It was over more than a week ago. But I am still processing all I have heard and seen at ODTUG 2005, the Oracle Development Tools User Group conference – that is now also embracing tools such as .NET as long as they are used in conjunction with an Oracle Database. Apparently, this switch in strategy is caused at least in part because Oracle declines to further sponsor ODTUG while Microsoft dollars flow easily.
Before I say anything on JHeadstart, I have to mention one of the gadgets – and usually I am last to catch on, so it is very well possible that you have known this one for ages, yawn – I found at ODTUG: One nice utility for presenters, seen used by Duncan Mills: the magnifying glass to focus on a small section of the screen and presenting that section in a magnified fashion. Downloaded from http://magnifier.sourceforge.net/. Since installing this utility, I have had several opportunities for actually using it – and I like it. No more fuzzing with font size in all the editors that I will demo – which may not even be possible. I like. Thanks Duncan – and the open source team behind it of course.
One of the hottest things Oracle currently has in stock of developers is called JHeadstart. Oracle is trying to get us all hooked on J2EE, especially J2EE with JDeveloper and the ADF stack – ADF Business Components, ADF Binding Framework , Struts and ADF UIX or JSP. The most productive, most structured, and – for those who find that important – most Oracle Designer like way of doing J2EE development using the Oracle ADF Technology Stack is by using JHeadstart. Let me stress that: the BY FAR most productive, structured as well as accessible for non-J2EE experts way of doing J2EE is through JHeadstart. And do not just believe me; read the comments and endorsements by for example Steve Muench, ADF guru, in his weblog. In addition for being a great boost for new application development, JHeadstart also offers the JHeadstart Designer Generator, that allows you to migrate existing Oracle Forms application to the Oracle J2EE ADF Technology Stack, fully respecting sound J2EE architectural design.
So I would have expected Oracle to go crazy about JHeadstart during ODTUG. Christope Job in his keynote mentioned some solutions for migrating from Forms to J2EEE. Regis, Duncan and Sue did a number of presentations on Forms Strategy, J2EE Application Development with ADF etc. However, apart from one reference towards the end of the conference, JHeadstart was not included in the official Oracle partyline. Christophe Job did not even mention JHeadstart along with the three partner solutions. His keynote ran 30 minutes short. You read that correctly. He had 30 minutes to fill that he did not use. He missed out on the opportunity to dazzle a room full of close to 600 Oracle Developers that he desperately wants to get onto JDeveloper and ADF with a demonstration of JHeadstart. He could have generated a 15 page web application with full Data Manipulation capabilities, using advanced UI features such as AJAX, trees, shuttles, master-detail-detail, search pages, multi-record edit pages etc. He did not. We had an extra break. He let us drink coffee instead of showing the one goodie Oracle had got that has the potential of really swaying the ODTUG crowd.
And it is not just keynote. It is just not clear how JHeadstart fits in with the JDeveloper product strategy. I do not understand why the product team does not wholeheartedly embrace it. I do not know of any competitive tool that even comes close. JHeadstart gives JDeveloper the unique capability of generating applications from a declarative design. It is MDA, and it is here! So why not use JHeadstart as the lever to further propel JDeveloper and ADF?
JHeadstart is not just a generator. It is that too. And it is important to note that the code that is generated – jsp or uix pages, struts-config.xml, resource bundle – is not in any way specific. It makes us of a small JHeadstart runtime library – for which you get the source code and that is clearly explained in the Developer’s Guide shipped with JHeadstart, otherwise the generated constructs are just like what you would have built yourself. If you are fairly expert with the technologies: ADF Binding Framework, UIX and ADF Business Components.
JHeadstart is also a collection of best practices and how-to’s. The JHeadstart Developer’s Guide, especially in chapter 5, clearly explains how the team decided to use ADF, Struts and UIX and where it decided to build generic helper classes and solutions for optimally benefiting from these technologies. This chapter reads like an instruction manual for building your own organization wide foundation library for all your ADF based projects. And you could use it that way – or use the code that is already developed for you.
JHeadstart is also really the enabler for UIX technology.I myself do not find UIX a simple technology to use, from scratch. The ADF drag&drop support in JDeveloper 10.1.2 has made it much easier to start using UIX. JHeadstart takes it to the next level. Advanced components that were always there, but I found hard to use – like tree and shuttle, but also the concept of UIT templating – are really at my disposal, through JHeadstart.
Steven Davelaar, from the JHeadstart development team at Oracle, presented twice during ODTUG 2005. On Sunday he did a three hour Tool Topic session, that was fairly well attended and received very good evaluations. On Tuesday he did his one hour slot. This one made the roof go off. Rave reviews, standing room only. Over 100 people saw how J2EE development with JDeveloper and ADF can be made productive, easy to get into for former Forms and Designer developers – or any one at all for that matter – and even fun. The response was electric! If Oracle would just take it from there. If Oracle – product management, since Steven is also Oracle of course, but from Consulting – would pick up the clear message from this audience and would seize the moment to really come out in favor of JHeadstart. Adopt it for incorporation into the product. It would make for such a strong proposition for the home base – the Oracle Forms and Designer crowd. But I am convinced that it would also make for a very compelling story for other segments of the J2EE market. Productive, low threshold-easy learning curve, high quality structured development based on modern standards and technology components. How could resist that message? And with the coming support for ADF Faces in JDeveloper 10.1.3 and JHeadstart 10.1.3….
If you have not see JHeadstart until now, I suggest you take a look at the JHeadstart site on OTN: http://www.oracle.com/technology/consulting/9iServices/JHeadstart.html. You can also check out the JHeadstart Team’s Blog: http://www.orablogs.com/jheadstart/