Grant Ronald has recently blogged about Modernising your Forms Applications - SOA or bust, which (once again?) revisits the perception (or myth?) that Java is the one and only future of Oracle's development. I'd like to revisit why I think this perception has come about.
I think one of the reasons (and I emphasis the word one here, there are certainly more) Oracle developers look to Java and therefore JDeveloper by default as the Oracle development future is a matter of circumstances that eventuated in the past.
Around 1998 through 2004 Java was the buzz in the development industry and it was pretty important change time for the industry. Languages were revolutionized, the web was coming to the fore, and Java is famous for being the first cab off the ranks so to speak in the Web programming world (thanks to its servlet technology - which it is now partly infamous for).
I believe many Forms programmers came to the conclusion that Forms wasn't the future because of its clunky 2 tier architecture (later hammered into 3 tier) and plain-Jane interfaces. As such they were interested in what else was happening out there way back when. It just happened that Oracle invested in JDeveloper at the time and through Oracle's marketing, coupled with the buzz around Java, it gained popularity and became the perceived future of Oracle development. Forms programmers picked up on this fact and stored it away in their little box of tricks.Then the world moved on.
Today those same typical Forms programmers are facing the following problems:
2) There has been an incredible amount of change in the industry between 2000 and 2007 (as usual in the IT industry). Traditional Forms and PL/SQL Oracle programmers are outside the whole web world, revolution in web scripting languages, scratch their head at the term Ajax (it's something Google does isn't it?), have very little exposure to industry wide frameworks (as separate to inhouse frameworks), and so on. Keeping up with all this change is a full time job, much easier to keep the blinkers on, do what your job demands you to do, and just keep with what you learned way back when.
3) The perception that development of Forms from Oracle has stalled.
4) A potential alternative Oracle Application Express (Apex - formally HTML DB) has only appeared to have become (again a perception thing, not necessarily reality) a viable mature development alternative more relatively recently.
....that because of all these perceptions.... and how history eventuated.... and given a reluctance to give up on the potentially false or outdated perception learned way back when, that Java is still the only way to go....
.... that we see Forms programmers coming back again and again to thinking JDeveloper/Java is the future of Oracle development, and then becoming terribly disillusioned when they struggle with Java, JDev and ADF, can't see why the huge frameworks don't fit into their simple problem sets, struggle with the huge learning curve of adopting not one but several new technologies, and see an easier alternative in Apex, or scripting languages, or .Net or take whatever your pick in what you're more familiar with (it's always easier to say technology X is better than Y when you know X, but you don't know Y - that's human psychology for you).
For you and your organisation, like Grant says in his blog, to paraphrase, there are a number of ways to skin a cat, and what technology you pick should be dependent on your circumstances, or more precisely your organisation's circumstances. Don't invest in one of these technologies before understanding your organisation's circumstances or you will get burnt. For example investing in a huge Java project with just PL/SQL programmers without any Java training or experience will certainly burn you unless you're very lucky. And you should have known that fact before you start. That's the risk of falsely thinking Java is the holly grail of development. The same holds true for investing in an Apex project, a scripting language project and so on, there is no holly grail in development, particularly if you have none of the needed skills or the tool is badly suited to your environment. And for the record (you can quote me) there will never be a holly grail (unless you consider turning all the computers in the world off) – so get over it (the exception being of course Lisp ;).
So take Grant's point on board. Java and JDeveloper match certain problem sets and backgrounds. As does Apex as does Forms..... let your mind free itself from what you learned before and re-assess the Oracle development landscape today, to what suits your needs.....and thus the title of this post.
Now, I seem to have broken my soapbox. Until I find another one, I'll keep the blog free of rants for a while. I think it's a time for a humorous post. Maybe I'll pick on DBAs or something fun.
Usual disclaimers to stop the unnecessary flames:
1) Please note I'm not trying to put all Forms programmers in one outdated boat. There is always a bell curve of people and skills; people who are as much as in the box as out, so put yourself in whatever box makes you happy for this discussion. When I say "typical" Forms programmers I'm drawing from my experience as a consultant and I'm referring to a generalisation of the Forms programmers I'm meeting on a day by day basis, not a specific person or group. There are certainly Forms programmers who I meet who know everything outside the Forms sphere too.
2) It's a false perception that Forms development from Oracle has stalled, as thanks to Grant's blog we can see there is still changes occurring in the Forms arena, just more subtle than before.3) For the readers of one of my original posts A career path for Oracle developers - consider JDeveloper!, you will certainly be able to see a certain maturing in my thoughts about this, thanks to many discussions with Apex specialists, JDeveloper experts and other contemporaries.