Monthly Archives: June 2008

ODTUG Conference, Thursday (APEX vs. ADF)

On the last day of the ODTUG conference, I went to the APEX vs. ADF session. Lucas Jellema of AMIS presented the ADF Faces approach and Dimitri Gielis presented the APEX approach. Though Lucas tried to play down the “shootout” aspect, the tone did become rather confrontational, helped by an audience overwhelmingly cheering for APEX.

They had each built a survey application with their respective tools in 6 just hours. Both Lucas and Dimitri demonstrated their applications and the strong points of their chosen tool. The presentation was concluded with a comparison along nine dimensions. Since Lucas and Dimitri each scored their preferred tool and obviously had different ideas of what deserved a top score, this wasn’t really helpful.

The APEX people were clearly in the majority at the conference, but still seem to have a chip on their shoulder. I’m not sure this confrontational attitude is helpful to the wider Oracle development community – personally, I’d hold that an Oracle shop of more than a few people needs to master both ADF Faces for strategic solutions and APEX for tactical applications.

What do you think? Can you get by with just one tool? If so, which one would you choose?

ODTUG Conference, Wednesday

I started the day with my own presentation “Like Open Source Forms”, which is one long live demo how to build an ADF Swing application. I then saw a detailed presentation on ADF Taskflow by Edwin Biemond. Some BPEL-infatuated developers tend to use BPEL even for page flows; but with ADF Taskflows, we can now point these people to the right solution.

Paul Dorsey gave his presentation on why all code (including page navigation) ought to be in the database. He told some interesting stories about pure OO projects that failed horribly and concluded that his preferred “thick database” approach resulted in half the development time, half the code, half the database load, ten times the performance and one percent of the network roundtrips compared with the OO approach.

After lunch, I saw John Flack present his project that allows people to locate the nearest substance abuse treatment location and see it on a map. He innovatively combines Google Maps (used for geocoding through a PL/SQL API), Oracle Locator (the SDO_GEOMETRY object type to allow geographical “find nearest” queries) and an ADF Faces user interface with Google Maps embedded.

The last presentation of the day was Carl Backstrom from Oracle who presented some sophisticated AJAX features used in APEX that a Javascript-savvy developer can also use to extend the functionality of APEX applications. And then it was off to the ODTUG party…

ODTUG Conference, Tuesday

Preparing for my own presentation, I missed Grant Ronalds presentation on declarative development with JDeveloper. But he showed that it’s possible to build a complete ADF Faces application without writing a single line of code.

I saw Scott Spendolini give a very good presentation on some relatively cheap 3rd party components that you could integrate into you APEX application. At the PL/SQL expert panel they gave out a quiz to all developers. Steven Feuerstein had found a lot of interesting corners – it seems I don’t know PL/SQL as well as I thought…

At the Oracle ACE Directors briefing, Duncan Mills and Clemens Utschig told us about Oracles strategy, new releases etc., Unfortunately, we are not allowed to talk about much of it until July 1st… The focus was on the BEA aquisition, which seems to be progressing nicely with some interesting parts being integrated into the Oracle product palette. After the Oracle presentations, Oracle ACE Directors Eric Marcoux, Andrejus Baranovskis and Lucas Jellema presented some of the things whey are working on, including a big WebCenter-based application and a Forms to ADF Faces migration.

After the briefing, I gave my own presentation “What’s Hot and What’s Not”, trying to explain all the choices available to Oracle developers today. I’ve been talking to a lot of people at this conference and have had to conclude that ADF Swing is simply not being used much. So ADF Swing has been downgraded from dark green green to a yellow (see my Oracle Tools page).

Then it was off to first the Oracle ACE panel moderated by Justin Kestelyn of OTN for an interesting discussion about the role of the ACEs, followed by the Meet the ACEs reception. After reception, I headed to Arnaud’s for the Oracle ACE dinner. Amazingly, among the eight people at our table, we had Europe, Africa, Asia, North and South America and Australia represented – only Antarctica was missing. The Oracle ACE program is truly global!

ODTUG Conference, Monday

After the general session, I saw “Building Next Generation of Composite Application” presented by Oracle. I was disappointed that this was a standard ADF application building presentation that did not really use WebCenter at all.

After lunch, I went first to the Oracle Tools Expert Panel session, where there were several good discussions. I then saw the PITSS vendor presentation – they are using their Forms tool to help you extract business logic from existing Forms applications. And I heard Peter Koletzke present a case study about migrating/redeveloping an old Forms application in ADF – good presentation.

In the last session of the day, an Oracle Product Manager clowned his way through a couple of ill-prepared APEX demos and went 30 minutes over his allotted time of 60 minutes. But while the presentation was unimpressive, the tool surely is. The Forms-to-APEX migrator seems to be real (while still alpha) – we did see a Forms XML file read and converted into a basic APEX app.

It does seem that the Oracle Development community is splitting into two camps:

  • On one side, out of the eight people on the Oracle Tools Expert Panel, nobody knew about APEX. So the Fusion Middleware people seem to be ignoring APEX.
  • On the other side, the APEX presentation had a lot of attitude of the “we’re-cool-RAD-developers” and “enterprise-developers-are-uncool” type. So the APEX people clearly see themselves as a breed apart from the Fusion Middleware people.

Oracle WebCenter Services license for Oracle Portal users

During the general session this morning at the ODTUG conference in New Orleans, Oracle VP Vince Casarez said that there would be a separate “WebCenter Services” license. This is intended for Oracle Portal customers who want some WebCenter functionality without having to pay for the whole WebCenter product. (You’ll have to upgrade your Oracle Portal to 11g in order to get the necessary WSRP 2.0 capabilities.) 

This sounds like just what Oracle Portal customers have been waiting for – we get to use the cool new WebCenter features without having to throw away our portal. Official announcement including pricing is supposed to be made by Oracle Senior VP Thomas Kurian on July 1st.

ODTUG Conference, Sunday

I participated in the Fusion Middleware Best Pracatices Symposion all of Sunday. Paul Dorsey, Duncan Mills and others spoke on developling Fusion applications. Conclusion: It’s big, hard, complicated and easy to get wrong. But developing JEE apps without using Fusion is harder. No wonder there were more people attending the APEX track.

Eric Marcoux of the University of Laval spoke about the big university system they are building with pretty much the whole Oracle stack (Identity Management, Provisioning, etc) – and WebCenter. They’ll have a website for every course and are using the WebCenter Composer to let each teacher build his own course page. Composer is cool, but this is the first realistic usecase I’ve seem where someone would actually need it. But they are not going with WebCenter 10g – they are building with 11g for their anticipated release date of 2009. So I still haven’t found a real, running site using WebCenter 10g.

The most interesting presentation of the day was hearing David Schleis of the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene speak on Groovy. I had written off Groovy in the “cool-new-programming-language-of-the-month” category, but I’ll have to revisit that. Groovys point is that a lot of the verbose Java code doesn’t really need to be written – the Groovy compiler can work things out (for example there are implicit setters and gettings in Groovy – you don’t have to write them). And the compiler builds bytecode that’ll run in your JVM alongside your Java. Groovy, man!

Do you need a blog?

I just got in to New Orleans for the ODTUG conference starting tomorrow. While standing in the usual endless lines for immigration, luggage, customs and security at Washington Dulles Airport, I managed to read all of Blog Schmog by Robert W. Bly. He comes from a traditional direct marketing background and is very much unimpressed by the whole blogging phenomenon. At best, a blog can be used for brand building – which he considers largely a waste of money because you can’t measure ROI.

As a counterpoint, I read Naked Conversations by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel while waiting at the gate for my delayed flight to New Orleans. The book is mainly anecdotal, telling interesting stories about people who succeeded with blogs, mixed with general “the web changes everything” comments of pre-2000 vintage. The authors are clearly blogging enthusiasts, but cannot really muster any convincing arguments to back up their claim that every business needs a blog.
On balance, Robert W. Bly wins the argument – you probably don’t need a blog. Fortunately, he does make an exception for consultants like myself 😉

Portal and WebCenter at Oracle OpenWorld

The session catalog for the upcoming Oracle OpenWorld conference has now been published. Being interested in the great Oracle Portal vs. Oracle WebCenter debate, I naturally looked for both WebCenter and Portal.

Oracle is giving 8 presentations on WebCenter + one hands-on session. (If you search the catalog yourself, be aware that the phrase “standards-based portal” is Oracle-speak for Oracle WebCenter, not Oracle Portal.) Since no new functionality is annouced, these are likely to be similar to the presentations last year. One presentation is titled “WebCenter and Beyond” – so maybe we can get a preview of what’s coming in WebCenter 12g while we wait for 11g. WebCenter is also mentioned in three of the mandatory (con)fusion architecture presentations, placing it squarely in the center of Oracle’s strategic direction. Oracle Portal is not mentioned by Oracle at all – but then again, we got the “Portal 11g New Features” presentation last year and are still waiting for the software…

There are also two customer presentations. One is by Oracle ACE Director Eric Marcoux from the University of Laval on an actual WebCenter deployment – so they do exist! Interestingly, in a nod to the Oracle Portal community, Oracle has also chosen a user presentation on Oracle Portal by Gregory Pike from Piocon Technologies.

Portal or WebCenter?

Only just done reviewing papers for one conference (ODTUG Kaleidoscope, coming this month), and already it’s time to reviews abstracts for the next conference (UKOUG Conference, in December).

One interesting thing I spotted in the abstracts was the difference between Oracle Portal and Oracle Webcenter:

  • There are five abstracts on Oracle Portal from customers and partners, but none from Oracle
  • There are no abstracts on Oracle WebCenter from customers or partners, but two from Oracle

That supports my own gut feeling that WebCenter is still Oracle’s “next great thing,” but isn’t really being used in real life yet. Maybe that’ll change once we get WebCenter 11g – but the very high license fee is definitely holding the adoption of WebCenter back. If you want an affordable WebCenter that’s not bundled with ECM, SES, etc., please register at Oracle Mix and vote for my idea Please make a WebCenter Standard Edition product.