Sleeping with the enemy: .Net at the 2006 ODTUG conference

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From June 17th until June 21st I attended the ODTUG conference in Washington DC. I focused mainly on .Net and Apex. In Holland quite a few customers are moving to a architecture where the front end and middle tier is built in .Net and the database is Oracle with business rules implemented in the Oracle database.

The interest for .Net topics wasn’t overwhelming. Regular Oracle Forms and Oracle designer like to stick to their environments. If they have to switch they turn more or less reluctantly to the J2EE environment promoted by Oracle. However, the people attending the quite a number of presentations on .Net were in general very enthusiastic about .Net. Most of them somehow had to participate in a .Net project and found out they actually liked it.

Personally I think .Net is the choice environment for developing client server applications as long as they only have to run on the windows platform as most C/S applications do. Developing C/S software in Windows Forms is more developer friendly than developing C/S applications in the J2EE environment (ever tried to develop a user interface with the gridbag layout manager?).

I attended a 3 hour meeting of Christian Shay the Oracle product manager for .Net. The current .Net portfolio of Oracle consists of 3 products:

  • The Oracle Data Provider (ODP). With the ODP you connect from .Net applications to the Oracle database. This database provider has a better performance the Microsoft data provider for Oracle and allows you to use all (the advanced) features of the Oracle database. According to (of course) Christian and to me the ODP is ‘a must use’ for .Net/Oracle project. There are some limitations for the use of ODP with .ASP applications but these will be solved in a future release.
  • The Oracle explorer. A plug-in in the MS Visual studio for the creation and development of Oracle objects in the database (tables, packages etc.); a Sql Developer in MS Visual studio. I think this plug-in is intended for .Net developers who want to develop database objects and don’t want to leave their IDE. Most developers with a strong Pl/Sql background like me are spoilt by Toad and will probably stick to this product
  • .Net stored procedures “in” the database (windows platform only). This looks a bit like the Java stored procedures in the database. The java stored procedures (and then JVM) however are located in the database, while the .Net stored procedures (and the CLR) are executed via a external process like the old C routines.

Dr. Paul Dorsey shared his experiences with a mixed .Net/Java environment. At his project, a .ASP application on a MS IIS talked with the business logic on a Oracle application server which connected to a Sql*Server database. His main conclusion was: .Net and J2EE don’t work together well although he mentioned a product JNBridge for the integration of .Net and J2EE which worked and performed rather well.  The alternative, the usage of web services for the .Net/J2EE integration was too slow. My main conclusion of this session was: Why should you ever want to implement a architecture like this: Keep it simple; the best applications are the application with the right features with a minimum of complexity.

Paul Dorsey also stressed the cultural difference between Oracle/Java programmers (the real software engineers) and .Net programmers (the user interface cowboys). Personally I think a cultural mix could work out rather well. As ‘real software engineers’ we tend to do things according to the latest architecture concepts and implementations (which change regularly), forgetting sometimes our end users who are not so enchanted by these concepts. On the other hand however architecture and good software engineering practices are needed for professional applications.

The other meetings I attended focused mainly on the development of C/S applications and were more or less an introduction to the use of Windows Forms and C#.

Personally I think .Net and Oracle can be wonderful combination. The productivity and developer friendliness of the .Net environment with the robust Oracle database with his excellent Pl/Sql language for manipulating data and it’s possibilities for integrating Java provides an excellent platform for developing applications.

I’m looking forward to the new .Net developments and experiences on the ODTUG 2007.

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