It seems that Oracle has seen a need for, and developed a product for the entry level business that doesn’t require a huge investment in hardware or software knowledge. This is Oracle APEX, or APplication EXpress. At first glance it seems to be a streamlined melding of other Oracle products (I can see bits of Application Server and Portal in it) It requires much less knowledge of PL/SQL or Oracle Architecture to build applications, which makes it ideal, doubly for getting people into using Oracle Products. The better part is it will work with any Oracle Database install version after 9.2 without issue, including a little gem called XE.
Oracle Database Express Edition (currently version 10g) is a wonderful little setup. Designed for lower power systems, it is an excellent option for small scale operations, and totally in-house needs. It does not need the massive amounts of hardware resources of it’s larger brethren, yet still provides much of the power. It has it’s limitations however. Your Database can only get so big, and the server won’t use more than a certain amount of RAM or CPU time. I have done test installs on the same machine I used in my other Portal article ‘Under Powering Portal on purpose and winning’ with almost no slow downs at all. It also has a few other limits, which can be worked around quite easily to make the product more robust.
Best of all, APEX can run against a full 10g or 11g install of Database as well as XE, and you can upgrade rather nicely from XE to full DB if your needs demand it. The design of both of these products almost makes me think they are supposed to be Windows Installed (Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Server 2003 are all supported), and their installers run quite well. APEX needs a few SQL commands, but nothing too difficult. In my tests so far, I have only crashed the installer once. It also only takes a fraction of the time, a total install of XE and APEX taking around 70 minutes (including downloading the install files) compared to 3-8 hours for DB (10g) and Portal (post install file download)
As I test and use it more, I’ll see if it’s as good as it’s claimed, or if under the shell it’s obtuse and difficult to utilize. I look forward to pushing forward with this, and seeing what can be done, and whether it’s as flexible as it claims.