All posts by vesterli

How Clever are Oracle Intelligent Bots?

Today, I’ve started on a three-week Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Developing Chatbots with Oracle Intelligent Bots. With 1171 people signed up, the course is full!

Oracle chatbot MOOC

I’m curious to see what Oracle can offer to distinguish themselves in the crowded chatbot space. I’ve investigated 14 of the best chatbot building platforms for developers, Top 10 Platforms To Build A Chatbot For Your Business, A Comprehensive List of 25 most amazing chatbot platforms that will rule in 2018 and beyond, and the remaining 10 top hits from Google for “chatbot platform” from the last six months. They disagree strongly on which tool is currently the best, but they agree on one thing: Oracle Intelligent Bots service is mentioned nowhere. One reason could be that it is part of Oracle Mobile Cloud Enterprise, and another could be that Oracle is once again entering a crowded marketplace late.

If you are a loyal “red stack” Oracle customer, it probably makes sense for you to buy your chatbot platform from Oracle, especially if you have a need for some of the other features of Oracle Mobile Cloud Enterprise. The most intriguing question is whether Oracle can leverage some of their other cloud services, for example getting customer or order information from an Oracle SaaS service. That would make Oracle Intelligent Bots a killer addition to the Oracle cloud for these customers.

I’ll be back with more information as I learn what the Oracle chatbots can do. If you are using chatbots (proof-of-concept or in production), I’d love to hear what platform you have chosen.


This post originally appeared in the Oracle Tool Watch newsletter. Sign up to receive a free copy of my whitepaper “What Oracle is Doing Wrong (and Right) in the Cloud.”

Do you need to learn something new in 2018?

You can change your life on any day of the year. But for some reason, incrementing the year counter in the Gregorian calendar makes more people aware of this fact. So should you change your life as an Oracle professional in 2018?

If you are a DBA, the autonomous, self-driving database is not going to put you out of work in 2018. As as matter of fact, the Oracle Database 18c is not an Autonomous Database. Oracle has announced an Autonomous Data Warehouse Cloud, but even that is still “Coming soon.” But do keep an eye on what this technology can do for you and your organization once it ships.

Autonomous database not here yet

If you are a database (PL/SQL) programmer with more than a few years from retirement, you’ll need a new gig. Consulting companies are laying off PL/SQL developers and most Oracle shops have more PL/SQL developers than they know what to do with. In the short term, if you don’t know APEX, definitely learn. In the long term, learn something outside the Oracle ecosystem.

If you are a Java developer, you’re good. There are billions of lines of Java code that will need maintaining for the next several programmer lifespans.

And don’t forget to eat healthier, exercise more, drink less, and stop making unrealistic promises to yourself. Happy new year!


This post originally appeared in the Oracle Tool Watch newsletter. Sign up to receive a free copy of my whitepaper “What Oracle is Doing Wrong (and Right) in the Cloud“. 

The new Excel-killer from Oracle

For a long time, APEX was Oracle’s Excel-killer. With the ability to upload a CSV file and create a matching table and then build an application on top of that, this was the easiest way to convert a spreadsheet into a secure multi-user application.

Visual Builder Cloud Service (VBCS) has now appeared as a serious challenger, offering some improvements over the way APEX handes Excel files. For example, the December 2017 version of VBCS has the ability to import Excel files directly without having to turn them into CSV files first. Separate worksheets in the Excel files become separate business objects. During the import, you can also define reference relationship for lookup values. This allows you to upload an Excel file with one master worksheet and a number of value lists as separate sheets, and produce a business object with all lookups in one operation.

Creating lookups

(image from Oracle VBCS documentation)

VBCS is one of Oracle’s cloud-native applications, so it only runs in the cloud and requires a subscription. But if that is not a problem for you, I encourage you to take a look. If you are already using VBCS, I’d love to hear from you.


This post originally appeared in the Oracle Tool Watch newsletter. Don’t miss the next post, sign up and receive a free copy of my whitepaper “What Oracle is Doing Wrong (and Right) in the Cloud”

How cool is Oracle?

In my short DOAG video, I opined that the APEX community wants to be cool. Many APEX developers took umbrage at that.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be cool. But as Oracle developers, we must realize we start at minus 10 on the coolness scale.

Oracle has never been a first mover in development tools, and have never made any serious effort to promote their tools. That’s a major reason why Oracle is seen as uncool in the wider developer community.

However, using cool tools is beside the point. Being an Oracle developer is about solving a real business problem in the fastest possible way. Historically, we used Oracle Forms for that. Today, many use APEX. Some use Oracle ADF, and some are starting to use Oracle JET.

What I like about the Oracle community is the focus on solving real problems, even with “uncool” tools. And that is cool.


This post originally appeared in the Oracle Tool Watch newsletter. Sign up to receive a free copy of my whitepaper “What Oracle is Doing Wrong (and Right) in the Cloud“.

Oracle Forms is Not Extinct

I was at the German Oracle user group conference in Nürnberg last week, and one interesting observation was that there was a lot of Forms-related content. The distribution of development topics looked like this:

One interesting feature presented by Oracle Forms product manager Michael Ferrante is the Forms Application Deployment Service (FADS). This functionality allows you to create a .FAR file (Forms Application Archive) with all the files you need for your entire Forms application, including FMB, configuration, SQL etc. With these complete packages, it becomes easier to distribute new versions of Forms applications.

There are still no signs of an Oracle Forms cloud service. For now, the only way to run Oracle Forms in the cloud is to buy some machine power in the form of an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) instance. And if you are just buying machine power, Oracle is unlikely to be the cheapest provider. However, with FADS Oracle is one step closer to being able to offer such a service.

I also spoke with the people I know from AuraPlayer. They have produced some cute stickers that inspired the title of this post:

Their product creates REST web services from an existing Forms application and also offers testing and monitoring for Forms applications. This is a very promising approach – if you have a Forms application and are interested in modernizing it, send me an e-mail and let’s discuss if that’s right for you.

This post originally appeared in the Oracle Tool Watch newsletter. Sign up now to receive a free copy of my whitepaper “What Oracle is Doing Wrong (and Right) in the Cloud”. 

What Oracle developers think

I’m speaking at the German Oracle user group conference this week. This is one of the two big Oracle user group conferences in Europe and they have good technical content for Oracle developers. I’ve attended Forms, APEX, ADF and Oracle JET presentations, and it’s interesting to observe the differences between the communities.

  • Oracle Forms developers are proud professionals who take their responsibility for keeping critical applications running very seriously
  • Oracle APEX developers want to be cool and use every new technology with APEX (Docker, Alexa, etc). There is lots of hand-waving enthusiasm and an “open mic” show.
  • Oracle ADF developers know they have selected the best tool and wonder why not everybody is using it
  • There aren’t really any Oracle JET developers yet, but there is a lot of interest in learning this technology


To keep up to date with what’s happening in the Oracle world, sign up for my Oracle Tool Watch newsletter. You’ll also get my whitepaper “What Oracle is doing wrong (and right) in the cloud.” 

Should I work with ADF or PLSQL?

I was asked on Quora “I have been given a choice to work either in ADF or PLSQL. What should I choose?

My answer is ADF, for many reasons:

  1. The programming language in ADF applications is Java, which is the most popular programming language. That means whatever you learn is applicable for the rest of your career.
  2. PL/SQL is only used in Oracle databases, meaning you will be building skills that will only be valuable in the subset of companies using the Oracle database seriously
  3. ADF development is a sought-after specialty. Just google “Oracle ADF Developer” to see a list of open jobs.
  4. There are many PL/SQL developers with 10+ years of experience, and the amount of PL/SQL work out there is declining. You’ll be competing with very capable and experienced PL/SQL programmers for this work.



Which Oracle tools are popular?

I’m soon heading to Nürnberg for the Deutsche Oracle-Anwender Gruppe (DOAG) annual conference. I’m on the agenda with two presentations, both on Tuesday, Nov 21:

  • “APEX, ADF, or ABCS? A real-life application built in 3 tools” in room Oslo at 8.30am
  • “The Seven Ways of Building Oracle Applications” in room Hongkong at 2.00pm

I know from the conferences I am part of arranging how hard it is to put together a good program. A lot of thought goes into the selection, making conference programs good indicators of which tools are popular with real-life developers. The 2017 DOAG agenda looks like this:

DOAG 2017 development tool presentations

We all know that APEX is a popular conference topic, and the DOAG conference is no exception. More surprising is the fact that Oracle Forms takes second place. There are a lot of Forms applications still running, and a lot of Forms developers. These people have nowhere to go at Oracle’s conferences, but fortunately, user groups are providing the Oracle Forms content developers are looking for.

It also seems the conference committee is not convinced about the Oracle mobile solutions – both Mobile Application Framework (MAF) and Mobile Application Accelerator (MAX) occur just once. And that is only because I have included them with one-seventh part of my presentation about the seven ways of building Oracle applications.

Please join your local Oracle user group and attend their events. That is another place to get the same straight talk on Oracle tools as you get from my emails. I hope to see you at DOAG 2017 in Nürnberg or at another conference somewhere.


This post originally appeared in the Oracle Tool Watch newsletter. Sign up to receive a free copy of my whitepaper “What Oracle is Doing Wrong (and Right) in the Cloud”. 

The Future of the Oracle Developer

I’m often asked, “what does the future look like for an Oracle developer?” The answer is that the future for IT developers, in general, is bright, but the future for Oracle developers is more murky.

Most people who consider themselves Oracle developers are using a very specific part of the Oracle product line – typically SQL and PL/SQL  in the database, possibly supplemented with Forms, APEX, or ADF. Unfortunately, that’s not where the future lies.

PL/SQL is typically languishing somewhere around place 20 on the TIOBE programming language list, with a rating of around 1.4% of developers. That’s ahead of COBOL, but behind Visual Basic. The long-term trend is also not on your side, as Google Trends shows. Google Trend for PL/SQL

Don’t consider yourself an Oracle developer. Consider yourself someone who uses IT to solve problems. And be open to learning something new.


This post originally appeared in the Oracle Tool Watch newsletter. Sign up to receive a free copy of my whitepaper “What Oracle is Doing Wrong (and Right) in the Cloud” (and more interesting tips to keep you up to date with what’s happening in the Oracle community).

Scary Oracle security issues – patch now!

Larry Ellison announced the self-patching database at OpenWorld this year. Until we get to that point, professional DBAs and system administrators need to keep their Oracle environments secure.

Right now, that means at least installing the patches Oracle provides quarterly in the Critical Patch Updates (CPUs). The latest from October 2017 is one of the scariest I have seen for a while. Out of a total of 251 issues, 156 can be remotely exploited without authentication. Everyone who is or can get behind your firewall can use them against you.

If you are running any of the following, you urgently need to install the October CPU:

  • Oracle Database
  • WebLogic Server
  • SOA Suite
  • WebCenter Content
  • Oracle Access Manager
  • GlassFish
  • BI Publisher
  • Oracle BPM
  • MySQL
  • VirtualBox

To nobody’s surprise, there are also newly discovered bugs in Java SE – 22 this time, of which 20 can be remotely exploited without authentication.

Most of the Oracle applications also have serious issues, including Oracle E-Business Suite, Hyperion, JD Edwards, PeopleSoft, and Siebel.

Stay safe. Patch your systems.


Don’t miss out on important information you need as an IT professional working with Oracle products. Sign up for the Oracle Tool Watch newsletter and get the free whitepaper “What Oracle is Doing Wrong (and Right) in the Cloud”