second chapter provides an overview to the types of customization that can be performed in Fusion Applications, including run-time behavior, and finishes on a good primer on the concepts of the Sandbox and Customization Manager. These were completely new concepts to me and they were explained in a clear narrative that was easily understood.
Chapter 3, Flexfields, should be familiar territory for any EBS consultant. The differences between EBS and Fusion Applications are subtle, but clearly outlined, and the whole chapter provided an easy going overview of how to configure them within Fusion.
Chapter 4 leaps into the topic of security within Fusion Applications. Understanding the various layers and types of security and authentication within the application is fundamental to anyone wishing to customize and extend the software to meet specifics of a customer implementation. From my EBS background, there are only a couple of areas of familiar territory within the security model (roles, data security and user authentication). This chapter introduces the concepts of Platform Security Services, the Identity Management console, and the Authorization Policy Manager (APM) The APM extends the RDBMS concept of Fine Grained Access Control into the application layer, by controlling access right the way down to individual fields and screen components (buttons, tabs etc). Whilst sounding complicated, the chapter provides an excellent worked use-case as an example, including some good screen images and narrative to describe the stages of set-up and configuration. For me I guess it would have been handy to have had access to a demo suite to follow the example through by myself. The chapter ends with an overview of how certain Fusion Applications security components map to EBS components. Had I read this bit first I think it would have helped me to understand it all in one sitting, rather than having to go back and re-read certain sections.
The next chapter (5) covers the Oracle Page Composer. Anyone familiar with EBS Self-Service forms personalization's will find the concepts and capabilities of the Page Composer very easy to understand. Essentially the Page Composer allows you to “customize” seeded Fusion Application pages up to a certain point, in an application (and presumably Oracle) supported manner. Again, the inclusion of a fully-worked example provided an excellent grounding in the subject.
Chapter 6 provided very unfamiliar territory to me, with a whole section covering the CRM-specific composer tool. As with the Page Composer covered in chapter 5, the Oracle Application Composer for CRM allows you to “customize” pages within the Fusion Applications CRM application. Not being a CRM person that is all I can say on the subject.
Chapters 7 and 8 move back onto very familiar territory for an EBS developer, with the subjects of Oracle JDeveloper and building user interfaces with ADF. There are a number of books available that are dedicated to both JDeveloper and to ADF development should you wish to explore these topics in greater detail. However both these chapters cover their subject matter very well, and provide a good primer to those unfamiliar with either concept.
The JDeveloper chapter provides a useful table detailing the particular version of JDeveloper needed for your specific version of Fusion Applications (complete with patch numbers). The downside is that, given the frequency of which the application suite is patched and releases incremented, this table dates quite quickly.
The ADF chapter is a bold attempt to introduce the reader to the concept of building new pages using the ADF tooling in just 60 pages. As mentioned previously, it provides a good primer to the various components (schema's, business components, business logic, page navigation etc) as well as covering how to deploy your new pages into Fusion Applications. There are many clear screen shots to accompany the text, and help to convey the sequence of steps you need to take in order to build your pages. For those unfamiliar with ADF it provides a starting point that would then need to be supplemented either by further reading, or by working through the sample classes/demos included with the JDeveloper suite.
Chapter 9 sets out to provide an overview on Business Process Management (BPM) in Fusion Applications. The BPM suite is only lightly used within the current version of Fusion Applications (Oracle SOA suite being the main business process and orchestration component). The chapter explains (briefly) the historical reasons behind why certain technologies are in current use (Oracle acquisitions). Whilst BPM is underused in Fusion, the chapter does provide a good introduction to its capabilities, and where it sits within the Fusion architecture.
Chapter 10 offers an introduction to Service-oriented architecture (SOA) components within Fusion Applications, and how you can go about making customizations. It touches on some of the tools and methods used in this area, and goes on to provide a detailed example of customizing a GL Journal Approval. This is a complex topic to discuss, and there are many components and interactions between these components (service calls via BPEL, events and interactions triggered from ADF applications for example). Some prior knowledge of SOA concepts and BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) would be helpful to get you through this chapter unscathed.
Chapter 11 is another one of those chapters that should be familiar territory to the EBS consultant. It covers reporting within Fusion Applications. The primary subject covered here is the BI Publisher capability (Analytics is covered in the next chapter).
It starts by outlining the concepts of reports written in BI Publisher, and the differences between Fusion Applications and EBS. The concepts of Data Sources, Data Models and Sets, Templates and also the Report Output formats are all explained in a clear manner before jumping in with a worked example. The chapter ends with a brief section on other reporting techniques available in Fusion, including transactional business intelligence and Mobile BI.
Chapter 12 introduces Analytics in Fusion Applications, which is provided by Oracle Transactional Business Intelligence (OTBI). The chapter starts with an overview of Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE), the underlying technology for OTBI. It covers terminology associated with Oracle analytics (Dimensions and Facts), the RPD (the metadata repository), and how Fusion Applications leverages this technology as a reporting tool.
The chapter then moves on to explain in some detail the process for developing reports in OTBI. It covers the architecture, query optimization and security (both data and function security). The chapter then finishes with some examples. The OTBI browser-based development toolset is quite complex, but the examples provide some good uncluttered screen shots to explain the steps involved in the report creation. As with the ADF chapter, Analytics is a substantial subject in its own right, and there are a number of other books and references available which provide more comprehensive, and substantial, learning guides and examples than can be covered in just a single chapter here.
Enterprise Scheduler is a Fusion Middleware component that EBS users will recognize as being akin to Concurrent Program processing. Chapter 13 provides an excellent overview of this component and how it is used within Fusion Applications. Those from an EBS background that have familiarity with concurrent processing should have no problem being able to grasp the functionality available within the Enterprise Scheduler. The chapter provides a good worked example (using a PL/SQL job), and readers should have enough knowledge gained to happily tackle this task themselves within their own Fusion Applications installation.
Chapter 14 presents the subject of Custom Look and Feel (CLAF) with ADF skinning. A logical placement for this subject would have been after the ADF chapter, rather than being positioned so close to the end of the book – almost an afterthought perhaps?
The ability to skin pages is available in EBS, but in Fusion Applications the concept and capability is considerably extended. It offers the ability to personalise and tailor your application pages. In Fusion Applications, skin development is significantly improved over EBS by providing extensive documentation, and an ADF Skin Editor tool. The chapter provides a brief overview of CSS, and then covers the skinning process itself, including examples of creating and deploying a custom skin to your Fusion Applications suite.
The final chapter is a bit of a sweep-up of other information. Titled “Integration with Fusion Applications”, it briefly touches on a number of different topics, including: inbound and outbound interfacing, using the Oracle Enterprise Repository, integration with business events and web services, and SOA architecture.
Overall, this book is comprehensive in covering as many of the relevant subject areas relating to Fusion Applications, without getting too bogged-down on any one specific topic. The book entitles itself as a “Handbook”, which is probably about right. It provides a good primer on a number of topics, and leaves the reader to their own devices to go away and investigate some of the subjects to a greater depth as required.
For the generalist Fusion Applications Consultant, it is probably a very handy volume to keep on their desk and refer to as needed. For someone new to Fusion Applications who wishes to specialise in the technical development areas, or for the EBS Consultant looking to move over to Fusion Applications, it provides a very good starting point, and offers enough content to get you up and running with confidence.