Oracle WebCenter 11g Cookbook Review

Packt Publishing's WebCenter 11g Cookbook

I was pleased to have been invited by Packt to review the new Oracle WebCenter 11g PS3 Administration Cookbook By Yannick Ongena.  You can see my initial book review here.  Now, Oracle Open World 2011 is finished.  There were plenty of new WebCenter announcements and tutorials.  Author Yannick Ongena was present to lead a practical session on WebCenter.

The biggest take away from the conference as well as for anyone who has spent any length of time reviewing the capabilities of the WebCenter platform is this: WebCenter is a huge and highly sophisticated system. It is not simply a “tool chest” with which you can build whatever you want.  It is an entire fabrication factory, ore mining operation, supply chain and lumber yard.  It is a highly capable system.  But with that level of capability comes a high level of complexity and sophistication.  If you have experience creating sleeping bags, it is unrealistic to think you can jump right into building hotels.  Sure people sleep in both sleeping bags and hotels but there is a difference in scope that is simply massive.

The commercial Oracle WebCenter ecosystem is waking up to this realization.  WebCenter developers are in extremely high demand.  This is both good and bad.  It is good because it means customers and partners are waking up to the potential value that the WebCenter platform has to offer.  It means that the Oracle field is doing a decent job of articulating to the market all the things that the WebCenter platform can do.  Customers, especially big ones, are realizing that they don’t really want to keep adding more sleeping bags to their space, they want to build a hotel.  It is more efficient, more comfortable for their customers and a competitive differentiator over others.  But they face a huge dearth of skilled WebCenter developers – the hotel builders of our metaphor.  Do a quick Twitter search for WebCenter Developer and you will see what I mean.

And this is precisely where Yannick Ongena’s book comes in.  The Oracle WebCenter 11g PS3 Administration Cookbook is the blueprint and assembly instructions for creating that huge collaborative, content aware, business integrated portal system.  Because it is written as a recipe book it contains the step-by-step instructions for creating the kinds of applications described.  But it goes beyond traditional cook book style code manuals.  Yannick also provides a vital breakdown of each step in the recipe.  In each section of the book he includes a “How it works…” section.  This explains why you do what you do.  It is the equivalent of explaining why you need to use a wood screw rather than a nail in a construction project.  For developers who take the time to work their way through the book they emerge with a complete understanding of why they are doing what they did.  This is far superior to coming out of the book with a single working sample application that you would never use “in real life”.

Yannick covers tough subjects like security, analytics integration and content integration, unsexy but vital-to-get-right subjects like managing the resource catalog and design-time vs run-time configuration.

The book does not cover SSXA, the newer members of the WebCenter family like Oracle Sites (aka FatWire) or Oracle Social Network (aka WebCenter Connect).  Neither does it tell you when to use one Oracle WebCenter system vs another (e.g. there is substantial overlap between the activity stream, content store, tagging and web site production capability sets).

There are several key ways in which this book should be used.

Reshaping Your Business With Web 2.0
Reshaping Your Business With Web 2.0

First, it should be used as the How-To companion to design centric books like Reshaping Your Business With Web 2.0.  This book explains what you should do, Yannick’s book tells you how to do it.

Second, it should be used as an intensive 2 week boot-camp training course.  Some enterprising partner will figure this out and use the book as the core instructional manual for the course.  Given the overwhelming need for developers who understand this material, this should happen sooner than later.

Third, companies already onboard with the WebCenter stack or considering it should have a copy of this book for each of their development staff.  Each of the project / program managers should have a copy of Reshaping Your Business With Web 2.0 and their development teams should have this book ready to go.

Finally, independent consultants who want to get smart with WebCenter should work through each of the activities in this book and built out the sample applications.  This provides them with a self-taught learning capability that will allow them to not just be smart on WebCenter PS3, but it will also lay the foundation for scaling and extending their ability to build those mega-hotels we call enterprise systems.

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