Understanding Oracle's Integration Cloud and how to get the most out of your implementation

Tag: tip

Quarterly Updates

The update regime for Integration Cloud is well established in its quarterly pattern, but within that pattern are two update cycles, separated by two weeks. It is possible to choose which cycle your OIC instance update will be executed in. If you don’t specify which cycle then by default you will be put into the second cycle.

For production deployments of OIC that makes a lot of sense. But we would recommend that your non-production instance be part of the 1st update cycle. This allows you two weeks to validate and fix any issues in the event that the upgrade breaks any of your integrations. While that shouldn’t happen if you are exploiting an undocumented behaviour or something reported as a bug there is always a risk.

So the obvious question is how to define which update cycle should be used. For OCI Gen 2 (the majority of users should have migrated to now), the control is achieved by setting a freeform tag on the OIC instance. The tag needs to be called OIC_UPDATE_WINDOW1 (note – if you don’t read the Oracle documentation carefully you could end up omitting the numeral) and the value can be left blank. The tags are set on the OCI view for your OIC instance, which has a tabbed view as you can see below. Once the value is set then the OCI view will show an Updating status – this is not to be confused with the OIC instance being updated with the latest quarterly changes.

All of this shows up in blog (here and script fragment here) and a documentation (here). What is less apparent is the lead time needed for the tag to be in place. This is in the order of 7 or more weeks. This means you need to have your OIC dev instance in place almost a full quarter before the opportunity is available, and spinning up a new OIC instance and expecting it to immediately adopt the latest version during the maintenance window isn’t going to solve any problems.

How to confirm the instance version

The related question is where to look for the version of OIC is running. The information is only provided in the instance console rather then the OCI View of OIC. The version information is available as part of the drop down visible on the question mark icon at the top right of the UI, as the following screenshots show:

We do hope that Oracle will shorten this in the months to come.

Terraforming …

If you’re building your OIC deployment(s) using Terraform, then you could pass a variable into your Terraform module (hence the reference to var. or read from a configuration file in which case you will want a data block and the value becomes data.)

locals {
 updateWindow = (var.use_window1) ? "OIC_UPDATE_WINDOW1" : "--NOT-WINDOW1--"

resource "oci_integration_integration_instance" "test_integration_instance" {
    compartment_id = var.compartment_id
    display_name = "ExampleOIC"
    integration_instance_type = var.integration_instance_integration_instance_type
    is_byol = false
    message_packs = 1

    consumption_model = var.integration_instance_consumption_model
    custom_endpoint {
        hostname = var.integration_instance_custom_endpoint_hostname

        certificate_secret_id = oci_vault_secret.test_secret.id

    freeform_tags = {"${local.updateWindow}"= ""}
    idcs_at = var.integration_instance_idcs_at
    is_file_server_enabled = var.integration_instance_is_file_server_enabled
    is_visual_builder_enabled = var.integration_instance_is_visual_builder_enabled
    network_endpoint_details {
        network_endpoint_type = var.integration_instance_network_endpoint_details_network_endpoint_type

        is_integration_vcn_allowlisted = var.integration_instance_network_endpoint_details_is_integration_vcn_allowlisted
    state = var.integration_instance_target_state

As you can see in my example I have hardwired more values than the example provided by the Oracle Terraform documentation (here) as it helps show the legal values. Here to keep the declarations simple – I have set a freeform tag regardless, but changed in the local variable value to be used by the freeform tag depending on if a variable ( use_window1) is set.

ICS Pricing – ICS Definitive Tip #9

Cloud Costs

ICS pricing is based on two aspects – the number of connections and the number of messages processed.  But what constitutes a connection?  What happens if I exceed the number of messages or connections?

Connecting directly to DBaaS – ICS Definitive Tip #7

DBaaSEnriching an integration from data in a database or DBaaS (Database as a Service) is not an unusual requirement. Many integration use cases today need to access a database that is on-premises. The means to connect to the database is fairly obvious – the connection agent. Our book goes into a lot more detail as to why that is, and the implications of using database connections.

However when it comes to Oracle’s DBaaS a service it would be very easy to assume that given that you’re using two different parts of Oracle’s PaaS that it would be straight forward to connect the two together without an agent. However, at least today whether its on-premises or DBaaS you need to use a connection agent. This does mean that you’ll need an IaaS node to host the connection agent.

This quirk is driven by the fact that there are some scenarios that this does actually make sense. For example – the Oracle domains need to have a high level of isolation, so when the DBaaS is in another domain then the decoupling via the agent makes sense. When your database is in a different zone of the cloud – then you’re running DB calls across what is effectively a wide are network – not good.

Conditional Mapping – ICS Definitive Tip #6

The question of conditional mapping comes up regularly on the ICS part of community.oracle.com which prompted us to write this blog. So if you want the output of an integration in element X to contain value from element A or B depending upon element C there are a number of answers, each having pros and cons. So let’s look at them before we offer an example of how we would solve the simpler more common problem.. Your choices are ….

  • Use the power of XSLT within the mapping,
  • Use the conditional option Within a Basic Map Data or an Orchestration pattern,
  • Use a custom piece of JavaScript
XLST Condition in the flow Custom Javascript
Single path through the integration Simpler to read and see visually Can be used either in the condition oer the mapping. Easier to apply than XSLT directly.
ICS doesnt make it the easiest to write this, but reading is fairly easy Easy to visually understand, but means more maintenance effort Easy to incorporate, but makes the development process multistep

We have talked about the condition/filtering in the book, and we will tackle the use of JavaScript in its own Definitive Guide, so let’s look at the XSL mapping option, and probably the route that will cover most cases. In many respects this is nothing to do with ICS, and is all about the use of XSLT so you may find it helpful to have an XSLT reference to hand. To this end the following maybe useful:

  • W3C – perhaps not the easiest to read, but definitely definitive,
  • XMLSchool far more readable but keeps things simple, and focuses on XSLT to create (X)HTML content

Differentiating the ICS Agent Types – Definitive Tip #5

In our book we talked about the difference between the agents offered by ICS, namely the Connection  and Execution agents. Whilst we differentiated the two, we did focus on the connection agent as this is the type we expect to see used in most cases. However the execution agent still suffers from a level of confusion, and it has been helped by being called  ‘ICS on-premises’.

As part of a number of recent conversations the questions and confusion of what the execution agent is and how it works has come up. There is the well known saying ‘a picture is as good as a 1000 words’ which prompted us to develop the diagram below as a power point slide – in its power point form much of the detail is used as an animated build up.

ICS Agent Comparison

Selecting which iPaaS Product(s) to use – ICS Definitive Tip #4

In the last few years Oracle’s iPaaS offerings have progressed significantly from one or two solutions such as Mobile Cloud Service to in excess of 35 offerings. This makes it challenging to decide which product(s) to use. The means for selection depends upon a range of factors including:

  • Most suitable licensing model (ICS provides a lower cost of entry than SOA CS as you’re paying by message volumes)
  • Development skills and desire to resilience or invest in people (SOA on-premises to SOA CS is easier than a technology change such as ICS)
  • The amount of control you have in an environment – JCS offers more control than ACCS for example

Using iCal in Scheduling – ICS Definitive Tip #3

In ICS Definitive Guide #2 we looked at the scheduling of integrations and mentioned the possibility of using iCal. In this tip we shall explore advanced iCal facility for defining schedules within ICS.

icalThe iCal format is probably best known for sharing meeting events in tools such as outlook. The format is actually a standard defined by the IETF originally in 1998 (https://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc2445.txt)  and updated several times the latest being IETF Logo - owner of iCal std 2015 (https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc7529). The goal of the definition has been for the purpose of driving standardisation across PIM tools (Personal Information Management) tools which includes Outlook and Thunderbird etc. It is a substantial standard the original document ran to 150 pages, but the section supported by the schweduler’s advanced option purely relates to the reoccurence definition covered by section 4.3.10 of the original RFC, and only takes five pages. If you want to know lots about iCal and the varying revisions then you may find https://icalendar.org/ helpful.

It is worth mentioning that today ICS under the hood exploits Oracle’s Enterprise Scheduler Service (ESS). ESS documentation identifies that it works to the 2445 version of the specification (see here). ESS became a 1st class citizen component with the start of the 12c middleware product stack. As a result, if you see any errors processing an iCal configuration the error codes will reference ESS does.

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