The “hidden” IaaS Capability

Oracle is moving fast in the IaaS world.

I’ve been using the Oracle Cloud IaaS service for quite some time now.  I spin up various forms of OEL or Ubuntu and deploy applications on top.

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But did you know there are many ways to spin up common platforms on top of IaaS with no installation required?  Bitnami is one option, but there is a “hidden” menu item that few people know about and I want to share that with you now.

Continue reading “The “hidden” IaaS Capability”

OSB to API Platform

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As a follow-on to my previous blog entry “ICS to API Platform,” I wanted to also show how a similar thing could be done for Oracle Service Bus (OSB).

The 12c release of OSB added many new capabilities to support REST services and execute REST services.  It also has automatic conversions between JSON and XML payloads making it very easy to expose existing webservices to REST/JSON based services.  It is also easy to consume REST/JSON services and use them just as if they were webservices.

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Building a Smart Contract with Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service @ #WinterHack2018

Last weekend, I was at the Code Network Winter Hackathon event in Brisbane – https://codenetwork.co/winter-hackathon-2018/. I was there as a sponsor, workshop presenter, mentor and just a general supporter. As such there was some down-time between different activities. So, what a great time to sit down and work on something that I have no idea about (technically) – #Blockchain and Hyperledger. So, as a normal person does – I went searching for relevant content to help. Here’s a couple of the searches that I did.

Unfortunately, through many different searches and reading lots of things it became apparent that I didn’t know much and there was lots to learn. There seemed to a massive amount information that looked great. There was content that talked about what a Blockchain is. There was content that talked about the business use cases and examples of why you use a Blockchain technology. There was code that built a Blockchain. I found plenty smart contract examples on github. I learnt more about what I needed to know but it didn’t get me to the place that I wanted to be.

So – how do I develop and play with a Smart Contract?

The main learning for me through this process was the fact that my literacy around Blockchain was not very good. And as hard as I tried, “my search as only as good as my question”. Here’s my attempt of simplifying the landscape so as a developer, you can get started with the valuable bit of blockchain – ie building apps.

For the purposes of the Winter Hackathon, I was inspired by 3 relevant occurences – the Coles promotion called My Little Shopper – https://shop.coles.com.au/a/a-national/promo/little-shop-online (it’s amazing what people and parents would do); Tixel which is a safe and legit way to buy and sell tickets – https://tixel.com.au/Queensland (recently finished their tour of the CEA’s Collider accelerator program for creative tech); and CargoSmart which simplifies the global shipping industry to improve planning and on-time deliveries https://www.cargosmart.com/en/default.htm (and recently working with us on their Blockchain implementation).

WRITING YOUR SMART CONTRACT

When first looking into the implementation and specifically for HyperLedger, it felt like a Smart Contract was this mythical being that protected all intruders and evil spirits from tampering with the legendary Ledger. Oh was I mistaken.

Hey. I see what you truly are. You’re just a Data Access Object with some validation, integrity and
transformation logic with three types of bitbucket calls – GetState, PutState and wait for it …
DeleteState (which doesn’t delete it but only removes the lookup but keeps the transaction history).

With the mystical aura removed and a few different patterns emerging, it has become pretty simple. Here’s a few snapshots of what makes up the Smart Contract. Oh … most implementations are based upon Go. Some other implementations are now in NodeJS.

This is the start of the source file. The main imports are the Fabric Shim and Peer that relate to the Fabric Go SDK. The other imports are more about data manipulation.

   

This is the main structure of the state being managed. The json reference is a mapping to the attribute as described in JSON.

 

The index string is used as a key into data that is stored in the ledger.

   

This is the main function that is called by the exposed REST API. The payload itself has references to the chaincode (the Smart Contract implementation) as well as the function to execute and the arguments to pass to the function.

 

The references to t.read(), t.delete() or t.write()function calls are to delegate functions that implement the underlying GetState, PutState and DelState calls.

   

This is an example of a GetState call. Notice that data comes back as a byte array.

 

There are shim.Error() and shim.Success() functions to return failure and success states.

   

This is an example of a PutState call. Notice that data comes back as a byte array.

   

This is an example of a DelState call.
(Not much to it)

 

Once I wrote the basic CRUD Chaincode, then it needed to be packaged for Oracle Autonomous Blockchain Cloud Service which was my target platform for the purposes of what I was doing at the hackathon. It is quite easy. Zip up the one .go file. And now it was ready for me to install and instantiate on the Blockchain Cloud Service.

GETTING IT TO RUN

With the fun bit over, I needed to create the network that the chaincode would be installed and instantiated. There can 3 main steps:

  1. Create the network (ie. the environment in which the code is run) and organisations (ie. the participants of the interaction)
  2. Configure the network (ie. exchange keys and configuration)
  3. Deploy the chaincode and Run the chaincode via a REST API

Before I started provisioning this service, I went through a fair number blogs, articles, youtube clips and stack overflow questions about how to configure up the Blockchain infrastructure. There were a million and one ways to do it. All of them were detailed and more than what I wanted to do. So, I got an instance of Oracle Autonomous Blockchain Cloud Service and started working on it. The following sections will guide through this process.

1. Creating the Network and Organisations

For this example, I created one network and two organisations. That’s the first thing that I did. What happens is that the different blockchain services are provisioned for the network and organisations. In the default configuration, there’s a Blockchain Management console started to manage the network and organisations. This in default scenarios is deployed on port 3000 so go to http://<host&gt;:3000.

   

I create one network and two participant organisations each with their own REST Proxy and Console.
Specifically for the network configuration, there is an additional port for the Orderer.

The result of this was the network and organisations are created and are started.

2. Configuring the Network

With the network and organisations operational, the next step is to configure the network and associate the different participating organisations. What this means is that there is configuration and keys that are shared between these entities.

a) Export Orderer Settings

We’ll click on the link for the network (and in this case it’s Coles) and this opens a new console for managing the Blockchain network. Under the Network tab, the different organisations exist. The Orderer settings are extracted to be shared with the participant organisations. This process downloads a JSON file with some configuration.

b) Participants Joining the Network

Going back to the http://<host&gt;:3000 console, we’ll click on the link for managing a Blockchain organisation (and this is repeated for each organisation). Each participant organisation requires to export a set of certificates and import the network Orderer settings. Once completing the import process, we are operational.

Here’s a screenshot of the workflow to export the certificates which exports a JSON file and import the Orderer settings.

Once everything is complete, we can either go back to the network configuration (ie Blockchain Network console)
or repeat the process for another participant organisation.

Here’s a screenshot of the existing Orderer network configuration as shown in the Blockchain Network console.

By adding organisations to the network, we upload the JSON files exported from the participating organisations
(using the Blockchain Organisation consoles). In this scenario, we have two different organisations Jones and Smith.

Here’s a screenshot of the existing Orderer network configuration with the newly imported participant organisations.


This is another view of the relationship between the organisations and the network. We are now ready to deploy the chaincode.

3. Deploy the Chaincode

We are now just moments away from the true task we wanted to get it – running the chaincode. With the zip file of our Go code, we can install and instantiate it to be exposed through the REST API of the network.

We navigate to the Chaincode tab in the Blockchain Network console. This is where we see the different chaincodes deployed including different versions.

There are a couple of different ways to deploy – Quick and Advanced. I’ve just chosen Quick Deploy to keep the process simple.

The configuration that is required to deploy a chaincode includes: version, which peers to install and instantiate,
uploading the zip file and adding endorsement policies which leads to signing of different transactions.

With a few seconds (less than minutes), the chaincode is deployed to the network.
The next part to this is to run it. To save time, I’ve used postman to execute the REST APIs.

Here we go. The chaincode is deployed and operational. The REST API resources and formats are available here –
https://docs.oracle.com/en/cloud/paas/blockchain-cloud/rest-api/rest-endpoints.html

Having a look at the Blockchain Network console and under the Channels tab, I can look at the state of the ledger and other statistics.

 

We are now done. We’ve built the chaincode (ala the Smart Contract), we’ve spent a little time
configuring the network and organisations that participated in the network
and then we deployed the chaincode (as a zip file) and ran it.

If you want to try this out yourself, you can get trial from https://cloud.oracle.com/tryit and provision an Autonomous Blockchain Cloud Service for yourself.

 

 

At the end, as I was looking for search results for this article, I found exactly what I was wanting to find (within seconds) “Blockchain chaincode examples”. Here’s a couple of references that I have found to be useful and simple to get your head around without delving into the depths of the Blockchain infrastructure:

First Experience Provisioning SOACS – Integration Analytics

Oracle introduced the Real Time Integration Business Insight product as part of its Integration offering in 2016. For a 2 minute overview check out Insight Overview Video .

The good news is that this capability is now available in the Oracle Public Cloud as part of the SOA Cloud Service and can be provisioned using the Integration Analytics Cluster service type.

In this blog I plan to do the following;

  • Briefly introduce Integration Analytics and Real Time Integration Business Insight (Insight)
  • Walk through the Provisioning Steps
  • Walk through the Post Provisioning Steps

In a related blog post I will cover how to interact with the Integration Analytics capability via REST.

Continue reading “First Experience Provisioning SOACS – Integration Analytics”

Teaching how to secure access to on-premise Applications with Oracle API Platform

In this blog, I am going to show you how to use the API gateway from the Oracle API Platform, to secure the access to backend Applications. These internal applications might already be exposing REST APIs, but given these are internal APIs, being exposed by backend applications themselves, we simply don’t want to directly expose them into the public Internet.

There are many reasons for this, for example, the backend application might not have the right ability to fully secure its APIs for external use, nor to have the right ability to control access authorisation, throttle requests, apply different policies, validate custom headers, apply API-KEYs, run analytics, etc. Normally only an API Gateway can do all these different things.

I can think of the 3 most common ways to securely get access to backend applications behind a corporate firewall.

  1. Using secured APIs exposed externally
  2. Connecting through a secured VPN tunnel
  3. Using a messaging pattern, like with the Oracle Integration Cloud Service Agents deployed locally and then gathering access externally via Integration Cloud Service console or APIs

In this blog, we are going to explore option number 1.

Continue reading “Teaching how to secure access to on-premise Applications with Oracle API Platform”

Using MFT Cloud Service to Automate HCM Batch Uploads – Part 1

In this blog, we will use Oracle Managed File Transfer Cloud Service to perform batch loads into Oracle HCM Cloud.

Use cases for this include updating Employee data from external systems e.g. recruitment, uploading employee pictures from a badge creation system or syncing data while running hybrid with PeopleSoft.

Continue reading “Using MFT Cloud Service to Automate HCM Batch Uploads – Part 1”

Teaching how to use Bitnami to deploy any Image into Oracle Public Cloud

Recently, I was challenged at work, to make my drone take off, using a simple voice command via “Alexa”. Given this challenge came from my boss, I decided to happily accept it. I ended up writing some simple NodeJS code that interfaces with my drone and used a series of new Echo skills and a Home Assistant bridge to easily command my drone to take off and follow simple orders, something like “Alexa, please take off my drone and make it back flip twice“.

After some hours and many coffees, I got to the point that I was done and ready to show my working demo. However, I needed to take my NodeJS code and put it somewhere in the cloud to run it. I had a few options, like deploying my code into Oracle Application Container Cloud Service, which runs NodeJS natively over docker containers, but given that I have done this in the past and I was in an “adventurous mode”, I decided to try something new.

I wondered how simple would it be to use Bitnami to spin up a new NodeJS VM in Oracle Public Cloud… Well, I was amazed how pleasant the experience was, so I decided to capture this excitement in a quick blog for you to try as well.

Continue reading “Teaching how to use Bitnami to deploy any Image into Oracle Public Cloud”