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User Group President Looking Out for Oracle Developers

I spent Tuesday morning at the Hilton on JavaOne duty, but I made the long trip back to the Moscone Center after lunch to chat with some Oracle customers. My favorite of the day was Mike Riley, president of the Oracle Development Tools User Group (ODTUG). Riley is a big, affable guy with more than 20 years of experience in the field and what you might call a self-conscious passion for Oracle tools and the community that uses them.

"That's just another way of saying I'm an old fart," he said.

The ODTUG was founded about 18 years ago "by developers, for developers," Riley told me. It's an independent, not-for-profit, global organization that aims to provide education, support, advocacy and networking opportunities for developers working on Oracle Databases. Members, who number close to 25,000, Riley said, design applications, model data, write code, manage app systems, maintain legacy code and, as the Web site puts it, "are key to the middle-tier technology in Oracle Fusion."

The group started with a focus on Designer, and evolved into several different technologies, Riley said. Today, it supports virtually any tool that can be used to develop applications against an Oracle DB, whether that's Oracle's own tools (JDeveloper, Application Express, Forms and Reports, SQL Developer) or tools from a third party.

Riley was happy about many of Oracle's announcement at this year's show, including the new Exalytics Intelligence Machine, a hardware-plus-software business intelligence management appliance designed to handle relational, unstructured, and multidimensional data. He said it would be very good for the business intelligence and Hyperion users. But he was particularly excited about one of the quieter announcements at this year's conference: the release of 11g R2 Forms.

"We're thrilled with that news," he said. "It shows that Oracle is extending their commitment to Forms even further down the line, which is important for a lot of our users."

Oracle Forms, of course, is software for developing screens that interact with an Oracle database. It's a component of Oracle's Fusion Middleware stack, and it's widely used to design and build enterprise applications. On its website, Oracle pledges to continue supporting Forms. The company "remains committed to the development of this technology, and to the ongoing release as a component of the Oracle platform."  

Many of the organizations in which ODTUG's core membership work are heavily invested in Forms, Riley said, including his own employer. Riley's day job is project manager and development DBA for Hortica, a company that specializes in providing insurance and employee benefits for the horticulture industry (garden centers, nurseries, florists, landscape contractors, etc.). The company was founded in the 1800s by a group of florists who wanted to protect their greenhouses from the ravages of hail.

"Oracle Forms is what we do," Riley said. "We've developed a lot of custom Forms that we're hoping that we don't have to get out of."

When Riley started with Hortica, the company had just purchased Oracle 6, and Forms was in the 2.3 release, so he's seen a lot of changes in the technology.

"Most of them have been good," he said. "It's nice to have an integrated solution that's optimized for the entire stack. You have no questions about the parts you get not being optimal for your software or the database behind it."

Riley is also one of 25 user-group leaders promoting a new tool developed by the International Oracle Users Group Community (IOUC) at this year's conference. Dubbed the "Your Path to Understanding Fusion Applications" tool, it's designed to help users... well... understand Fusion applications. The tool reportedly takes the form on an online map that resembles a London Tube map. It was drawn by Sten Versterli from the Danish Oracle User Group. I say "reportedly" because it won't be live for another two months.

"Because we do the Fusion development tools, we feel that we are a critical component of the Fusion application ecosystem," he said. "So it makes sense for us to participate in this project."

Riley was quick to plug his organization's upcoming Kscope 12 Conference in San Antonio, Texas, June 24-28 at the JW Marriott. Formerly called ODTUG Kaleidoscope, the event features sessions and presentations on a pretty wide range of technologies, including Hyperion and Essbase, not to mention Forms and Reports.

"If you use Java, PHP, ColdFusion, Toad, Visual Basic, or Visual C++, among others, ODTUG is the forum for talking about your approach and learning what other developers are doing," the website declares.

"We have a lot of good resources for the community," Riley says. "But we're not the only user group out there. My message to the customers of Oracle is definitely to get involved in a user group. They're that extra layer of support, and influence, that users really need."


Posted by John K. Waters on October 5, 2011