The (continued) future of Oracle Forms…

Jon Lingard Dec 10, 2015 2:51:38 PM

Our previous blog about “The future of Oracle Forms” was published in August and the response and acknowledgement from the Oracle development community proved that we had struck a nerve with many of you. This blog is a follow up and in light of the facts around the recently announced Forms 12c release it’s just good form (pardon the pun) to provide an update.

It is common agreement across many inside Oracle’s Development Tools division that when a business is considering replacing Forms, the tool of choice depends on business requirements (this is the party line that is a mix of internal Oracle politics and just good sense to be fair). We agree. But the question that I am always asked by customers is “So when should I use APEX”…continuing to beat customers up with “it depends!” gets us no-where. I always reply with…

“If your data is in an Oracle Database, your application requirements are data driven, you need a modern UI, it must be lightweight and reduce the burden on infrastructure, release the reliance on peripheral components like java applets and allow your developers to be agile and produce results fast…why would you not use APEX?!”.

By the way, there is no matrix of product features for APEX, Forms, ADF etc – I’ve asked for it but it’s not happening.

It’s fair to say that we ruffled some feathers within the Forms team with our last blog based on the majority of the content being based on conjecture – blogs are about opinions after all. Now that we’ve reviewed the latest Forms 12c release: It’s still fair to say that our opinion hasn’t changed.

Has Forms got a “future”? – yes, of course it has! It’s still being developed and will be supported for many, many years to come.

If you’re happy with Forms and have no future need to look at enhancing the application(s) with new functionality or improving the UI then great – I’m sure you will continue to be a happy customer for years to come (and you might as well stop reading this).

If, on the other hand, you’re looking at your options then why would you not seriously consider APEX?!…YOU ALREADY OWN IT! It’s time that organisations look seriously at their Oracle application estate and make sure that you’re still getting maximum value from your assets…

“Is the continued use of this Forms application right today as it was 13 years ago?”

The most common use case that I keep hearing from Oracle, to promote the continued use of Forms, is around back office data entry. Probably a fair point when you consider heavy data entry. This means that almost every other use case is justified for use with APEX and explains why Forms > APEX projects are becoming so popular with our customers. On that note, APEX v5.1 (subject to Oracle’s safe harbour statement) includes some neat new features to aid data entry called ‘Interactive Grid’.

“But APEX isn’t the only answer!” – We know that and we’ve never said that it is.

It’s one thing using a 3rd party product to “wrap the app” to improve the look and feel of a legacy Forms application, but often that’s not enough. Business aren’t just looking to improve the aesthetics of a Forms application; they need to add new functionality, develop new integration points with other systems and deliver an improved user/customer experience – there is always a compelling reason to want to redevelop Forms applications and wouldn’t you rather do this in an Oracle tool with no additional license or support costs?!

Redeveloping a Forms application will bring some challenges but these are typically around managing “change” with users – the redeveloped application will not look the same and it will not operate the same and in most cases this is only a good thing. Note that I have used the term “redevelop” – there is no migration from Forms to APEX but the investment in time and money is actually very reasonable considering most of the business logic can be re-used. If you have a monolithic application with a million Forms then guess what – it’s going to take a while and probably cost a fortune to redevelop…but you must be doing it for a reason so the cost is probably justified, right? By contrast, if your application is only a few Forms then you’ll probably get it done in a day or two…it’s all relative! Don’t let anyone say that Forms to APEX redevelopment projects cost the earth and take years to complete – it’s just not true!

“It’s horses for courses” – true, but which course is right for THIS horse?!

One of the presentations at the Oracle User Group Tech15 conference explained the value the “Technology half-life” perfectly. Your investment in the Database is strategic (often expensive too!) so the lifespan of the Database needs to be at least 10 years. UI and business logic have a lifetime of between 18 months and 4 years respectively so why not use a development tool that is actually a component of your most important asset – your Data(base)!

So where do we start?

Let’s look at your existing application; where does the business logic reside, what are the challenges with Forms, what business requirements do you have (often overlooked for technology preferences), eg Mobile or Cloud deployments, how much does it cost to support, etc. From here Explorer can recommend a suitable solution and (if you’ve not guessed already) in most cases APEX will be our tool of choice for many different reasons;

  1. Forms and APEX share the same DNA – Any forms developer can be up to speed and productive with APEX within a week or two.
  2. Most of the underlying PL/SQL logic can be reused in APEX so you’re not throwing the baby out with the bath water when redeveloping.
  3. If Cloud deployments are required then APEX was built for the Cloud before “Cloud” was even a term!
  4. APEX is a low cost solution because it does not need expensive middleware to deploy and (because you’ve already licensed the Oracle Database) APEX is, essentially, free! – APEX will save you a chunk of cash in support costs to Oracle and needs minimal infrastructure to deploy (both on-premise or in the Cloud).

What Explorer can do for you…

We’re APEX developers through and through. But guess what – all our developers were once Forms developers! We know what we’re talking about when it comes to redeveloping Forms applications in APEX and we work with our customers in a few different ways;

  1. APEX workshops and training – learn APEX from the experts and then take on the development alone. We provide regular checkpoints throughout the development to provide guidance and make sure you’re getting the most out of APEX.
  2. Credit Pool – much like employing a contractor you get a low day rate cost and invest in anything from, for example, 30 to 100+ days to use Explorer as a dedicated development resource. You get access to a whole team of developers instead of just one so you get continuity and backup.
  3. Fixed Cost development – Explorer will scope out your requirements, produce a project specification and then quote based on a fixed cost and timescale for delivery.

I hope you found this follow up blog informative and addresses some of the spin that is used against APEX. If you wish to discuss further I’d be happy to have a chat with you…

Finally, why not take a look at this webcast which goes into more detail about the benefits of APEX & Cloud, especially for development.




Author: Jon Lingard

Job Title: Practice Director

Bio: Jon is a member of the Oracle sales team and works with customers from start-ups, SMEs to large corporations to gain maximum value from their investment in Oracle technology. Jon works with the technical and development teams to shape solutions based on customer demands and develops long lasting customer relationships based on his open and trustworthy approach.