Mark Twain, one of the most beloved and most quoted American authors, was once rumored to be gravely ill or already dead. He was neither. Twain’s response in a New York Journal article: “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” He would live for another 13 years or so.
In the world of IT, software products are occasionally proclaimed dead too. Or rather, they become antiquated and obsolete. And yet, despite experts agreeing that they’ve run their course, some continue to be used and refuse to go away. Oracle Forms is one such survivor and, much like Twain in the late 19th century, it’s been believed to be in poor health or dying. As early as January 2006, Oracle expert Antony Reynold published a blog post entitled “Is Forms Dead?” The answer was, and still is, no, but we believe that Oracle Forms is now chronically sick and there seems to be no cure in sight. If you’re using it, it’s time to start planning for a successor.
Oracle Forms and its faults
Part of the Oracle Developer Suite (initially called Cooperative Development Environment) since the early 1990s, Oracle Forms was developed by Bill Friend in 1979. It’s a Rapid Application Development environment for developing database applications that uses the language PL/SQL. It was designed to build enterprise applications quickly and efficiently, and many organizations in various industries have used it over the years. Some of the world’s largest businesses in the financial, media or retail sectors still do. To be fair, Oracle Forms is, in and of itself, a high-quality product – it wouldn’t be around in 2021 if it wasn’t – but it’s essentially legacy technology, with applications that are silos and not fully adapted to today’s business world. In addition, it’s a proprietary product.
Insum, an application development and consulting service provider that specializes in Oracle-based solutions, carried out a survey in 2020 in which they asked administrators about their biggest challenges with Oracle Forms applications. The results, shown below, speak volumes.
If you only consider the challenge at the top of this list – providing a better user experience – you already have a compelling case for change: who would want to continue using applications that provide a substandard user experience? Add to that the complaint about the lack of web technologies – the difficulty of both upgrading and integrating Oracle Forms with modern applications – and it’s obvious that migration is inevitable. Those enterprises that are sticking with it are only doing so because they don’t know a better alternative. If yours is one of them, read on.
Moving away from Oracle Forms
Once you’ve decided to say goodbye to Oracle Forms, you need to ask yourself a few questions:
- How long will the migration process take?
- How much will it cost?
- Will users like the end result?
You want to save time and money, and guarantee customer satisfaction. These criteria are the cornerstones of a successful transformation strategy, but you might find that many of the solutions you could choose to replace Oracle Forms don’t satisfy all three of them.
Migrating to open source technologies is an attractive option. It’s cost-effective because you don’t need to buy a license, and you can build systems that are compatible with the latest web development tools and technologies. The drawback is that you have to do it all from scratch, which is usually a surefire way to failure. Often, you draw up the budget for seven figures only for the project to be canned before it gets very far; but even if it is completed, it takes much too long, and you can never be entirely sure if support will be available in the long term.
Switching to an ERP system such as SAP, Sage or EBS is another possibility, but the trouble is that such systems often fail to address all your application needs, and sometimes what is left out is exactly what sets your business apart from the competition. Also, ERP systems tend to be fairly high-priced.
Some businesses throw caution to the wind and try an entirely different technology such as Java. The main challenge here is that the development team may end up overwhelmed (and overworked) by having to deal with a lot that is new to them, e.g. the application framework or the programming language. This could easily prove detrimental to efficiency and productivity, not to mention that third party support may be required, which brings with it extra costs.
Change always involves some risk, and ultimately it’s the kind of business you run and your requirements that decide what the best option is for you. We at SIB Visions believe that our low code platform, VisionX, combines all the best features you can find in the possibilities described above.
VisionX: the oracle you can trust
VisionX generates a full Java project, which uses only open source frameworks and offers a migration extension that enables you to create applications based on FMB files (the source file used by Oracle Forms) or the existing database model. As a result, a typical Forms migration that could take years can be done in a matter of months, and at much lower cost than traditional development. By importing the FMB file, VisionX enables you to convert Oracle Forms applications into Java-based apps with a modern responsive interface that you can distribute in web, desktop or native mobile form. Alternatively, with the help of the templates and screen generator, you can generate screens from the existing data model very quickly. This feature is particularly attractive if your goal is to have a more modern user interface instead of a 1:1 migration of the old one.
To fine-tune the resulting screens, you can easily develop in the visual environment as well as switch back and forth between visual development and your Java IDE of choice. Since you have direct access to the code, you can add all the desired functionalities. At the same time you also benefit from insight into effective performance and security through software audits.
VisionX has a very similar persistence layer to Forms. This enables you to adopt Oracle Blocks and reuse queries more easily. Additionally, PL/SQL logic is moved into the database without being changed, which means less testing. Also, there are several readymade functions available for the relevant parts of Forms code:
- LOVs in all variants
- automatic loading of master data at post query
- automatic handling of Master/Detail and Navigation/Delete
Other features that allow you to reduce the amount of coding required during a transformation project include multilingual support and relative layouts / screen resizing.
Using VisionX and its Forms extension, you will soon forget about Oracle Forms, and when, at some point in the future, you hear that the technology once thought to be around forever is defunct, you won’t care if it’s true or only a rumor.
Get in touch today and schedule a demo to see how it works.