OOW 2008 Preview: ADF 11g and APEX – Same themes, different challenges

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Last Thursday nine OOW presenters rehearsed their presentations for Oracle Open World 2008. As I won’t be in San Francisco next week, I was very glad with the opportunity to visit some presentations in Nieuwegein.

Unfortunately, with nine presentations it was necessary to schedule parallel sessions so I was not able to visit all nine. I am really not good at picking three sessions out of many that I am interested in, always affraid that I am making the wrong choice. Yes, I think I must be glad that I won’t visit OOW 2008, as it appears that at Oracle Open World their will be 90 (!!!) parallel tracks.

Eventually I picked the following three presentations:

  • Developing a Real-World Logistic Application with Oracle Application Express (Roel Hartman)
  • Designer2APEX: Migrate Your Forms UIs to Oracle Application Express (Douwe Pieter van den Bos)
  • Oracle JHeadstart R11: Unprecedented Productivity in Developing Best-Practice Fusion Web Applications (Steven Davelaar)

And although I did not know it in advance, the three presentations matched very well as the two themes from the APEX presentations were also covered by Steven Davelaar in his ADF 11g/JHeadstart presentation:

  • Implementing RIA User Interfaces
  • Rebuilding ( or "migrating") your Designer/Developer Applications

And although the themes are the same, the challenges/solutions are different for APEX and ADF 11g.

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Implementing RIA User Interfaces
Roel Hartman told about the implementaion of a real world APEX application he and his colleagues developed as replacement for an existing application for container logistics. He showed in his presentation how he implemented some advanced UI features not default available in APEX 3.0. The most advanced feature was the drag and drop functionality in a planboard. I haven’t seen that before in an APEX application.

Roel’s conclusion is that at the moment advance User Interfaces in APEX are possible as long as you’re not affraid for (D)HTML and Javascript. I hope that at OOW 2008 we will learn more about what APEX release 4 will bring the APEX developers to implement many of those advanced UI features in a more declarative way.

Steven Davelaar showed in his presentation that with ADF 11g it will be possible to develop RIA’s with many advanced UI components included in a declarative way. The chalenge in this toolstack is not HOW TO DEVELOP advanced UI components, but HOW TO PICK the right set of UI components for your application from the many available ADF 11g components.

Rebuilding ( or "migrating") your Designer/Developer Applications
Douwe Pieter van den Bos told us about the development of Designer2APEX, a toolkit to help you migrate your Developer Applications to APEX. Based on the metadata in the Oracle Designer Repository, the toolkit automatically migrates parts of the Forms and Reports to the APEX repository. He also demonstrated how some parts of the Forms and Reports Module Definitions (Reports queries, bound items, lists of values) are migrated to the APEX repository. He claimed that about 40% of the "common" Forms and Reports components can automatically be created in APEX. And for all components that cannot be migrated (Unbound items, PL/SQL logic), an APEX reporting tool is available showing all the work that has to be done after the automatic migration. I think this analysis tool is the best part of Designer2APEX as it gives you a good overview of all the things not yet migrated.

Douwe Pieter and his APEX knowledge centre started the development of Designer2APEX about 9 months ago. A few months later, David Peake, Oracle Product Manager of APEX, anounced the development of a Forms2APEX utility that also migrates Oracle Forms to APEX, although Forms2APEX migrations will not be based on the metadata in the Oracle Designer Repository, but based on the to xml-files formatted fmb’s. I cannot think about advantages to base your migration on your Oracle Designer Metadata. And because many Oracle Forms will not be 100% generated from Oracle Designer, I think that a migration based on

Douwe Pieter van den Bos told us that he and David Peake (product manager Oracle Application Express) will meet next week during at OOW in San Francisco. May be they can join forces. It would be great if the Forms2APEX utility comes with an analysis tool as in Designer2APEX to make the migration process efficient and reliable.

Also Steven Davelaar covered the migration from Oracle Forms to ADF 11g although he carefully avoided the word migration as not all the Oracle Forms functionality can automatically be migrated to ADF 11g. He also showed how in only a few seconds a substantial part of the Oracle Forms can automatically migrated to ADF 11g. And although he did not give numbers my first impression was that Forms2ADF migrates a higher percentage of the Forms than Designer2APEX. Steven also showed how Forms2ADF deals with PL/SQL logic: It is included in the JHeadstart application definition as documentation.

Main conclusion is that developers need to be involved in migrations of Developer applications to APEX or ADF 11g. Therefore an analysis tool as included in Designer2APEX is essential to achieve compete semi-automated migrations.

As soon as the Forms2APEX and Forms2ADF tools are available, it will be interesting to compare the performance and quality of a migration with both utilities from the same Developer Application to two different Oracle Development stacks. I cannot wait…

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