Thursday, 16 December 2010

OPA Release 10.2.0 - birds eye view

I have just been playing around with the new 10.2 release of Oracle Policy Automation (OPA) and I have to say this is quite a major step forward for a minor point release. For those who have not seen the release note, the following is extracted from the Oracle 10.2 release overview

  • Translation Support: Excel spreadsheets that contain all the translatable parts of a rulebase, which are updated with the new strings to be translated when you modify rules or screens,etc. 
  • Entity Containment: New hierarchical data model that simplifies data collection, debugging, and rule authoring when using relationships 
  • Pluggable Determinations Server: New extensibility model for Determinations server that
    allows you to do pre- or post-processing of incoming data, or do as needed retrieval of data from an external data source, for example 
  • Interview Web Service: Create fully customized stateful interview experiences in your GUI technology of choice 
  • Interview Screen Preview: Preview interview screens without having to go through the entire interview 
  • Flexible Interviews: Entity-level goals on the summary screen, more control over labels used for entity collection, and more 
  • Working out if a question has been asked: New "Not Currently Known" operator. 
  • New functions for text strings: Contains, StartsWith, EndsWith, IsNumber, Length. 
  • Entity Equality: Ability to write rules that compare one entity instance with all the other
    instances in a collection 
  • New Word/Excel 2007/2010 look and feel 
  • New Parsers and Improved Right-to-Left support: Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, German, Finnish,Chinese (Traditional) 
  • Native Subversion Support: Check files in and out directly from subversion without a MSSCCAPI connector, and see differences using Word's track changes feature 
  • Custom Function Enhancements: Support for temporal values and generally cleaned up custom functions 
  • Support for Looping Rules: Ability to write self-referential rules, e.g. the person's tax payable = the person's tax payable for the current tax year + for (the prior tax year, the person's tax payable) 
  • Platform Support: Windows 7 x64, Office 2010, .NET Framework 4.0, Oracle VM, MS Visual Studio Team Server 2010

Nice to see subversion support finally making it in there, although having just moved from subversion to mercurial myself I still think it is a bit of a shame there is not a plugin environment to allow support for any version control system of choice, in particular in OPA's case the ability to support storing of Word and Excel files in Sharepoint.

For me personally it was a relief to see the Windows 7 x64 bit and the Office 2010 support. Running a VM on my laptop with Vista and Office 2007 in order to use OPA was becoming teeth (and disk) grindingly tedious.

The determinations server extensibility options look promising. I haven't had a chance to play with it in detail yet but it certainly tidies up the whole data injection process and provides enough hooks for a decent amount of flexibility and cusomisation. Perhaps a decent runtime auditing and performance monitoring add-on can now be created.

My personal favourite however is the new Interview Engine component. This is a mid-level native Java/.NET libarary that can be used to drive interviews through logical controls on logical screen instances, leaving the sourcing of the data for the screens completely to the application, including rendering of the screens using any appropriate technology. This promises to open the door for some decent rich clients or web 2.0 clients to enhance the interview experience. This will be my first port of call when I get some decent  dev time to play with the product.

Luke Studley is a consultant with Monad Solutions