Wednesday, November 30, 2005

UKOUG Development Engineering SIG

Yesterday was my first real SIG on my own. My co-chair Guy Mortenson couldn't make it and the agenda was wholly organised by me. So I await the feedback with trepidation. The good news is that Guy and I were re-elected unopposed. Not that the UKOUG is a banana republic, but as Chair I had to preside over the election process...

I think the agenda was quite balanced: we had two items on new technology (HTMLDB and JDeveloper, two items on old technology (Forms) and I filled Guy's clowning role by delivering a short skit called "The worst week of my professional career".

The core audience for the DE SIG remains Forms developers; there's some people using Java but no-one using PHP or .NET and no interest in .NET. As an organiser I find the problem ith Forms is finding something new to say. Pretty much the only topics that are in the slightest bit fresh are highly technical investigations into the plumbing of Oracle application server. Kavitha Prakash from Oracle Support confirmed this to me afterwards; she said that pretty much all of the calls Support get are about app server configuration, deployment and debugging; there are almost no calls on coding problems. Gavin Leith of Sopra Newell and Budge gave an interesting talk on JDAPI, a Java tool for programatically tweaking Forms programs. This would have been useful to know about two years back when I was migrating a Forms client/server project to 9i web Forms, but to be frank I hope never to touch Forms again.

The talk that seemed to generate the most interest was given by David Richard of on HTMLDB. This was actually part 2 of a presentation that he started to give at the previous SIG in June. This time he actually managed to demonstrate his case study application and show some of the wiring under the hood. The application was a tactical solution for the NHS. This both proved the complexity of apps that we can build with HTMLDB and (I think) hinted at the limitations of the tool: A4C was a fantastic project to knock up in five weeks but it would be a nightmare to maintain. The problems of configuration management and code visibility in a metadata repository would get too pressing. Still, it inspired me. Last Friday my project manager showed me his latest spreadsheet for estimating and I told him we should be doing it soem other way; as I type this I am installing HTMLDB so that I can do it better.

Lastly Duncan Mills demonstrated his favourite new features in the new JDeveloper 10.3. I have to say the Java Server Faces implementation looks very good. My sole reservation is that it is so huge. Even Duncan had to look at his crib sheets to wrangle some piece of syntax. He's been living with this for most of the year: if he doesn't know it all, what hope is there for the rest of us? This is a serious point. Just to build a pop-up LOV required choosing a widget from a list of many dozens of options. Can there possibly be enough time to master these tools before the Java caravan moves on and there's a whole new set of APIs to learn?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This begs the question - is moving from Forms to Java (JSF, ADF etc) really a progressive step forward for application development?

I have eight years of Forms experience and recently developed my first web application using ADF and JDeveloper 10G. What struck me was that you need to have an in-depth understanding of the (complex) framework in order to build a real-world application (rather than mickey-mouse demo screens). To acquire this understanding involves trolling through multiple OTN white papers and how-to's, not to mention crawling through the forums when you run into trouble.

In contrast, Forms development does not require that you know the internals of the framework - you can quite happily develop at an abstracted level without worrying about locking, connection pooling, data persistence in the middle tier and so forth. So developers can get up to speed more quickly, and produce greater output for the same effort.

In my view, we are taking a step backwards in terms of developer productivity with the latest Java frameworks. I'm not against learning new tools and technologies, but let's not fool ourselves that the transition from Forms to Java is an easy one.

Of course, I accept that Java is better suited to the development of thin-client Internet applications. The budgets and time estimates for such endeavours, however, must reflect the lower level of developer productivity in this environment.

30 November 2005 at 06:24:00 GMT-8  
Anonymous Grant Ronald said...

Dear Anonymous, I think you are right in the the amount you need to in the Java world is much more when compared against Forms. However, like it or not the J2EE movement is picking up speed. However I think that we here at Oracle are doing alot to bringing it close to the Forms world. Check Now, you've already built some applications and I agree anyone can make demo ware look easy but its the real world stuff that matters - however I honestly think if you compare e.g. 10.1.2 and 10.1.3EA of JDeveloper you will see how much we are moving along in making this more "Forms like" - still a way to go? - definitely, but heading in the right direction - I really think we are...

30 November 2005 at 07:04:00 GMT-8  
Blogger APC said...

>> still a way to go? - definitely, >> but heading in the right direction - I really think we are...

And we'll know when we get there because Grant will advise us all to migrate our Forms applications to J2EE. :)

30 November 2005 at 07:50:00 GMT-8  
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