Monday, December 10, 2007

What's With Oracle and Flex?

Adobe's Flex seems to be cropping up across the enterprise vendor space. It's made a clean sweep of the BI vendor products (a much smaller group these days). And now Flex seems to be making major inroads in SAP and Oracle.

I wonder however if this is real strategy at work, or just an example of a good cohesive solution filling the void in the midst of AJAX-chaos?

I'd commented before on SAP's adoption, and they seem to have stolen the limelight over the past year. It was easy to forget a no-fanfare announcement of Flex support by Oracle at OpenWorld 2006. It was just PR after all - and seems to have dropped off the Internet! But it seems one of the most lasting impressions of OpenWorld 2007 was the promiscuous proliferation of Flex in the various demos and announcements.

James Ward (the Adobe RIA Cowboy) reported the usage in his blog, and has apparently been working closely with Oracle on their adoption.

It was very interesting to hear RedMonk's Michael Coté picking this discussion up in their "RIA Weekly" podcasts - with gossip about OpenWorld sightings in Episode 01, with more depth about the specific product teams using Flex in Episode 02.

As James & Michael discuss, Oracle's adoption seems to be of the common "stick your widgets in our page" style. The flagship adoptions are so far MetaLink (selected pages only), and BI Publisher (yet to release).

Flex is pretty cool, I agree. But it is hard to discern a broad RIA strategy at work here.

AJAXWorld might have been controversial by splitting the RIA world into two camps (Should You Choose AJAX or Adobe?). Choose Ajax or Flex? I think Oracle's answer may simply be "we need to choose?"

Consider Oracle is also playing many other AJAX cards: OpenAJAX Alliance support; quite a bit of true AJAX used in various products; and "AJAX" support in ADF/JSF [although as far as I can figure, it's all IFrame-based].

Does any of this really tell us anything about the strategic direction for Oracle Fusion Applications UI technology?

Now that the Oracle AppsLab guys are Back from OpenWorld, I'd be really keen to hear their take on all this. In fact, I'd expect that guys like James Ward were engaged with OracleAppsLab and the AppsLab blog should be the place to get the inside running.

But back to my original, cynical observation. I have a sneaking suspicion that we're seeing Flex pop up all over the enterprise space for one simple reason: Adobe have a good pitch, and a product that is nicely wrapped up and walled in (even questions of Flex's openness seem to have fallen by the wayside). The AJAX elevator pitch just isn't in such good a shape.

Hence so much easy to push a top-down directive to "skin it with Flex". It may even accidentally be the best long term decision for your product.

6 comments:

Jake said...

Responding on behalf of AppsLab, I don't know anything about Flex and Fusion or any of this. Sorry. We're working on Mix exclusively, which as you know is JRuby.

Carl Backstrom said...

Hello,

Hi this is Carl from the Application Express team, we've looked into FLEX quite a bit, and have come to the decision, where sure we want to support it's usage, and make it easier to use with APEX we don't want to be using it as a base technology.

I've seen some very nice APEX applications with FLEX integrated into it but HTML / CSS /JAVASCRIPT are standards are well known and basically run the internet.

We also used to have our charting engine based on SVG and the Adobe SVG plugin and the way that Adobe dropped support for that left a less that desirable memory.

The usability labs had a posting about Canvas here http://blogs.oracle.com/usableapps/newsItems/viewFullItem$31

Which I commented on but to paraphrase we don't want to be in the middle of Adobe's and Microsoft's AIR (FLEX) vs Silverlight war when HTML/CSS/JAVASCRIPT are open standards not tied to any one vendor. Both of whom don't have stellar records of sharing or supporting web standards.


Of course we might revisit this decision at anytime but this is where it stands now.

Tim said...

Hey Paul
Minor correction but its good news. BIP has supported Flex templates and outputs since its 10.1.3.3 release several months ago ... no vaporware here my friend!
Tim

Paul said...

Thanks for the comments guys.

Tim - great to hear. I was being lazy and just repeating what I'd heard James say about status on the RIA podcast. Didn't check my facts (I guess that's the diff between a blogger and a journalist right;-)

Carl - great exposition of the thinking behind your Flex adoption. It's kind of what I thought was going on, but just not admitting it. Seems to me a much more tactical and pragmmatic approach, but of course Adobe would be keen to position every usage as a "stategic committment".

Must say I'm a little surprised by your comment Jake. While I wouldn't expect AppsLab to be into all the tactical details, I thought the UI technology strategy for Fusion Apps would be "in scope". No?

One thing I'd love to hear .. great if Cote had some guys from Oracle on the RedMonk RIA podcast

Jake said...

You were at Oracle, don't be surprised.

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