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Oracle is breaking record speeds in releasing new products, changing names of existing products and releasing new versions of current products. It has been challenging for technologists to keep track of the changes.  The constant flux of changes has caused some people confusion in knowing the purpose, functionality, and role of each product.  This confusion may lead some people to believe that similar Oracle products compete against each other.

The purpose of this article/presentation is to touch base with Oracle Development Products/Tools; discuss the functionality of each product; discuss the similarities and migration utilities between pro ducts; and to discuss developing business applications using one or a combination of these development tools from Oracle.  This article/presentation explains Oracle’s future direction on some of the products and discusses the licensing/server model that Oracle has developed, the introduction of 9iAS.

Oracle Servers, Languages and Development Tools:

Oracle Servers:

At a higher-level, Oracle has two products:  Oracle Database Server and Oracle Internet Application Server.

Visit http://www.oracle.com/ip/index.html?content.html , http://technet.oracle.com/products/content.html for more information. This article/presentation assumes that you are familiar with Oracle Database Server and its applicability (visit http://technet.oracle.com/products/oracle9i/content.html  for more information).   Built with Apache HTTP Server and multiple services/cartridges, Oracle iAS has become necessary for deploying (runtime) most/any of Oracle’s development tools specifically for browser-based applications. Some of the services and features that are built into iAS in clude: HTTP Server, Oracle Portal (Formerly WebDB), iFS support, J2EE & XML, Oracle Forms and Reports Services, Discoverer, WorkFlow, PL/SQL cartridge, BC4J, Wireless Support, etc.  Oracle Internet Application Server comes with Standard, Enterprise and Wireless edition.

Oracle Programming Languages

Oracle supports native PL/SQL and/or Java as native languages in most of their tools/servers. There are programming extensions to Pro*C, Pro*COBOL, C, C++, and OCI on database server side. Oracle has been supporting XML in the Database Server, Application Server and a few development tools as well.  Since the release of Oracle DB Release Version 8, Oracle has incorporated Java Virtual Machine (J Server – Oracle’s Java Virtual Machine) into the DB Server and Application Server.

Oracle Development Environment:

Oracle Designer: (Oracle CASE Designer/2000/Oracle Designer)
Oracle Designer is a one-stop development environment that provides complete “end-to-end” development of applications. This offers a toolset to Model, Generate and Capture the requirements of Web based, and Client Server Applications.  In order to use this tool to its fullest extent (both Modeling and Generation), the learning curve of this tool is going to be significantly lengthy. The generation part includes both the server (database) side and the client side application generation.
The client side generation includes Forms, Reports generation for both client server and browser based deployment and Web
Server Generation (WSG) for web deployment.  This consists of PL/SQL packages that generate dynamic HTML user interface and JavaScript programming language.

COMPARISON OF WEB SERVER GENERATION USING DESIGNER VS. HAND-CODED USING PL/SQL WEB TOOL KIT

Both of these options require HTML and JavaScript knowledge to develop applications that meet business requirements.

For most of the part, Designer generates browser independent JavaScript and works both in Internet Explorer (IE)
and Netscape.  If you are not using Designer, you will need to be aware of the differences in IE and Netscape.

Unless you have skilled people in -house that can perform modeling using Designer, there may be a huge learning curve to learn Designer for the purpose of web server generation.

Using Designer, Standards (using preferences) can be easily enforced. Designer has tons of other functionality including Table API generation, Version Control, Security model, and Error Handling.

Customization can be done within Designer (Pre -generation) changes. There are limitations (examples will be discussed at ODTUG) and Post-Generation changes may occur. This will significantly add to the maintenance of that code outside of Designer. Hand coding does not have any such issues.

If you are hand coding, you will need to have programming knowledge of HTP/HTF packages and WSGL packages in case of Designer generation (simple apps can be developed without much knowledge).

If you are hand coding, you can use HTML to PL/SQL converter (WebAlchemy) for screen layout.

Oracle JDeveloper IDE:

Oracle JDeveloper is a Java development environment for developing Internet applications. JDeveloper provides an end-to- end, highly productive development environment for the Java(tm) 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) platform. Oracle JDeveloper includes Oracle Business Components for Java (http://technet.oracle.com/products/jdev/info/techwp20/wp.html ), which is a standards-based, server-side framework for cre ating scalable, high-performance Internet applications. The framework provides design-time facilities and runtime services to drastically simplify the task of building, debugging, customizing, and
reusing business components. Business Components for Java implements design patterns necessary for delivering real world, performance J2EE applications. In addition, applications developed with Business Components for Java can be accessed from a wide variety of clients (JDeveloper, Oracle Forms) including Web browsers, professional desktop clients, hand-held and wireless devices. JDeveloper 3.2 provides numerous features for Java XML developers and comes with integrated Oracle XDK built into JDeveloper.

Oracle Portal (WebDB Portal)

Oracle9iAS Portal is a web-based application for building and deploying e-business portals. It provides a secure, manageable environment for accessing and interacting with enterprise software services and information resources. In addition to rich features like web publishing, personalization, easy to use and customize etc., the key feature to consider from application development point of view is its “Extensible Framework”. This framework integrates web-based resources such as web pages, applications (e.g., applications developed using other Oracle tools), business intelligence reports (Discoverer, Oracle
Reports), and syndicated content feeds, within standardized, reusable information components called Portlets. Built into iAS, this portlet features can be considered as an umbrella to integrate applications developed using multiple Oracle tools like, Forms, Reports, Discoverer, PL/SQL based web packages, JSP or Java based applications into one framework.

Oracle XML Development Kit (XDK):

The Oracle XML Developer’s Kits (XDK http://technet.oracle.com/tech/xml/ ) contain the basic building blocks for reading, manipulating, transforming and viewing XML documents. To provide a broad variety of deployment options, the Oracle XDKs are available for Java, JavaBeans, C, C++ and PL/SQL. Oracle XDK is integrated into JDeveloper, Oracle Database, iAS.

XML PARSERS:

Supporting Java, C, C++ and PL/SQL, the components create and parse XML using industry standard DOM and
SAX interfaces.

XSLT PROCESSOR:

Transforms or renders XML into other text -based formats such as HTML. Supports both Java and PL/SQL, C, C++

XML SCHEMA PROCESSOR:

Supporting Java, C, and C++, allows use of XML simple and complex data types.

XML CLASS GENERATOR:

Automatically generates Java and C++ classes from DTDs and Schemas to send XML data from Web forms or applications.

XML TRANSVIEWER JAVA BEANS :

Visually view and transform XML documents and data via Java components.

XML SQL UTILITY:

Supporting Java, PL/SQL, generates XML documents, DTDs and Schemas from SQL queries.

XSQL SERVLET:

Combines XML, SQL, and XSLT in the server to deliver dynamic web content..

Oracle PL/SQL Web Tool Kit:

The PL/SQL cartridge built into Oracle iAS, provides an environment that enables users to use their browsers to invoke PL/SQL procedures stored in Oracle databases. The stored procedures can retrieve data from tables in the database, and generate HTML pages that include the data to return to the client browser. Installing PL/SQL t ool kit will install several PL/SQL Packages including HTF, HTP, OWA, OWA_SEC, OWA_UTIl,OWA_COOKIE, OWA_PATTERN, OWA_IMAGE, OWA_TEXT, OWA_CONTENT, etc.

PL/SQL Server Pages (PSP):

A PL/SQL Server Page is a dynamic, database driven page of Internet content built mainly in the easy to write HTML language, with dynamic pieces on Oracle content specified in scriptlet tags. By writing an HTML page with embedded PL/SQL code and compiling it as a PL/SQL Server Page, you may call procedures from the PL/SQL Web Toolkit, but are not required to generate every line of HTML output. Each .psp file is loaded into database using load psp utility as a stored procedure. You can also build these pages using Oracle Portal.

Oracle Forms (SQL*Forms  Developer Forms   Oracle Forms)

Oracle Forms is a Rapid Application Development tool originally developed as a very rich Client Server development tool. It is a highly productive end-to-end development environment for building enterprise-class, database-centric Internet applications.

ORACLE 9IAS FORMS SERVICES:

Application developed using Oracle Forms can be deployed as browser based applications using Forms Server and 9iAS Fomrs Services. Please visit http://technet.oracle.com/products/forms/ for complete architecture of this deployment option.  Oracle9iAS Forms Services are the foundation of Oracle Applications 11i. With the latest version of Forms Server and 9iAS Forms Services open API’s it is possible to access Oracle’s Business Components for Java (BC4J) and other industry standards such as EJB, CORBA, XML.

Oracle Reports (SQL*Reports Developer Reports Oracle Reports)

Oracle Reports provides a powerful development and deployment platform to build and publish high-quality, dynamically generated Web reports in an unrivaled scalable, secure environment. Oracle Reports consists of Oracle Reports Developer (shipped with Oracle iDS) and Oracle Reports Services, which ships as part of Oracle9iAS. Visit

http://technet.oracle.com/products/reports/ for complete technical details. Oracle reports and Oracle forms are tightly integrated and complement each other to fulfill the development requirements t o build rich applications.

Oracle Discoverer

Oracle9iAS Discoverer, Oracle’s award winning product, is a key component of Oracle9iAS integrated business intelligence solution.  Oracle9iAS Discoverer is an intuitive ad hoc query, reporting, analysis, and web publishing tool that empowers business users at all levels of the organization to gain immediate access to information from data marts, data warehouses, and online transaction processing (OLTP) systems. Visit http://technet.oracle.com/products/discoverer/ for complete technical details and architecture.  Report builders and analysts can create, modify, and execute ad hoc queries and reports.  The more casual users can view and navigate through pre-defined reports and graphs. Discoverer provides a business view to hide the complexity of the underlying data structure. It enables users to focus on solving business problems instead of data access issues.

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About the Author

Scott Nelson is an entrepreneur, Oracle wizard, consultant, businessman, filmmaker, inventor, tinkerer. He’s always been willing to approach the unapproachable, attempt the impossible, reach for the brass ring in a wild dive into the darkness of the unknown because his motto is “All you have to do is do it” Currently living the good life in southern Indiana amongst the hills and pleasant valleys of Brown County.

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