When APEX Developers Take the Stage, Cue Applause

When Maria Colgan walked on stage at Open Mic night at a recent developer conference in Seattle, she knew the rules: no slides, 5-minute limit, demos encouraged. After four minutes and 54 seconds, she walked off stage to whoops and applause from 200 or so developers. Her simple demo? Spinning up an autonomous Oracle Database in the cloud, clicking on a new, just-announced list of built-in development tools, and starting a project.

“People were sincerely excited,” says Scott Spendolini, the evening’s emcee at ODTUG Kscope 19. “These developers make their living with the database and these tools, so to see Maria make an important product announcement at our Open Mic night really got people going.” Namely, Colgan, an Oracle master product manager, showed that Oracle Application Express, Oracle SQL Developer Web, and Oracle REST Data Services are now built into Oracle Autonomous Database. Twenty developers followed Colgan on stage showing off their APEX applications

Oracle launched its Autonomous Database last year, providing a database that provisions, tunes, backs up, encrypts, updates, and patches itself without human involvement. This is proving to be a boon for developers, since it means they can provision a new database and start coding in minutes. It vastly simplifies the process to get an enterprise-grade database set up and maintained. And for data experts, it means they spend far less time on database management and more time working with developers to get value from the data.

“You don’t need to download anything—as soon as you provision your Autonomous Database you’ll be able to go to the console and see these tools,” Colgan says. With SQL Developer Web for example, “you’ll be able to click in and start to write SQL, PL/SQL, manage objects, even do data modeling.”

“I actually heard people shouting, ‘Hallelujah’ at the SQL Developer Web part,” Spendolini says.

The star of the evening’s show, however, was Oracle APEX.  APEX is a low code environment used by hundreds of thousands of developers worldwide that comes as part of the Oracle Database and lets developers quickly build scalable enterprise apps. “This year we had 20 people come up and show their APEX projects,” says Spendolini, who has emceed the event, run by the ODTUG Oracle user group, for nearly a decade. Some people show simple visualizations of data pulled from an ERP application, others show complex applications used to run factory floors for global businesses. “And there’s always someone I’ve never heard of who gets up and blows me away with the creative things they’ve built with this tool,” he says.

APEX on the autonomous database, “is great because…you don’t have to hire people and wait to get everything set up,” says Jackie McIlroy, who came to the Open Mic night to cheer for a colleague. “When someone has an idea, you can design a data model, get that database set up and make a quick prototype. Then you get some users logged in, get their feedback and start iterating through.” McIlroy maintains a commercial add-on called APEX Office Print: “APEX can solve any problem as far as I’m concerned.”

Open Mic presenter Jonathan Dixon received hearty applause for his use of APEX and REST services to visualize data from text messages sent by audience members. Oracle REST Data Services (ORDS), “adds superpowers to APEX apps,” he said following his live demo, which used Twilio cloud service to add the texting capability to his app.

Dixon, a founding partner of JMJ Cloud, also uses ORDS to connect his APEX apps to voice services and is working on connecting to AI-powered cloud services to do things like count items in a photo.

“There are hundreds of plug-ins for APEX,” says Roel Hartman, a longtime APEX developer who has seen the tool go from a two-person project inside Oracle to the phenomenon it is today. “If you see a plug-in on the internet that you like, you can wrap that up, drop it into the APEX repository and start using it as a normal component. So APEX is very extendable for all types of developers.”

Hartman, who runs APEX Consulting in the Netherlands, says he likes the Autonomous Data Warehouse (ADW) service with APEX because, “APEX is very strong at visualizing data, and it runs right inside the data warehouse, so it will be blazing fast because there are no connection issues.”

Another selling point for developers using the Autonomous Database is that it runs on Oracle’s unique Exadata infrastructure. “It really matters that autonomous databases run on Exadata,” says Keanen Fosman, from Viscosity North America, a consultancy based primarily on developing apps on APEX.  “Our customers are able to get the features of Exadata without having to go purchase their own Exadata machine.” Exadata is a hardware-software system engineered to run Oracle Database at top performance. That’s important for the power, but also for data security because with Autonomous Database on Exadata, “that security is baked in,” Fosman says. “It’s peace of mind for our customers that security and power is solved and out of mind for them.”

Fosman and her colleagues can use APEX on the Autonomous Database to innovate faster, “and focus instead on next-level blueprints for our customers,” she says. “That’s the fun part.”

The other fun part of APEX is the global community, says Spendolini. “It’s the passion for the product,” that he sees every year at Open Mic night.

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