Analytical look at the Oracle WebLogic Server 12c announcement

On December 1, 2011 Oracle announced new version of its WebLogic Server 12c where “c” stands for the “cloud”. Overall it is a strong release, yet contrary to the Oracle claim it still lacks the proper cloud credentials (more on this below) and more importantly is still lagging IBM WebSphere in many areas, including price/performance, intelligent management, advanced programming model. Let me consider the major points of this Oracle announcement one by one and compare how they map to capabilities provided by IBM. Below is my analysis of the press-release and Oracle webcast.

QUOTE:As the center piece of Oracle’s Cloud Application Foundation, and a core part of the Oracle Fusion Middleware product family, Oracle WebLogic Server continues to deliver…END-QUOTE

What exactly is Oracle’s Cloud Application Foundation? It is simply a marketing term for the bundle of products that Oracle sold for the past few years, namely (1) WebLogic Server, (2) Coherence and (3) Tuxedo. The only new (and very minor) addition is the (4) Oracle Traffic Director (more on this later). In this new release Oracle has not addressed some important areas in the Application Infrastructure that I have discussed in my earlier post.

QUOTE:Oracle WebLogic Server 12c is now certified for the full Java EE 6 platform specification…END-QUOTE

Welcome to the club! IBM shipped JEE6 certified WAS v8 six months ago in June 2011 and was the first production quality product to achieve such certification. To IBM’s credit the Rational Application Developer IDE supported this new release of WAS v8 since the beta version – several months before the WAS v8 even shipped. This allowed IBM customers to get started with the product and prepare applications for upgrade. Unlike IBM, Oracle has not made its flagship JDeveloper tool ready for WLS 12c and is not expected to do so for few more months. This news came from Oracle representative during the chat on their announcement webcast. In fact, the only Oracle product that supports WLS 12c is the Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c.

In addition to the base JEE6 APIs, there are number of other important APIs that are provided by WAS and are missing in WebLogic. Take a look at this article I posted back in November.

QUOTE:The new Fusion Middleware component Oracle Traffic Director (OTD) directly integrates with Oracle WebLogic Server 12c to add high-performance and high availability traffic routing capabilities, along with dynamically configurable caching, load-balancing and proxy support for HTTP-based applications…END-QUOTE

Other than JEE6 certification, this was the second biggest news announced by Oracle. However OTD has a number of limitations:
(1) OTD is only supported in Exalogic environment. This means that 99% of the Oracle WebLogic customers wont be able to take advantage of this new component, unless they pay a million or more dollars for the Exalogic hardware. It is clear why Oracle pushes customers in that direction – to sell more of the expensive Exalogic hardware.
(2) OTD is new and is practically version 1.0. IBM has included routing, caching, load-balancing and proxy support in the WebSphere Edge Components (used to be called Edge Server) at no additional cost with WAS ND since 2001 and it works on all major OS and hardware platforms, is very mature and has lots of customers using it.
(3) Since 2008 IBM also has advanced version of the IBM Edge Components called On-Demand Router (ODR – ships as part of the WebSphere Virtual Enterprise). ODR provides traffic throttling, prioritization, feedback based load balancing, health monitoring and many other advanced functions that do not seem to be available in the Oracle Traffic Director based on the data presented at Oracle webcast. If you are interested in more detailed comparison of the WVE to Oracle WebLogic, check out this article

QUOTE:Leveraging graphical tooling and open, PaaS Web Service APIs, Oracle Virtual Assembly Builder enables simplified configuration and packaging of multi-tier enterprise applications on environments virtualized with Oracle VM…END-QUOTE

(1) There is conflicting information on this subject. During the webcast somebody asked a question whether Oracle Virtual Assembly Builder supports new WLS 12c and the answer was that this support is coming some time in 2012. However, the Oracle Virtual Assembly Builder web page states that support exists. This will be easy to validate once Oracle makes WLS 12c and OVAB available for download (the exact date is not announced yet).
(2) Oracle Virtual Assembly Builder only supports Oracle VM for x86 and does not support any other hardware platform. What would SPARC, Power7 and other WebLogic customers do with their WebLogic? Shall they switch the hardware? I have discussed this and other differences between IBM Workload Deployer and Oracle Virtual Assembly Builder in this post.

QUOTE:Improved integration between Oracle WebLogic Server and Oracle Real Application Clusters (RAC), which can auto detect and correct database node failures to help drive higher performance and simplify management…END-QUOTE

This was also announced as a major improvement in WLS 11g. Not clear what exactly is new here. WAS and DB2 also have tight integration and deliver improved qualities of services when used together. Also some of the benefits described by Oracle are provided to any consumer using their JDBC drivers, so it is not clear how much of this function is unique to WebLogic.

QUOTE:New disaster recovery capabilities allow customers to store data in either a file store or a database, including the option to store transaction logs in a database. It enables the use of database-integrated consistent replication technologies with Oracle GoldenGate and Oracle Active Data Guard for all dynamic application data including online, Java Message Service (JMS) and transaction logs…END-QUOTE

While this feature may simplify the failover configuration, it is very likely to have significant negative impact on performance. History shows that putting JMS messages (or transaction log) into the database does not yield high performance, but Oracle desire to sell more Oracle DB licenses is perfectly understandable.

QUOTE:Integration with Oracle RAC enables customers to achieve 2-3x faster data speeds…END-QUOTE

Any performance related claims must be proven, not made up by marketing team. Please see the next point.

QUOTE:Oracle Traffic Director can deliver a 3-4x performance boost to applications running on Oracle WebLogic Server and Oracle Fusion Middleware, compared to traditional web-based architectures. It is delivered on Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud where it has been optimized for extreme performance…END-QUOTE

Oracle keeps making claims about the amazing performance of its Exalogic system and how much faster it is than anything that ever existed before. What can I say? I can run a marathon in 10 minutes. I just never ran it in an official race to prove it, but I *claim* that I can run that fast. Until Oracle publishes SPECjEnterprise2010 results on its Exalogic hardware their performance claims are no more credible than my alleged marathon performance. My official recorded marathon time is 3hrs 23 min, but I insist that I can run it in 10 minutes when nobody is looking :-).

QUOTE:Oracle WebLogic Server has recently achieved world record SPECjEnterprise2010 benchmark results including: World record multi-node result; Highest EjOPS per core; and World record dual-node result…END-QUOTE

This claim is misleading in more than one way:
(1) Oracle has never published any WLS 12c results in SPECjEnterprise2010. All of their results are published with the WLS 11g.
(2) Even the very best Oracle result costs nearly twice as much per transaction as comparable IBM result. Here is the detailed article on this subject.
(3) The presentation chart on page 14 used by Oracle in their webcast does not follow the rules for disclosure and leaves more questions than answers.

QUOTE:Oracle WebLogic Server is also a key component of the new Oracle Java Cloud Service, an enterprise platform for developing, deploying and managing business-critical Java EE applications, which supports development and deployment from multiple Java-based integrated development environments (IDEs), including Oracle JDeveloper, NetBeans IDE and Eclipse…END-QUOTE

(1) Oracle Java Cloud Service is so new that it is not even generally available yet. The only useful function provided by the Oracle Java cloud Service is the “Notify me of updates” button. Compare that to the IBM Smart Cloud.
(2) During the webcast chat Oracle admitted that JDeveloper does not currently support WLS 12c and this support is expected some time in 2012.
What this means is that if you are JDeveloper shop you can neither build WebLogic application (unless you switch to Eclipse) nor can you deploy it into the Oracle cloud because neither of these exist today.
(3) Even much advertised Oracle ADF does not support WLS 12c at this time.

QUOTE:Lightweight Development with WebLogic Server is now possible via 168 MB download size of the unzip installer…END-QUOTE

I am sure developers would love this improvement (compare 1GB and 15 min install to 168 MB and 1 min install). IBM also provides an alpha version of the new WAS 8.5 lightweight profile with 50 MB footprint as I discussed in this post. WebLogic unzip install is geared only towards the development environment while IBM will also provide this small install for production. At the same time it appears that WebLogic unzip install has full JEE6 capabilities, while IBM alpha version only has a subset of JEE6 APIs.

QUOTE:Oracle WebLogic Server developers can now leverage Java Platform Standard Edition (Java SE) 7 features to create cleaner, more maintainable code…END-QUOTE
Nice feature. Current WAS v8 runs on Java SE 6. Still, kudos to Oracle for supporting Java SE 7 in this release. However this WLS advantage wont last very long.

QUOTE:Oracle WebLogic Server provides out of the box support for dependency management and a uniform build process via an updated Oracle WebLogic Server plug-in for Apache Maven…END-QUOTE

Yet again, kudos to Oracle – this is a nice feature and will come handy to maven users. While IBM does not directly provide maven support in RAD or WAS, there are customers using maven and m2eclipse plugins within RAD as well as article on the IBM developerWorks on this subject (also see second article).

Overall the two biggest news are that (1) Oracle WLS 12c is JEE6 certified and (2) runs on Java Se 7. Product packaging and pricing has not changed and all other “new” features are either mild improvements or only apply to a handful of Exalogic customers and fail to close the gap with WebSphere Application Server.

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