DSP's Head of Development Services, Simon Greenwood discusses the future of Oracle Forms...
If you want to skip the blog and get straight to it, discover how we can help you modernise your Oracle Forms to Oracle APEX.
Oracle Forms has been a very staple product and is probably the largest middleware support revenue stream for Oracle worldwide.
The world’s largest financial, utility, media and retail sector businesses still have Oracle Forms in some parts of their operations, many serving business critical back office functions. Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) also still run Oracle Forms application stacks for their customers. How long this continues in the new world of Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery models is up for debate.
“So what’s your problem?” I was asked this recently. I don’t have a problem with Forms – I am a time-served Oracle Forms developer, consultant and advocate. I am also a developer who works with customers daily, experiencing real business issues with running Oracle Forms. I chose the word ‘running’ very carefully. Oracle Forms in itself is still a fine product; it is supported by Oracle, is stable and does what it says on the tin. It should be after so many years!
The problem is not Oracle Forms per se. It’s the world around it:
Whilst Oracle Forms does have a future, it will dwindle more and more over time. Alternative development tools such as Oracle Application Express (APEX) will, and are, experiencing vast increases in user adoption and are proving to be the lifeboat-to-the-future that Forms users are calling for when a decision has been made to jump ship.
Companies around the world are adopting Oracle Cloud Services, whether this is in a tactical way, creating new databases or strategically transforming their business to a more service-oriented model. If you’re using Oracle Forms on-premises and looking at either tactical or strategic cloud adoption, Forms will hold you back.
YES – if you are running an unsupported version. Take action now; please do something!
YES – if you are an ISV whose product runs on Oracle Forms. Most ISVs now realise that customers expect more, so it’s time to move with the times. Customer experience is essential, and Oracle Forms will never attract new customers. Take action now – your competitors are!
YES – if you want to decrease support costs, reduce licensing costs, be more agile, increase development productivity and/or develop new functionality.
YES – if you’re experiencing challenges with operational and technical support from components peripheral to Forms such as web browsers, desktop builds, SSO and Identity Management, performance and scalability.
NO – if you are already running a supported version, and accept ‘it is what it is’. The business will never want more, and the business model is static.
NO – if a cloud development or consumption model is not for you.
The list of scenarios is endless, but if you rely on Oracle Forms, you should review your options. The best advice I can give is do not assume upgrading to the latest version is the best and only option.
This option has been less common than I thought it would be and is the route I recommend you take if you want to continue with Oracle Forms, but you must accept the limitations and be very clear when it comes to accepting what Forms now is.
Remember, Oracle Forms is stable, but the peripheral elements of the architecture are causing many customers to look for alternative solutions. There will be no new ‘wow’ features of Forms – just mild tweaks and certainly nothing that will make you invest further in Oracle Forms. In summary, if the back office application and users accept what Oracle Forms has to offer, then upgrade, but do not hold your breath for amazing new features, and/or anything that will attract new customers.
I cannot believe there are so many companies out there that still run client-server forms or early versions of web forms. Most companies in this situation have just become used to the reliability of their legacy systems and have forgotten about staying supported.
Many companies don’t see the value in upgrading their Forms system from client-server to the web because they see it as money and effort to stand still. The only benefit is actually being supported, but there is nothing in the latest version of Forms that would make you buy into that product if you were starting from scratch.
From my experience, most 6i Forms or older applications have resulted in organisations redeveloping using APEX or moving away from Oracle completely. Web versions usually result in clients staying with Oracle technology and adopting APEX to either redevelop the application(s) in their entirety or complement existing systems by slowly introducing functional change to remain competitive.
Forms developers can easily relate to the concepts of developing with APEX as they still use PL/SQL skills. Existing code can be re-used, so you’re not throwing the baby out with the bath water as you would with alternative development platforms.
There is no silver bullet to migrating Forms to APEX. There is no tool that takes an Oracle Form, migrates it to new native code and deploys it as an overnight success. Be wary of anybody who says it is possible and ask to see a case study. Redeveloping Forms is an effort, but the benefits are considerable. Retain understanding and ownership at all costs.
100 Forms does not equate to 100 APEX Screens (never has, never will). A 20-year-old Forms application will likely have several redundant screens and functionality – why would you redevelop what you do not use?
Redeveloping Forms to APEX is rarely as big a job as one might think. The hardest task is assessing what you have, documenting what you need and agreeing on all the dependencies before you even consider redeveloping. Once that exercise is complete, you are ready to determine what the actual development effort is. Then factor in what Forms cannot do for you going forward, take into consideration licensing costs to stay with Forms (database, WebLogic, etc.), ongoing support costs (to Oracle and within your organisation) and the cost of risk (browser support, Java, etc.).
Without doing the above, it is rather flippant for anybody to say the redevelopment of Oracle Forms applications is expensive.
Sometimes, I wish they would! If they could, every Oracle salesperson would be selling it because it is very popular with an ever-increasing customer base from Tier 1 corporations across the globe. It’s now a fundamental Cloud proposition for Oracle, too, and is being used by Oracle to drive more Cloud-native application development with new and existing customers alike.
If you sign up for Database Cloud Services, you get access to APEX. If you use the Oracle Database on-premises, you get access to APEX, regardless of the edition/ version of the database you use.
You also have a supportive development team within Oracle and a massive community with more content than any other Oracle development tool at conferences annually around the world. Search #ORCLAPEX on Twitter, and you will realise how amazing the APEX community is.
When the time is right, you have a decision to make: stick or twist. If you choose to stick with Forms, please make sure you’re using the latest version and stay supported. If you’re looking at alternative solutions, remove the emotion and FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) and compare apples to apples – logic will shine through. If it’s time to twist then take a good look at APEX. Find out how to modernise your Oracle Forms with Oracle APEX here.
DSP are exhibiting at Oracle CloudWorld 2023, so call by Stand 161 and meet our Head of Development, Simon Greenwood and find out more about Oracle Forms and how migrating to Oracle APEX can benefit your business.
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