Thursday, 24 June 2010

Should you upgrade to Apex 4.0? (or Apex - with extra Katherine Heigl!)

There comes a time in the life of every man (and be warned that I spend all my time outside of work watching cheesy Hollywood romcoms and this might have warped my sense of reality) when his wife comes to him and says these words:

"Do you think I should get breast implants?"

In that instant the man is faced with the most crucial of dilemmas: it's not that he doesn't love his wife (who, in a Hollywood romcom, will inevitably be played with cutesy kookiness by Katherine Heigl), but surely an upgrade is always a good thing? After the implants she won't just be his darling Katherine Heigl, she'll be be darling Katherine Heigl - with extra Katherine Heigl!

Developers all across Apexdom are waking up to the same dilemma this morning, because of the following bit of news:

That's right, Oracle Application Express 4.0 has abandoned the shy coyness of beta mode and is finally fluttering its flirty eyes at us as a full release. Come and get me, boys (and girls), it seems to be saying. We've all always loved Apex - but Application Express 4.0 is Apex, in a manner of speaking, with extra Katherine Heigl!

Over the past 2 years my company has strengthened our commitment to Apex. It is now the first solution we look to for every project we get and, despite the fact that Oracle still seem intent on marketing it as an lightweight means of pimping your Excel spreadsheets, it has been able to cope with everything we have thrown at it.

Apex 4.0 wears its bling with ease: its UI has been tarted up impressively; its Dynamic Actions is a new, simple declarative interface for the creation of javascript/jQuery; its Plug-ins is unquestionably the first step in bringing an iTunes-style 'app store' that will enable developers share clever bits of code to Apex; and its Websheets gives developers the ability to easily add Google Docs-style collaboration to their applications. Oh, and interactive reports, the crown jewel of Apex's previous incarnation has been spruced up too. All in all, Application Express 4.0 is definitely a huge step forward from version 3.2.

So should we upgrade immediately? Should you?

In our Hollywood romcom Katherine Heigl will probably not get those breast implants. Instead she'll learn, through a hilarious sequence of events triggered by an encounter with a wise, old Chinaman, to love who she is inside. But, gorgeous as she is, you should be ashamed of yourself - why are you letting Ms Heigl take your technical decisions for you?

Here are the questions we are asking ourselves to help us decide whether to upgrade:
  1. Can we upgrade? 4.0 requires, at the very least, a database. Our development environment is a 9.2 database (we choose to develop using a database version that matches that of our most backward customer). Before we upgrade we'll need to sort this out.
  2. What are the risks of upgrading? It is rarely wise to be the first guy to scream Leeroy Jenkins! and go rushing in to upgrade. It's usually wiser to let others make mistakes and then gingerly step over their bodies.
  3. What are the risks of not upgrading? Minimal, in the short run. In the long run, of course, you don't want to fall too far behind.
  4. Do you need to upgrade? Of course not. Apex 3.2 was a fantastic product and I assume that you are happy with the applications you have built with it. But 'need' is one thing, 'want' is another. The wheel was a great invention - but hey, wasn't it a sweet thing that Mr Dunlop improved it by wrapping it in rubber? Technology creates its own need: I bet that in a year you won't be able to imagine Apex development without plug-ins.
  5. How easy is it to upgrade? Having not upgraded myself I can only pass on hearsay. I have heard that it's as easy as pie. However, do remember that you will need to upgrade the environments of all your clients too if yours is an application that is deployed in multiple locations.
So here's what I would advise: wait a little - not too long - and then update your development environment to 4.0. Play around with it (or, if you prefer, play around with it at and discover how it can make your applications better.

So I guess what I'm saying is this: Yes, Katherine Heigl, do get your implants - but perhaps, one breast at a time?