A Day in the land of Oracle

I’m working on a project for a customer that I have mentioned beforethat is a Java web app using Oracle products. I know, what is a .NET guy doing this for? Trust me, I have tried hard to persuade the customer’s customer that they would be better off with a .NET solution to no avail. They dictated an Oracle/Solaris architecture before the project even started to maintain platform homogeneity within their network, so we are stuck with that.

We are just getting started into the design phase (yes, a waterfall process also dictated by the customer… do these people never learn??), and trying to nail down the technologies and software architecture we will use given the constrained enviroment. It is like trying to learn a foriegn language in some ways. The basic architectural concepts are the same, but the terminology, libraries, technologies you use to achieve it are all very different.

The other thing that is weird is the low community support structure in the Oracle world.After much searching of the Oracle Tech Net and the web in general, it was just really hard to find good articles and how-to type information on web app architectureand design with Oracle.Basically, I just needed to talk to someone who does what I do with .NETbut does it with Oracle products so that I could get them to help me draw the parallels. We were sent one after another consultant by Oracle, telling them we needed a web application architect each time, and ending up with DBA after DBA after DBA, each basically saying “I think you can write all your HTML in PL/SQL”. Yeah, a 1 tier app, that’s just what I had in mind. Either that or we ended up with the Technical Manager type who could rattle off a laundry list of options (most involving obscene licensing costs), but couldn’t really guide us on the right selection of technologies given our requirements and expertise.

Finallly yesterday we went to the Reston Oracle headquarters and met with some folks and got the guy we needed. I could immediately tell that he spoke the lingo, even though he was talking different tools and terms, we were both describing the same app architecture and he was able in about an hour’s time to get us right on track.

Some of the stuff in the Oracle suite (JDeveloper in particular) are pretty nice. Microsoft should take a look. Even though their Business Components for Java (BC4J) framework and Struts (an MVC open source framework) are heavily driven by XML, you almost never have to touch the raw XML yourself. They have wizards and dialogs that encapsulate ever setting you might possibly need to make in the XML configuration files of many flavors. We need more of that in .NET, and I think some is coming in Whidbey from what I have seen and heard.

It is definitely a more DB centric world that we are used to in the .NET realm, but I could see where that pendulum might swing closer to the Oracle approach with some of the features coming in Yukon.