The attraction of APEX has increased tremendously with the recent launch of the Oracle Cloud. APEX already supported departmental development and deployment of business applications with minimal involvement from the IT department (only a database needed be made available). Positioned as the ideal replacement for MS Access, APEX probably has managed better to capture the eye of developers and was used for enterprise application development at least as much as for the kind of tactical applications that Oracle strategically positioned it for.
With APEX as PaaS & DevaaS from the Oracle Cloud, a leap is made to a much higher level of business value. Now the IT department is not even needed to make infrastructure available with a database running on it. All the business needs is a credit card. And the business application that is developed, managed and used from the cloud through a standard browser can now just as easily be accessed by users from around the world as by users from the business department itself. As a bonus – the development of the APEX application is also done in the cloud – with no special demands on the location or the enterprise access privileges of the developers.
To sum it up: APEX from Oracle Cloud Database Service
- get the development environment up and running in minutes
- no involvement from the internal IT department required (no for infrastructure, not for platform and not for development)
- superior availability and scalability is offered by Oracle
- users from anywhere in the world can be invited to access the application
- developers from anywhere in the world can participate in creating and maintaining the application
In addition: because the Oracle Cloud platform is the same as the on-premise platform, you can still decide to move the APEX application between the cloud and the local environment – and back again.
The REST-ful services that are available through APEX allow programmatic interaction with the database under the APEX application. That means that this database can be synchronized with on premise databases or data stores in (other) clouds. Through the Oracle Cloud Messaging Service, the APEX application can easily enter into asynchronous conversations with other APEX applications, Fusion Middleware applications (ADF, SOA, BPM) and any other type of REST-enabled application.
In my opinion, now, for the first time perhaps, APEX offers the attraction to the business that has been suggested before: because of the cloud, all the business needs is a credit card (a budget of $175 per month), an internet-connection and a browser. Not like before, with a PC hidden under a desk or a database running somewhere in the data center. No matter how unattended: equipment is needed, power is consumed, the database needs to be kept running and if Oracle Database XE does not suffice, software licenses are required as well. And this set up always has a security challenge associated with it. The cloud fee for the Oracle Cloud Database Service includes infrastructure, power, licenses, availability, platform upgrades, a collection of reusable application components and the development and runtime environments containing the APEX platform.
Of course this means that only business departments can move quickly without having to convince their IT colleagues to move along – it also means that small organizations that do no even have IT colleagues can do the same. Getting tailored applications or applications up and running to get in touch with users and customers all over the world is now within easy reach for small outfits – without any investment.
For a long time, I was under the impression that the essence of APEX was that the business could create applications themselves – meaning that business ‘people’ would actually go into APEX to create the application. And to me APEX was for too much of a developers’ tool to see that happen – apart from the odd business analyst who missed her calling as an IT developer. Having looked at various other cloud based development offerings – including Force.com, Mendix, WaveMaker, WorkXpress, OrangeScape, Caspio and Cordys- I have come to realize my mistake. All these platforms are positioned for ‘the business’ but require a fair amount of coding and technical expertise. However, they make the business happy nevertheless, because they allow the business to completely circumvent the IT department. That is the essence. Not having to go through the red tape, not having to wait for IT staff who (justifiably) need weeks or months to provide an environment, not having to deal with administrators (again, justifiably) refusing to take on that ‘strange environment. Being able to to think of a some initiative and turn into action right away. The business does not have to build the application – it can easily hire some external developers or even that nerdy boy next doors. They can get started, get an application up and running and invite users in – especially external users such as customers.
They will worry later about upgrades and life cycle management and integration. To get applications up and running quickly and start turning ideas into action and results rightaway. That is the key selling point for all these cloud offerings, including APEX from the Cloud. And it is a compelling story. For APEX probably even more so than for the others. While I consider APEX a somewhat proprietary framework compared with ‘regular’ Java/JEE web development (or even .NET and PHP development), it is still far more open than most cloud environments. APEX is SQL and PL/SQL based – nothing special about those languages – and can run just as easily on site as in the cloud. It has been around since 2004 (that is not including several predecessors that fed straight into APEX) so it can be considered pretty mature. Oracle as a company seems pretty stable – so investments in its technology are bound to last for some time to come.
By the way: neither APEX nor the other Cloud DevaaS offerings are targeted at creating applications with enormous life times. They fit into a trend of agile development and rapid life cycle management, with fairly light weight user interfaces that quickly adapt to taste, technology trends and functional requirements and that are easily replaced.
APEX and ADF – a match made in heaven?! (or at least in the sky)
Note that using APEX only for cloud based database with REST-ful Services is also a perfectly viable scenario: any UI – mobile or browser based – capable of consuming REST-ful services can be created against such a business tier. Creating an ADF Mobile application for example that runs aginst REST-ful services is a best practice for mobile development. Such REST-ful services can be consumed from any service provider – including the Cloud based APEX powered REST-ful services running against the Oracle Cloud Database Service!
The ADF Mobile architecture overview can easily be morphed to fit the APEX services in – allowing for a cloud based mobile app: