Roman Conquers Backlog with Oracle's HTML DB
- By John K. Waters
About two-and-a-half years ago, Tony Jedlinski, VP of administration and warehouse
operations at Roman, found himself with an application maintenance backlog he
was sure he'd never catch up. Roman had decided 18 years earlier to build its
own applications—a logical choice for one of the country's largest privately
owned and operated giftware distributors, but one that imposed serious productivity
demands on its developers.
"One of our biggest challenges over the years has been finding applications
that suit the relatively unique needs of a company with such a diverse product
line," Jedlinski says. "It just made more sense to build them ourselves.
And we have a highly competent development department. But like any app dev
group maintaining their own apps, we ended up with a backlog. With the economy
being what it is, I didn’t have the luxury of adding staff to meet that
Roman has been an Oracle shop for nearly two decades, and Tony Jedlinski has
been active in his local Oracle users group. That's where he encountered a development
tool called Project Marvel, later dubbed HTML DB. Basically a scaled-down version
of Oracle Portal, HTML DB is a rapid application development environment for
database-centric HTML Web applications. It's designed to allow developers to
create and deploy Web applications based on data they have, using a Web browser,
and without writing any code.
"It’s an environment that capitalizes on some Oracle strengths that
have been there for years," Jedlinski says. "It uses PL/SQL (Oracle's
Procedural Language extension to SQL), which is as old as the hills, works as
reliably as can be, and everyone knows it. And it uses HTML, which anyone working
with Web pages knows."
Jedlinski, who describes himself as a "pretty advanced PL/SQL programmer"
used the tool to build some applications for the users group as a volunteer.
After that he thought he might have found the solution to his company's backlog.
He used the tool to construct a production environment that assigned roles
to users and applications to roles. "Everyone would go to a common menu,
and there would appear the applications germane to what they do," he says.
That menu would eventually include 182 applications—everything from a
system for managing projects in the advertising department to a sales-call presentation
tool that allows sales reps to promote specific items from the catalog.
Jedlinski eventually ("and gladly") handed the tool off to his IS
team for ongoing development. HTML DB is now part of the company's mainstream
development toolset. Because it runs within Roman’s existing Oracle Database,
exposing and manipulating data from other applications is a simple matter, Jedlinski
Oracle announced the general availability of its 10g database earlier this
month. That release includes the HTML DB tool; the company has integrated it
into all editions of 10g at no additional cost. Roman's development system is
now on 10g, Jedlinski says, though the production system has not yet been upgraded
from Oracle 9i.
Roman has used HTML DB to develop applications for wireless handhelds used
in the company's warehouse management system. Roman's field reps also use an
HTML DB-developed application to access their account lists. And earlier this
year the company used the tool to create a business-to-business portal for its
Jedlinski is a fan of the tool, and he even has a favorite story about it:
"I was at Oracle World, and my brother, who I can’t say no to because
he owns the place, called me in my hotel room at about 3:00 in the afternoon.
He said that he had to have this report—it’s called a major account
booking report—that lists each sales rep's major accounts and year-to-date
progress. And, of course, he needed it by the next day. Using HTML DB, I completed
that application, Web deployed it secured only for him, and put it on his desktop
in about two-and-a-half hours. I left my hotel room and went to dinner at about
6:30, and never even had to call the office."
For more information about Oracle HTML DB, go to: Oracle.
More information about Roman is available at Roman.
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached