Why use Oracle Application Express for web app

oracle-apex

I believe we're moving to Oracle Apex for future development. I've read about Oracle Apex on wikipedia and it's pro and con. It seem to me the con outweigh the pro but maybe I'm wrong. I get the sense that Oracle Apex is for DBA with little or no programing knowledge to setup a web app quickly sort like MS Access for none programmer.

If you have Oracle Apex working experience, can you share your thought? From Wikipedia's entry, it doesn't seem like you need to know any programming language at all but just the PL/SQL?

edit: Is Oracle Apex scalable? Can it handle traffic like Facebook's size?

edit: after working nearly two years on Oracle Apex 3.2. I can safely said that I hate it and I don't see why anyone would want to create web app/page on browser, pl/sql and no way to do version control.

Thank.

Jack

Best Solution

Please note my experiences are with APEX 2.x-3.0.

I used Apex for a few internal apps over a 12 month period but eventually dumped it for ASP.NET.

Some Oracle evangelists claim it is capable of creating highly dynamic content on par with the more mainstream frameworks like ASP.NET/J2EE. Technically this is true, but then technically its also true that you could cross the atlantic in a one man canoe. If you are tempted to throw yourself into a APEX project of even moderate complexity then I suggest you look at the APEX sample of a simple discussion forum. Compare it to an ASP.NET MVC discussion forum sample or a RoR implementation.

Having said that:

The Good

  • Incredibly easy to generate a respectable web app with basic CRUD data entry, simple reporting and populate it with data. If you're the IT guy who's been tasked with consolidating a company's mess of Excel/Access dbs into a central DB/web environment then you should take a look at APEX, it very well suited for this task. If you expect the scope to grow to something of even moderate complexity then I would move straight to a more flexible framework.

  • If you are a DBA/PLSQL guru but have no experience with traditional web development you'll be well prepped to expose existing business logic in a web app without stuffing around with HTML/CSS/JavaScript if you dont want to.

  • APEX support forum has a ton of info and is well staffed by APEX devs.

The Bad

My experience with Apex began to go downhill when apps moved beyond CRUD data entry and required more dynamic and event driven behaviours.

  • The web based GUI is not cool. Debugging is painful.

  • Version Control? Who needs version control?

  • When you (inevitably) need to do anything outside the limited scope of the framework, you'll have to get your hands dirty with PL/SQL. Writing business logic against the database is fine, but generating HTML from PL/SQL procedures felt uncomfortably archaic in 2007.

  • Given the large number of sneaky places you can hide page and redirection logic, the program flow is both difficult to visualise and not naturally conducive to modular, separable and reusable code. OOP developers will be not be impressed. It's possible to have well structured maintainable applications with APEX but its harder than it should be. This is worlds away from MVC.

  • Unacceptable number of framework bugs in the versions I used. I'd hope this has improved with recent versions, but the paradigm of integrating the IDE into the APEX platform itself caused me some of the darkest, soul destroying debugging sessions of my life. As an example, I was trying to reproduce an intermittent bug that would cause a user to lose their session data. Using the session information popup I saw that occasionally the session data would change when it shouldnt have. I spent 2 days trying to find the error in my code with no luck. Near delirious, I noticed by pure chance that I could reproduce errorous session data in the debug window but the application itself wouldnt go into an error state. My heart sunk when I realised what might be happening. Oracle later confirmed that I'd found a bug in APEX that caused the session information window to intermittently show me data from a prior session. I'd wasted 2 days debugging a session related bug with a buggy session debug window. That was the last Apex app I built.

  • PL/SQL is not and will never be the Next Big Thing in web development. After working with APEX for a while I realised it wasnt going to make me a better web developer. Mastering APEX is really about PL/SQL. Thats fine if you plan to focus your career on Oracle technology, just be aware that APEX is so tangential to the direction of mainstream web technologies that the portable set of skills you can take from APEX to other web frameworks is minimal.

If you are considering APEX to provide simple web based data entry and reporting, its worth a look. If you are looking for an alternative to .NET/JAVA/PHP for dynamic web content and rich UI interaction I'd advise you to look elsewhere.

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