Yesterday I attended the "J2EE and ADF for Forms and Designer Developers workshop" by Sue Harper http://www.groundside.com/blog/content/SueHarper/ in Sydney (or at least the talk bit, though not the hands-on component).
Firstly, I'll declare my bias. I like Forms Developer (mostly). I like PL/SQL. I hate Reports Developer, but thats neither here nor there. However there seems to be a push away from Forms towards some form of Java-derived front end. Forms doesn't get the glamour press; the 'I had all these systems and solved my integration problems by running Java/XML/whatever over the lot" type press. It probably makes it harder to sell and I don't think Oracle are really trying to sell it. I think they should, and on the basis that having your application developed by your database (PL/SQL) developers, you'll get an application that runs better against the database. And you'll tie yourself into that database....Sorry, make that 'leverage your investment'.
That's what I don't like about the Java push. IT shops will look at "we need Oracle developers for the database and Java developers for the front end". There aren't enough good Java/Oracle developers to cover both bases. There's probably not even enough competant Oracle developers, they are still 'expensive'. But Java developers are being churned out of colleges, universities etc and they produce something pretty.
At a recent project, the PM wanted to show the end users the progress being made by development. It wasn't a matter of waving around a big bunch of code printouts or telling them how many batch routines had been written. They were shown the screens, and just the screens. When push comes to shove, pretty wins. And when the Java developers are saying the database is just a datadump and that everything can be written in Java, the database developers are going to get the pointy end of the stick.
And that's my beef with JDeveloper. I don't want to be told that, when you need a tricky bit of record validation, go and find a Java developer to write it and gradually you'll pick up enough so that you don't have to ask them as often. I've got a lot of PL/SQL experience, and some in C, Perl, COBOL and a couple of other languages. What I want is a PL/SQL to Java Rosetta Stone. This is how you translate PL/SQL collections to Java, this is how you call database procedures or SQL through Java, and so forth. That will give PL/SQL developers the knowledge to write Java.
Because my experience of Forms is that, while some Forms are simple base-table selects/insert/updates, the ones that aren't simple are the ones you spend the most time working on, and they contain lots of PL/SQL. And honestly, if I can't develop that in JDeveloper when I can in Forms, then I am not able to sell myself as a practical JDeveloper resource.
I wasn't able to stay around for the actual hands-on portion. That wasn't a great disappointment to me, as it isn't the way I'm comfortable learning. I'm distrusting of a rehearsed 'press here, drag this and its done' walkthrough. It reminds me of my first Oracle training for Forms 4.5 (or maybe 5.0), developing the normal DEPT/EMP style Forms. I want to try something tricky, with validations, changing defaults depending on this or that and so on. So I'll try JDeveloper on something, time permitting.
This has probably come across very negative, and is also probably unfair. I don't see that the J2EE approach is technically better than the Forms approach for the environments I've worked in or can see myself working in. But I feel it will may well get used there and I can't afford to be shut out. I hope I'm wrong and can stay with Forms. [My last experience of a Developer Day was about four years back. It was WAP this, WAP that and them telling us that we'd be developing everything to run on a mobile phone. I heard more WAP on that day than I'd heard before or in the four years since. Though I'll admit that today, I can at least see that sometime in the next five to ten years I will probably work on something that can be used on some type of mobile device.]
We'll see in six months or a year's time whether I've changed my tune about J2EE and JDeveloper. Convincing your friends about an issue, they'll give you the advantage of the benefit of the doubt. Convincing the enemy is always more of a challenge.
Reading back on this, I haven't given justice to the emphasis in the presentation on using the appropriate technology and the potential for integrating Forms and J2EE. That's an area which I need to look into more.