Thursday, July 1, 2010

Fault handling in Oracle SOA Suite 11g - Part I

You generally want to differentiate between technical errors and functional faults within your processes and services. Functional faults are those that have meaning to the business and might be expected. Functional faults and handling these faults can be part of a process. Consider the example of electronic invoice handling in which an invoice is processed that has a total amount of $2000 while an organization only approved an amount of $1500. In this scenario we can use a human task to halt this particular process instance and assign it to the finance department. An employee of the finance department acquires the task and investigates the issue. He or she may conclude that the client sending the invoice was mistaken, that the invoice approval was not entered correctly in our backend IT-systems or that someone put a coffee mug on the invoice and hence the amount was wrongly interpreted by our scanning and OCR software. In any case, after this human intervention the process may continue again and follow the “happy flow” in our BPEL or BPM processes.

When it comes to technical faults you probably do not want to design error handling in the process itself. If you do, your processes and services will end up being cluttered with all kinds of additional process logic such as while loops, gotos, catches, event handling, and so on to try to recover from technical errors. Technical errors might not be recoverable at all; think of an invoice file that is incorrectly formatted, an invoice file that contains negative numbers while your service or process only accepts positive values, or an invoice file that is mangled during transport. Besides, trying to handle these errors makes your SCA composites look like a mix of spaghetti and circuit boards. Not exactly flexible, agile and manageable: the things we wanted to achieve with service- and process-orientation in the first place.

This blog series contains a possible mechanism to generically handle technical errors in your processes and services -that are wrapped as SCA composites- in Oracle SOA Suite 11g.

In one of our projects we came across a scenario in which administrators need to be notified in case of technical errors in any of the SCA composites. Next to the notification they want the corresponding composite to be terminated. Administrators then investigate the cause of the problem and possibly restart the process instances that are involved. Since every employee uses a task-driven portal, administrators want the error to be presented as a human task in this portal instead of receiving a bunch of e-mails. This needed to be implemented with a minimum of additional (business or process) logic.

To achieve this the following mechanism is used:

  • Use Oracle SOA Suite’s Fault Management Framework to redirect (technical) errors to a custom Java class;
  • Have the Java class fire an event containing the unique id of the instance using the Event Delivery Network (EDN) or Advanced Queuing (AQ);
  • Terminate the composite instance by using the Fault Management Framework and the outcome of the custom Java class;
  • Create a single SCA composite to handle all technical errors. This composite subscribes to the event, gathers information on the faulted composite instance, and presents this information as a human task that is assigned to administrators.

Read more on fault handling in part IIpart III and part IV of this blog series.

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