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

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Oracle Forms won’t run on Java 9 – now what?

Many of my customers are still running venerable Oracle Forms applications that they have no intention of retiring or replacing. So when Oracle announced in support note 2310266.1 that “Oracle has no current plans to certify or support Java 9 with any version of Oracle Forms,” they were understandably worried.

From Oracle’s standpoint, it makes sense not to spend resources certifying an end-of-life product like Oracle Forms with every Java version. Especially since Java 9 will run under the new release model with a new version every six months.

This should not be a problem for Forms customers. Oracle does promise to continue to make Java 8 updates available to customers with support contracts for Forms or products depending on Forms (like E-Business Suite). Our Forms applications will anyway have to be updated to Forms 12c now that browser support for Java applets is running out, and that allows us to run the Forms applet through Java Web Start. We should then be able to use the <j2se version=“XX”/> tag in our JNLP file to point to the right Java, even if the workstation also has Java 9.

Long term, I expect either that  Forms will be supported on the first Java 9 Long Term Support release in September 2018, or that the Forms applet will become a complete executable using the Java 9 jlink feature.

So don’t worry, you can still run Oracle Forms even if the rest of the world moves to Java 9.

 

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

Oracle a Top-Three Cloud Provider

In cloud vendor rankings, Oracle is often found somewhere in the pack of “other cloud providers,” way behind Amazon, Microsoft and Google. But on their home turf, the database, Oracle is moving towards its natural leadership position. In the latest Forrester Wave™ for Database-As-A-Service, Oracle is right behind AWS and Microsoft in the Leaders section.

Forrester WaveTM Database-as-a-Service 2Q17

Source: The Forrester Wave™Database-As-A-Service Q2 ’17

Looking at Forrester’s evaluation criteria, it is possible to argue that the position should have been even higher. It is not obvious why Oracle should get a lowly 1.6 score for Architecture, nor why they should only be rated 4.2 again AWS’ perfect 5.0 for security.

Licensing is always part of the decision when discussing Oracle software, and there is a big difference between running Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) or Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).

  • With PaaS, the database license is included. This means you don’t buy an expensive database license up front, and can simply terminate your PaaS contract if you don’t need the database anymore.
  • With IaaS,  whether from Oracle or one of the other two approved vendors  (Amazon and Microsoft), you will have to bring your own Oracle license.

For new development using an Oracle database, the flexible licensing means you should use Oracle PaaS if at all possible.

For existing Oracle installations, it might make sense to move from your existing on-premise hardware into the cloud if you are faced with buying new hardware. Note that some features are only available on Oracle’s IaaS cloud – for example, you can’t run Oracle RAC on Amazon or Microsoft.

 

 

Why working at night doesn’t work

Lots of programmers insist on working late. That’s a bad idea. For every one time a programmer reaches “flow” state and effortlessly produce reams of brilliant code late at night, there are a hundred inefficient programming sessions with low productivity and high error rates.

In most organizations, it is a near certainty that you will be spending most of your day doing something other than what you had planned. Most solutions involve company culture, managers, scrum masters, and colleagues. But there is one solution that is completely within your control: Show up early and complete one important task.

If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.
Mark Twain

If you are a night owl like me, that might be a significant change to your life. But it pays off handsomely in more happiness and less stress. Stress is caused by a feeling that you are not in control of your situation; starting early and actually getting a task of your own choosing done each day defeats this feeling.

Try starting work two hours earlier than everybody else for two weeks and see how much more you get done.