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Q&A With Grant Ronald

When talking about Oracle Forms and JDeveloper, one Oracle personality stands out among others

(This is a reprint of an article published in the UKOUG's Select magazine early this year)

When talking about Oracle Forms and JDeveloper, one Oracle personality stands out among others - long time blogger Grant Ronald from Oracle Corporation UK. Grant has for a long time “pimped” Oracle Forms and its big brother JDeveloper at Oracle events and user groups events around the world. His popularity is shown by his blog receiving on average 2000 hits per day. Lately, to reassure Oracle customers that Oracle intends to keep on supporting Oracle Forms and show that Forms has a future inline with JDeveloper, Grant has been responsible for the Oracle’s Forms Modernization message.

Chris Muir from SAGE Computing Services Australia conducted the following Q&A session with Grant to get the low down and latest on Forms and JDeveloper, as well as a little about Grant himself.

CM: What role do you currently play at Oracle and what does your day job entail?

Grant Ronald
: Well, my title says “Group Product Manager” and the products I cover are Oracle Forms and Oracle JDeveloper. As a Product Manager you are responsible for the success of the products in your area. That encompasses everything from working with developers on features, the marketing department on campaigns or delivering presentations at events like Oracle World. In the morning you can be rolling your sleeves up and getting into code with a developer, and in the afternoon you can be meeting with the CTO. It’s that varied.

CM: How did you get into this Oracle gig anyhow? What’s your background at Oracle and computing in general?

Grant Ronald: Back in the early ’80s, home computing was slowly starting to take off with computers like the Sinclair Spectrum, Vic20 and BBC home computers, and it seemed like a new an innovative field to get involved in when I left school. So I got my degree in Computing Science then joined a small IT outfit in the UK that eventually got consumed by EDS. It was a pretty typical development role for about seven years, mainly focused on military applications, and my last job was designing, developing and leading the team for the development of the user interface for a military email system.

This took me up to 1996 when I fancied a change, and Oracle was looking for people with development experience on Unix and Motif in their support organization. So I joined Oracle Support where I eventually headed up the group who supported the local EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) teams in Forms, Reports and Discoverer. Given that I was working closely with the Oracle Product Management team in this role, I was eventually persuaded to make the jump into Oracle Development!

CM: Ok, now for some tough questions worthy of any Q&A: You’re currently known via your blog for discussions on Oracle development including Forms and SOA, and presentations in Oracle Developer Days around the world. Previously you were also known for you work on JDeveloper. Why the change? Has Oracle internally panicked about the impression (my emphasis) customers are getting that Oracle has killed Forms, and now the need for Forms advocates?

Grant Ronald: There has not really been a change. The thing is, we’ve never stopped talking about Forms. I’ve got the air miles and passport stamps to show that we were still presenting Forms at Oracle World, ODTUG (Oracle Development Tools User Group), UKOUG (UK Oracle User Group), DOAG (German Oracle User Group) and dozens of other events covering EMEA, APAC and the Americas.

The Forms OTN page is still a hive of activity: news, events, whitepapers and how-to’s. Maybe people thought we had stopped talking about Forms because we were also talking about other technologies as well. Ten years ago if you developed on an Oracle database then you pretty much used Forms, simple as that. But the world has changed and there are other things to talk about now. Which makes sense, if you think about it; there is more need and more demand to be talking about the “new” stuff, especially when it is evolving at such a rate.

CM: On discussing Forms and considering that some Oracle customers are confused on the future of Forms, can you outline Oracle’s commitment to Forms in terms of existing versions and Oracle Support?

Grant Ronald: I think the strongest statement we have is the fact that we published a statement of direction five years ago and that statement remains true today. We’ve always said that we are committed to Forms and that there have been no plans to desupport it. That line has never changed. Regarding support, we’ve recently just extended the support date for 10.1.2 (the latest release of Oracle Forms) and Forms 11g is in development, having already had positive reviews from our beta testers. So we are lengthening the support dates, we are working on the next release and we are also discussing enhancements and features for post 11g. I think that’s all good news.

CM: Could the problem with Oracle Forms just be an image problem? It’s never been known for sexy development (a’la grey screens of boredom), and especially now that the web world, web rich clients, AJAX etc have taken off.

Grant Ronald: The sweet spot for Oracle Forms has always been the ability to rapidly develop rich, transactional business applications. So you see Oracle Forms applications in your government offices, airlines and bank back-offices etc. The need for visual “bells and whistles” is less at the fore than, for example, an online shopping application where a user makes a snap decision, often based on visual aesthetics, as to whether they will use the site.

But there is nothing to stop you pushing the boundaries of the visual aspects of Oracle Forms. We have customers who are using some of the features of Oracle Forms, like PJCs and Java beans, to really push the boundaries of the Forms UI. Like this story. So there is nothing to stop you modernizing your Forms application, starting with an update of the user interface.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Chris Muir

Chris Muir, an Oracle ACE Director, senior developer and trainer, and frequent blogger at http://one-size-doesnt-fit-all.blogspot.com, has been hacking away as an Oracle consultant with Australia's SAGE Computing Services for too many years. Taking a pragmatic approach to all things Oracle, Chris has more recently earned battle scars with JDeveloper, Apex, OID and web services, and has some very old war-wounds from a dark and dim past with Forms, Reports and even Designer 100% generation. He is a frequent presenter and contributor to the local Australian Oracle User Group scene, as well as a contributor to international user group magazines such as the IOUG and UKOUG.

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