Eating your own dogfood – use of Oracle Development tools within the Oracle Applications development group

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During the Amsterdam stage of the Oracle Open World Tour, I had a great opportunity to interview John Wookey Senior Vice President, Applications Development at Oracle Corporation. John is very high up in one of the largest if not the largest application development shop based on Oracle technology in the world. As such, he represents the biggest customer of Oracle’s Tools division as well as one of the most important customers of the Application Servers and Database product development teams. He is ‘topdog’- to speak with Oracle terminology – a major consumer of Oracle’s dogfood.John Wookey

During this interview, we focused on the technology that John’s teams currently use of will be using in the foreseeable future for development of the many modules of the Oracle E-Business Suite. This post will be a somewhat unstructured summary of a one hour long conversation that was very, very interesting. The more refined article is to appear in OGH Visie, the magazine of the Dutch Oracle User Group (OGH).

For me, some of John’s comments came as a bit of a surprise, especially his view on the future of Oracle Forms within the Applications Development team. It sheds some more light on the issues we discussed just a few days ago. See also this post.

John explained how within the Apps division, there is a strong drive towards a Single Technology Stack Architecture for all Modules of the E-Business Suite. There is an Applications Technology group, headed by Cliff Godwin, that continuously investigates – along with the product development groups within Oracle, Tools, Application Server and Database – in new technological developments. Plans from the product development teams are discussed with this AppTech group in early stages, suggestions for desirable new features are made by this group. When new (Beta) releases become available, the AppTech group will test and pilot them and after careful consideration may decide to start applying them in the Apps product.

The early involvement of Apps in the development cycle and its focus on productivity and stability are an important quality boost for the overall process. Another area where Apps have vested interests is in porting the technology stack to different platforms. Apps has developed thousands of regression tests on tools and database and these are run automatically for new (alpha drops and beta) versions of the software, allowing product development very timely feedback on their work. Many of these regression test sets have been fed back into the Technology Development groups by Apps.

The AppTech group always needs to strike a balance between the minimum release of especially the database they can force upon their customers and the set of functionality available for the AppsDevelopers. Apps cannot force their customers to always upgrade to the latest database release, so they cannot afford to make use of the latest database features. Currently Apps certifies on 8.1.7, 9iR2 and 10g. Support for 8.1.7 will not last much longer, which means that developers within the Apps group can start using all of 9iR2 – which means compared to 8.1.7 that they have much more functionality at their disposal.

The Application Technology Group is also responsible for developing a common foundation for all Oracle Apps. This entails generic infrastructure components and libraries with reusable objects that can be used Apps-wide. I take it this also includes utilities and generators that make life easier – and more productive – for developers. It probably also includes management of Standards & Guidelines for doing development in the best or at least agreed-upon way.

John pointed out that within Oracle Apps, over the last few years many pieces of generic functionality were developed that not only enhanced the E-Business Suite, but should probably also be part of the development tools themselves. And much of their work has indeed been rolled forward into the tools. He mentioned three areas of generic Apps infrastructure that are currently not part of the development tools as we get them from Oracle, but could certainly be of interest to many more development shops than just Oracle Apps:

  • Functional Security Architecture
  • Menuing System
  • Flex Fields

Later in the talk, John also spoke about a ‘personalization framework’ that I take to pertain specifically to the Self Service Technology Stack. That seems like a piece of generic functionality also desirable to external parties.

I asked John whether there is a chance Apps would share its own productivity enhancing frameworks and its no doubt huge piles of Standards and Guidelines with the rest of the world (starting with me).

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About Author

Lucas Jellema, active in IT (and with Oracle) since 1994. Oracle ACE Director for Fusion Middleware. Consultant, trainer and instructor on diverse areas including Oracle Database (SQL & PLSQL), Service Oriented Architecture, BPM, ADF, Java in various shapes and forms and many other things. Author of the Oracle Press book: Oracle SOA Suite 11g Handbook. Frequent presenter on conferences such as JavaOne, Oracle OpenWorld, ODTUG Kaleidoscope, Devoxx and OBUG. Presenter for Oracle University Celebrity specials.

17 Comments

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  6. Today I heard that John Wookey now has overall lead for all of Oracle Apps. Mr. Ron Wohl, previously his boss, apparently is away on sabbatical leave. In hindsight, I have come close to the sun….

  7. Very interesting article… It’s amusing that Oracle have been stressing for years that
    Forms will remain part of the development toolset in Apps.. I guess it boils down to there
    not being a viable alternative until ADF and JSF.

    I’ve been using ADF/UIX on and off since it first came out and it’s interesting to see
    it being used in anger now. If it’s implemented well and allows for Pluggable L&F then
    it really will allow clients to develope a corporate look and feel throughout their ERP
    and Back Office as well as using Portal etc….

    If this doesn’t occur, then Oracle will lose out signifcantly to Axapta, where integration
    with the desktop will be seamless (aparently)

    What will really blow the doors off proper Apps customisation and integration is when
    OC4j becomes the host for the applications tier… Bring it on!

    Chris

  8. We can but hope that Oracle SCM will come back in some form one day. At the moment, things don’t look good. Two of the three pro-OSCM Oracle employees you mention are no longer with the company, and the remaining members of the Oracle SCM team are focussed on internal Apps support only. The existing version of Oracle SCM is still fully supported, of course.

    The day that new development on Oracle SCM stopped coincided with Microsoft’s announcement about their new “Team System” replacement for Visual SourceSafe. I’m pretty sure it was a coincidence, but it served to highlight that development lifecycle support is still a really important competetive area. I thought that future releases of Oracle SCM would be the basis of a strong Oracle offering in this area (some of the stuff that was being developed internally was very cool: integrated bug tracking, task tracking and version control). Oracle SCM also had a great selling point that you mention: it’s used by Oracle to version control the huge amount of code that comprises the Oracle database.

    There are a number of fundamental architecture issues with Oracle SCM 6i/9i that were, for the most part, resolved in the “7.x” releases that we use internally. IMHO, part of the problem with Oracle SCM was a failure to release a “7.x” version externally. For a long time, the team were focussed on providing a hosted version control solution (a bit like SourceCast) that never really took off. In the meantime, a lot of customers started using 6i/9i and because most of the development effort was on “7.x”, customers were not seeing a lot of improvement in the 6i/9i code base.

    It seems that now, the strategy is to support existing Oracle SCM customers fully, but concentrate new functionality (in JDeveloper) around third party version control systems like CVS and Subversion. The rapid change in direction was a bit of a surprise to many (myself included: I was responsible for the Oracle SCM integration in JDeveloper, so it had a bit of an impact on my priorities).

  9. See response from Steve Muench in his weblog

    Also interesting: an interview by Tim Anderson with Ted Farell (Architect and Director, Application Development Tools Division, Oracle Corporation). Ted Farell sais – among many other things -: “We do have solutions today. One of our consulting departments has built a product called JHeadStart, and that will allow you to draw a business flow diagram and it will generate a Java application for you. ”

    What he says about the next release of JDeveloper (10gR2 I believe, due in November or so) is encouraging:

    Tim: What about refactoring and pattern-based tools in JDeveloper?
    Ted: In the next version which you should see sometime this year, the JDeveloper IDE has full-blown refactoring.[...] In the next version of JDeveloper we have pretty much all those features that you find in Eclipse or IntelliJ. We’ve focused back on the core developer, whereas in the 10g release the main focus was getting ADF integrated, and to target the high level business developer. We’re now shifting resources back onto the core developer as well. So there are two paths that we take, the ADF enhanced mode, and the pure “just give me an IDE� type of developer.

  10. Brian: if Oracle SCM (or at least an enhanced version of it) is used by such critical and humongous environments such as Oracle ST and Oracle Apps, would not such a product be a much sought after tool for the rest of the world? At some point I believe msrs. Fisher, Bradshaw and Thomas were ready to take on the world (primarily ClearCase) for doing SCM at the Enterprise Level. Do you what happened? Is there any chance of a ‘return with a vengeance’ of SCM at Oracle?

  11. Excellent and insightful article. From our point of view (in tools development), Applications are indeed our biggest customers.

    I know a little about the way that Apps and ServerTech (development tools now come under servertech too) organize version control. Most of ServerTech is now using a tool called ADE. This is a front end interface to version control which originally used a ClearCase back end. These days, most products in the ServerTech division are using ADE with an Oracle SCM back end.

    Likewise, Applications have a frontend SCM interface called Arcs. They’re in a process of migration between the existing back end for Arcs and using Oracle SCM too.

    The big, obvious benefit of both Arcs and ADE is that you can replace the back end SCM system without having a major impact on your developers.

    Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Oracle SCM has effectively reached the end of the line in terms of new feature development. The version of Oracle SCM we use internally (much improved from OSCM 6i/9i) will likely never be released as an external product. Much of the development of Oracle SCM in the UK has been wound up. The remaining members of the Oracle SCM team in the UK are now actually part of the Applications division, working directly on Arcs.

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