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Oracle Application Server 10g is an application platform suite that offers full support for J2EE, high-speed caching, rapid application development, enterprise portals, identity management, business intelligence, application and business integration, wireless capabilities and more.
Oracle came late to the application server market, leaving IBM and BEA to sweep up part of its potential business. But a large part of its installed base would not consider going anywhere else as long as Oracle has something to offer.
"To their core application server offerings, the current leaders are adding support for business process management, service-oriented architecture and web services, composite integrated applications, multichannel applications and event-driven architecture," said analyst firm Gartner. With increasing complexity, however, comes the increasing risk of proprietary lock-in.
Where did it originate?
Oracle's Web Server and Application Server products evolved in the late 1990s, consolidating many existing and new products.
What is it for?
"To a web developer, Application Server 10g is Oracle Portal and Oracle Web Cache, and to a developer, it is J2EE and OC4J (Oracle Containers for Java)," said the authors of The Oracle Application Server 10g Administration Handbook. "However, most users agree that the core functionality of the program is the support for Java development."
Oracle Application Server installations can consist of up to four tiers: client, web, application server and database. The database tier uses the standard Oracle database functions and the application tier can access it via J2EE database connection methods.
Oracle Application Server components include Oracle Containers for Java, which holds the application's Enterprise Java Beans, Oracle Portal, Oracle Wireless and a variety of query and reporting tools, including Oracle Discover, Oracle Forms Server and Oracle Reports Server.
What makes it special?
Oracle's strong advantage is being able to offer a database/ application server bundle. Oracle's own figures show Oracle Application Server outperforms IBM's Websphere and BEA's Weblogic, but that is to be expected. Meta Group still lists the IBM and BEA products as market leaders, with Oracle Application Server as their strongest competitor. But Meta expects open source J2EE application servers such as JBoss to rapidly gain momentum
How difficult is it to master?
For each of the Oracle Application Server roles such as administrator and web developer, Oracle provides three levels of training and certification: associate, professional and master. You will have an advantage if you have experience with the Oracle database, Java development, J2EE platforms and Linux.
Where is it used?
In Oracle installations. Oracle Application Server customers include Barnardo's, Boeing, Cern, City & Guilds and Virgin Direct.
What systems does it run on?
Linux, Solaris, HP-UX and Windows
Not many people know that...
Two years ago, when Microsoft vulnerabilities filled the headlines, Oracle supremo Larry Ellison boasted his servers were unbreakable. Now Oracle has begun shipping patches every month, just like Microsoft.
What is coming up?
Meta Group has predicted that most large organisations will have to support both J2EE application servers and Microsoft's .net. Microsoft has better productivity but J2EE has better enterprise-level infrastructure and scalability.
Rates of pay
Oracle Application Server developers are paid between £22,000 and £45,000, depending on seniority.
Classroom, online and CD-Rom-based courses are available from Oracle, its training partners and independent suppliers. People who do not have broadband will need saint-like patience when accessing the Oracle site.
See also the Unofficial Oracle Application Server Site. There are good free downloads about the Oracle Application Server architecture on both devshed and the O'Reilly sites.