What new features would you want to see in Oracle Forms?

A few months ago I wrote a blogpost about forms titled  “Forms isn’t dead!”

Since then I went to Oracle Open World and gave a presentation on how to modernize your existing Oracle Forms application.
So you don’t have to throw away years of investment in Oracle forms.

I’m working at a customer that created a new application in Forms 10g and it was put in production last year.

And now there’s a thread on the OTN Forms forum started by Grant Ronald(Product Manager at Oracle):
What new features would you want to see in Oracle Forms?

So, if you want a cool new feature or an improvement in Oracle Forms…you know what to do!

Still not convinced that “Forms isn’t dead”?

SOA Suite 11g, Human Workflow – What to Expect

BPEL, Business Process Execution Language, is the expression language to automate business processes. As well system tasks as human tasks can be automated using a standardized approach.

The upcoming release of 11g will have a lot of new features incorporated, in this blog-post I will elaborate on some of these functionalities in relation to 10g.

In 10g you could define business tasks, these tasks were driven by the business process. In 11g you can define todo-tasks as well, which can then be assigned to users or groups of users. This gives the business users more flexibility and a centralized approach for task management.

In 10g you could assign tasks to users or groups, in 11g you can assign tasks to application roles defined within your organisation. These application roles are defined in the enterprise repository which will give you the ability to govern these roles in one place.

In 10g you could integrate the business processes with a centralized business rules repository. This functionality is called ‘decision rules’ which could be incorporated within your process.

In 11g you have 2 different flavors of business rules integration, dynamically or state-based.

Dynamic invocation of business rules means the business objects and payload decide which flows need to be followed and which rules need to be checked.

The other approach, state-based routing, is the default way of executing business rules depending on the state of a fact or object. This functionality has been enhanced with the ability to go through different loops, depending on the state and state-flow of an object.

In 10g you had a pre-defined set of workflow views available when you open up ‘your tasks’ in the worklist application. In 11g you can define your own work queues and share these views with other users and groups. You could share the same data with other users or groups or share the definition of the view. You could for example define a view ‘My todo-tasks’ with a definition of the different colums and data you want to view. And share the definition with other members within the organisation. In this way you could define different working sets of tasks and have your own custom views defined in a standardized way.

In 11g workflow security has been enhanced with the following features:

  • Propagation of identity : you can promote ejb or soap bindings to a webservice
  • SAML Token based identity propagation for SOAP Services
  • Digitally sign tasks using certificates
  • Integration of Fine Grained Access Controle (FGAC), who can see and act on different parts within the tasks

In 10g you define different kinds of notifications within the business process, such as mail and sms integration. In 11g these User Messaging Services are enhanced so end-users can customize their messaging channels. When to they want to receive notifications and which devices need to be used, mail, sms, … Detection of auto-reply messages, badly formatted responses and spam are also included in 11g.

In 11g Fusion Desktop Integration is also introduced, which gives the business users the ability to integrate workflow within Office application. E.g. List the different tasks within Excel or initiate tasks from Excel using the Oracle ADF Desktop Integration Designer. In other words you have the ability to define bi-directional integration within SOA Suite and your office applications.

From my standpoint the re-designed UI, using ADF Based Rich Task Forms is the functionality we’ve been waiting for. The worklist application is build on top of the ADF RichClient Components. The automatic task form generation in 10g wasn’t based on ADF, which was very frustrating when using the worklist application in 10g. Using 11g gives the business users one common look and feel and the developers one standardized approach for building UI applications. Now you have the ability to customize the worklist application using the visual editor of Jdeveloper and the component pallette as if you were defining and tailoring and ADF application.

This makes the Worklist Application a graphically improved application, using the features available in ADF, e.g. partial page refresh, tree components, …

And of course monitoring and configuration using Enterprise Manager, EM, has been improved as well. In EM you can now track all processes, human tasks, service busses etc. in a unified manner with a detailed audit trail spanning all components. In the new Service Component Architecture, all components are seen as a service, which means you can now go through the entire service-chain within EM.

Playing around with 11g

Playing around with Database 11g features and SCA 11g functionality (technology previews), I’ve came across some issues which you may find interesting to now/comprehend:
Native PL/SQL WebServices (11g Feature):

  • Procedures or functions need to have in- and output-parameters when using 11g webservices in 10.1.3.1 bpel processes
  • You can’t work with rowtypes as return variables => not supported
  • XDB Username & Password authentication is needed for native pl/sql web service calls, when invoking native pl/sql webservices from BPEL. Add following properties to your partnerlink:

Jdeveloper 11g Tech Preview:

  • You can’t connect to AppServer 10.1.3 (it will be applicable in the production release)
  • You can run existing 10.1.3.1 bpel processes in Jdev 11g when you’ve installed bpel in the embedded OC4J (nice to know)

You need less clicks to get to view audit data in your bpel console and it’s all using one single source of truth, one console, one management environment. Finally you’re used to working in bpel, esb, Jdeveloper … well now you need to get used to the new, improved environment.