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.
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 â€˜personalization frameworkâ€™ 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).