Oracle recently rolled out a new version of its Application Express (APEX) software, a free tool for quickly creating Web applications built atop Oracle databases.
One major update in APEX 2.2 is all the files needed to run an application can be distributed in a bundled package and installed through a wizard interface. The new version also includes a host of user-suggested tweaks.
"There's nothing earth-shattering in terms of improvements, but we've made a thousand small improvements here and there," said Michael Hichwa, Oracle's vice president of software development. "We think this release is much more polished and cleaner."
APEX debuted in 2004 with the name HTML DB, and competes most directly against Microsoft's Access. It enables developers with SQL knowledge to rapidly build database applications. Oracle's MetaLink and AskTom sites were created with APEX.
Oracle partner Paetec Communications is using APEX as the foundation for the next release of its Pinnacle Communications Management Suite, a suite of tools for managing technology services that runs exclusively on Oracle's database.
"We want to go for minimum-work maintainability. We were focused on life-cycle cost and support of the application," said Larry Foster, Paetec's vice president of technology. Paetec is based in Fairport, N.Y.
Paetec considered using a Java platform but decided APEX would team more efficiently with Oracle's database. By pushing much of the business logic for Pinnacle into the database layer, Paetec saves itself and its clients the hassles of separately supporting the application's infrastructure, Foster said. The software also allows Paetec's customers to more easily customize their Pinnacle deployments.
"[APEX] didn't have everything we wanted in the beginning, but it's come a long way," he said. Remaining on Foster's wish list is improved graphics support and better tooling in APEX's development environment.
Oracle says it has had 260,000 downloads of APEX since the product's release, and it estimates it has around 20,000 active users. The number of solution providers using APEX is rising.
"We hadn't seen many VARs as of a year ago, but we're seeing more now," Hichwa said.