My experience with Oracle Integration Cloud ServicesPublished on: Author: Richard Velden Category: Oracle
Start of May 2016 we’ve attended an Oracle partner workshop about the Oracle Integration Cloud Services (ICS). Let's take a look at our experiences and views on Oracle ICS.
In my previous Oracle Cloud blog I have described our experiences with some of Oracle’s cloud solutions. There we’ve discussed the Java, Developer and Oracle Sales Clouds. Today we’ll dive into the Oracle Integration Cloud Services.
So, what is Oracle Integration Cloud Services (ICS)?
Oracle ICS is a cloud based integration platform from Oracle. It offers a user-friendly web-based interface enabling ‘citizen integrators’ to quickly perform some basic mapping and integration between (cloud) applications. Imagine, registering for ICS on the Oracle site, and getting access to an environment immediately. Within a few clicks, and use of a credit card, one can gain access to a cloud integration platform.
With a growing number of available cloud applications (not only from Oracle), customers face the challenge of keeping these solutions in sync. A challenge in which Oracle ICS can help us out!
A typical ICS integration
Typically when using multiple different applications to support your business, it is important to keep systems in sync with each other. A customer in one system, should also (automatically) be entered in the other system. This could also hold for employee records, and various other business entities.
Say for instance a company is using the Oracle Service Cloud (RightNow) for registering and handling customer complaints and requests. And say Oracle Sales Cloud is used by the sales department.
Now imagine a customer who has raised several service requests and complaints because of product defects. And it has been taking months before these complaints have been picked up. These customer interactions are monitored and maintained in Oracle Service Cloud. It would be kind of awkward for a salesperson to go to that particular customer to try to sell new products. Especially when this salesperson is not aware of these complaints.
Having sales people check Oracle Service Cloud for complaints could be one (rather cumbersome) solution. Providing an integrated view to the number of complaints in the Sales Cloud as well, will be far better. Oracle ICS can help customers integrate both cloud solutions to provide such a solution (see figure 1).
Positioning Oracle ICS in relation to Oracle SOA Suite
Oracle also offers their SOA Suite for solving the same integration issues as ICS does. Compared to ICS the Oracle SOA Suite is far richer and more complete. And apart from on premise SOA Suite, Oracle also offers the SOA Suite as a cloud Service (SOACS). So why also offer ICS?
Oracle ICS is positioned for the ‘LOB Developer’ (Line of Business Developer). The developer who actually functionally knows the application’s being integrated. The developer who does not necessarily understand SOAP/REST/XML and other integration related technologies, but does understand the underlying business entities, and which ones should be integrated between applications.
Coming from an Oracle E-Business Suite developer background (LOB Developer) I can really see some benefits to ICS. Developers used to working with PL/SQL, Forms, Workflow, and such, are not necessarily used to working with JDeveloper and integration related technologies. ICS can bridge this gap. Or act as a stepping stone, to do integration the SOA way.
On the other side, a pure SOA developer does not understand the business applications as well as the LOB developer. So by letting the LOB developer participate more easily in a SOA landscape, we bring more application knowledge into the SOA landscape.
Quick ICS introduction
Step by step one implements integration in Oracle ICS as follows:
- Create connections
- Create integration
- Map messages
Optionally one can create lookups and packages (see figure 2).
The first thing to do is creating connections, using one of the many adapters Oracle provides (see figure 3). Configuring a connection is pretty straightforward, and consists of providing an (WSDL) endpoint and some security credentials. Apart from the technical connection, one also needs to specify what operation is to be invoked.
The basic technology adapters, such as SOAP or REST, provide just that. A method of communicating over SOAP or REST. When using these adapters, developers need to know and understand which APIs are needed in detail.
More intricate application adapters provide much more. Such as the Oracle Sales Cloud, Oracle Service Cloud and Oracle E-Business Suite adapters. Apart from connectivity they provide security and authentication methods which are aligned with the application. They provide a more logical list of Business Entities, instead of just plain API calls. Some even offer special query languages to find data (see figure 4).
Currently there are many adapters already available to ICS and many more are coming in next releases (see figure 5 and 6). Not only Oracle’s own applications are supported, but also lots of applications from other vendors (Salesforce, SAP, etc.).
Once all connections are created for both sides to be integrated, we can start defining the integration itself. First one defines which integration pattern to use (figure 7).
Most of the times we have used ‘Map My Data’ as a pattern for the integration of two applications. Secondly, we drag and drop ‘connections’ onto the two drop targets on the integration screen (see figure 8).
Once all connections have been dropped, we can add mappings by clicking the map icons (see figure 9).
In the following example we are mapping an ‘Account’ entity from Oracle Sales Cloud, to an ‘Organization’ entity in Oracle RightNow. Both entities are structured differently so we need to map one type to the other.
The ICS mapper resembles the one available in the Oracle Service Bus XQuery mapper. Apart from mapping one value to another it is also possible to use expressions for more complicated mappings (figure 11).
Once all mappings have been completed you’re ready to activate (deploy) your integration and start testing it.
To get a good feel of ICS we recommend viewing the Demos and Movies from the Oracle ICS site . They provide some application integration examples, and tutorials on how to use ICS to create a particular integration.
Apart from developing your own integrations in Oracle ICS, one can also leverage integrations build by others. According to the documentation and other online resources, there should be some prebuilt integrations from Oracle. These prebuilt integrations offer mappings from one type to the other between Oracles own cloud applications.
Sadly we weren’t able to find them on the Marketplace anymore. This might be because our account did not include a customer ICS subscription? For now we’ll just have to trust on the documentation for this (see figure 12 and 13) [4,6].
Oracle Cloud Marketplace
Although we could not find the prebuilt integration from Oracle on the Marketplace, we did find other interesting offerings. These offerings have been created by other Oracle partners, and are either free of charge, or can be licensed separately.
For instance an integration between Oracle Marketing Cloud to Oracle Sales Cloud, or between Oracle Sales Cloud and Oracle E-Business Suite (figure 14 and 15).
We’re guessing they might not be using Oracle ICS, but some other integration platform. But this does show opportunities for using ICS as well. Oracle partners (such as ourselves) can also create integrations between different cloud applications and offer these on the Oracle Marketplace themselves!
Either one offers the ICS integration mappings as a zip-file to customers using ICS themselves. Or one could use their own ICS instance to host the entire integration for the customer’s altogether.
Other ICS opportunities include building your own Adapters, or creating apps/views in the cloud (JCS) which can integrate with various customer cloud apps.
Easy to use
ICS looks best suited for cloud-2-cloud integrations. But also cloud, to on premise is supported just fine (by means of agents). ICS enables customers to quickly acquire an integration platform, and it is easy to use.
ICS´ biggest strength is providing multiple different adapters for a variety of cloud based business applications currently on the market. Within a few clicks one can define a connection to the Oracle Sales Cloud, Salesforce, RightNow, SAP, Oracle E-Business Suite and many others. But also integration with other systems using SOAP/ REST/JMS/FTP/DB are supported by using the various technology adapters available in ICS.
ICS key offering in our opinion:
- Many cloud application adapters
- Ease of use, user friendly Web-UI
- No need to provision own servers and software, within a few clicks you can have access to an integration platform