Monday, March 09, 2009

Just Hold On Loosely

Just hold on loosely
But don’t let go
If you cling too tightly
You’re gonna lose control
-- From .38 Special’s “Hold On Loosely”

In my last article, I came right out and said that customizing packaged apps is a bad idea. Blunt, clear, to the point…no question where I stand on this issue, right? So you’re probably asking “Floyd, how do I automate my unique business processes if I don’t customize packaged apps?”. Let’s talk briefly about that.

If I’m an Oracle E-Business user (or a user of any Oracle Applications Unlimited products, for that matter), I’d want to automate my custom business processes using the BPEL functionality in the Oracle SOA Suite.

Great, here we are in a down economy and I’m suggesting you spend more money licensing more Oracle products…thanks loads, right? Well, before you tune out on this idea and decide I’m shilling the SOA Suite for Oracle, fire up your spreadsheet of choice and run a quick comparison on the maintenance cost of packaged apps versus the costs (both up-front and recurring) of licensing the SOA Suite. Might take a little researching to estimate the numbers for your shop, but I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts that the SOA licensing costs will be the lower cost over a three-year period.

As you create your cost analysis, keep in mind an important point. Keeping your customizations outside of the packaged apps means you don’t have to perform testing and redevelopment of customizations every time you apply a patch to the packaged apps…and at least in the E-Business space, patches are frequent. We live and die by the patch.

So how is it that using the BPEL functionality in the SOA Suite reduces those maintenance costs? This is where the benefit of loose coupling comes into play. In fact, it’s the key to the whole idea here. I wrote a post on this in April of 2008 called “A Spoonful of Sugar”. It might be worth another read now. The upshot here is that the tighter the dependencies between your packaged apps and your customizations, the higher your maintenance costs. “If you cling too tightly, you’re gonna lose control…”


Ted Simpson said...

Amen. Patch-current near-vanilla apps are the best. Good point about the amount of testing required for custom apps.

Good to read from you, as always!

justadba said...

.38 Special? Floyd - you are one talented guy....I'll have to tell you about the song one day...
Totally agree on the patch current and stay vanilla. Just don't see it enough in the real world.