I am a Oracle Developer and wanted to ask you what is the scope of APEX in the near future. Forms and Reports are still very much alive and APEX jobs are not that much I have seen in the US market. APEX is quite old now (about 3 to 4 years old). What is your view on it?
I would appreciate your input. I have invested huge amount of time in APEX as I was excited as you are with APEX technology and now I feel was it really worth it? Is the future of Forms and Reports -> APEX or is it J2EE. I mean Forms/Reports -> to -> APEX or Forms/Reports -> to -> Jdeveloper (J2EE). I personally like APEX much better.
Apparently still a lot of people are struggling with this question, so I decided to do a post about it, but I'll break down the question in different parts.
Is Oracle Application Express (APEX) old?
It's not "new" anymore, the first public release was in 2004. But is it bad that APEX is getting older? With every new release we got a lot of nice features which made APEX more mature and worth looking at. The Oracle database is very old too, but with every release new features got introduced. The database is also doing a lot of things for you now, which in the past cost you a lot more effort. I see APEX like that, with every new release the development of an application is made easier for you and you get more possibilities to make your application even nicer.
Are there jobs for APEX developers?
I guess we, APEX Evangelists, a company 100% dedicated to APEX, proves you can make a living out of it. Day in day out we work with APEX with many different customers. Development, support, training and consultancy are our main activities. So I can definitely see a job for you in this domain. Sure .NET and Java are asked very much and the APEX market is smaller, but it's growing every day...
What is the future of APEX?
APEX 3.2 got released a couple of weeks ago, which includes a Forms to APEX conversion tool. The next major release of APEX is 4.0 which will include some very nice web 2.0 features. Some of the highlights of that release will be Updateable Interactive Reports (improved tabular forms), Websheets, an APEX listener and Dynamic Actions. A full list can be found in the SOD.
Forms to J2EE or Forms to APEX?
It depends... What is your infrastructure? What knowledge do you have in house? What are your requirements? Why do you want to change?
You have three options, really:
1) Stay with Forms and Reports. You really need to ask yourself why you want to change. Is it because of license costs? Or do you need to web enable and extend your application? Only you know the answer, but going to another technology is not something you do in 1..2..3, so think about it before you start. Both J2EE as APEX provide you with tools to make the migration as painless as possible, but you still need to do some things yourself.
2) Go to J2EE. Already a lot of people went into that direction as Oracle itself is following that strategy for the Applications Suite. I'm not specialized in that area but if you look at the blogs of Grant Ronald or Duncan Mills they have all that information. The ADF development team is doing some really nice work and have some really cool features available.
3) Last but not least you could also chose to convert your Forms to APEX. One of the biggest advantages for me, especially in times of economic crisis, you avoid paying a license for the Oracle Application Server (OAS). APEX doesn't require the full Oracle Application Server, but can run on Apache or directly from the database (later, in APEX 4.0, with the APEX listener it can also run on a java environment like for ex. Tomcat or OC4J). Of course the full Oracle Application Server has some nice features which you won't have, but typically APEX doesn't need the OAS. Next to that most likely you can reuse your existing knowledge...
Especially with APEX 3.2, which includes a Forms to APEX conversion tool, it's worthwhile investigating this option. If you already have a lot of people knowing SQL, PL/SQL and HTML, APEX might be a good fit for you, as these are the main building blocks. But remember this conversions tool is not a silver bullet, you still need to do a lot of work to get your Forms conversion completely finished, so please, see it as a real project and treat it like that.
So to conclude, I'm still happy I chose APEX as my preferred technology. I still don't know that many tools that can create data centric applications at the speed of APEX. More and more people are starting to use it. APEX let you extend your application easily... To make web 2.0 (or 3.0/4.0) applications we intensively use JQuery and other 3rd party components (for ex. Anychart) with APEX too. I really look forward to the APEX 4.0 release as that will already have some of these enhancements out-of-the-box. So we still have things to look forward to and stay passionate about it...