What is most valuable?
The benefits of APEX and EBS is that APEX actually lives outside of EBS. When you develop customizations you don't have to embed them inside EBS. Now when you upgrade EBS or apply patches to it generally everything gets overwritten. If your customizations are inside EBS they get overwritten. In order to upgrade EBS you have to take those customizations out, park them on the side, do your upgrade and then take those customizations and reapply them to the product. Which is risky, time consuming, very expensive. If they're outside an EBS, in APEX that means if you upgrade everything the only thing you have to touch are the pieces of the API that may have changed in the upgrade. You don't have to do as much work to get that upgrade done.
Another aspect of it is that APEX is fundamentally PL/SQL solution with a lot of SQL. It lives inside the database. Therefore your existing EBS team who are already experts in SQL and PL/SQL can get up to speed very, very quickly with Apex. Apex is a declarative environment therefore it's a very rapid application development environment so you can do stuff really quickly.
What needs improvement?
There's a new version of APEX coming out to very, very soon, APEX 5.1 and that contains probably the last pieces of my wish list. Which would be very intuitive and easy to use, declarative set of tabular forms where's it's like a spreadsheet. You can see a lot of rows and update them simultaneously. That is a big step forward. Typically when we do conversions from Oracle forms applications, oracle forms is quite good with that multi row update and that in the past has been a weakness with APEX. This new version will completely wipe that problem out.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
The scalability is really good because since APEX is inside the Oracle Database and it's just PL/SQL code with the SQL statements, it scales with the database. Which means it is completely scalable. For example shop.oracle.com which is the Oracle site for buying Oracle stuff is an APEX application. That's up 24/7, it's hit around the world, multi-lingual, you can buy the products in Farsi in German and all those languages.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
Well APEX is a kind of a funny product in the Oracle space. Number one it's a no cost feature of the database. It doesn't get a lot of attention from the Oracle sales people. That's a fair comment, there's no commission for it. Therefore it's kind of like a hidden thing inside the database and a lot of people at organizations that have Oracle and very good Oracle people actually don't know it exists. That's part of what we do is we try to raise the awareness of APEX in the Oracle space. One of the big features of Oracle is if you want to do some customization and make a web application on top of an Oracle database it needs to be considered because it is a world class tool right now. Scales beautifully, it's got in their mid-tier the ORDS product, the Oracle Rest Data Services, mid-tier portion which is very light and small that has restful services which opens up the entire world to an APEX application. It can touch any database that has rest services exposed and it can go on to the cloud and if you want your list of Amazon books or go to Netflix, all of that stuff is easily available through that ORDS technology.
What about the implementation team?
Training for APEX goes through several steps like anything else. You start as a beginner, go through intermediate and become senior. It's very easy to take that first step and become a very good confident beginner because it is a declarative environment all you need to do to get started with APEX is a little bit of SQL knowledge and not even PL/SQL when you start because it's all declarative. Oracle gives you some very good starting documentation. There are some good books now by the A press publisher, beginning Oracle Application Express. There's a couple of very good introduction books. If you work through those you'll be able to be very productive APEX developer.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
If you're doing customization on top of an Oracle database you've got lots of competing technologies. For example ADF which is an Oracle product that Java based technology. You can use .NET. There is all sorts of other web technologies that can be used. You can even put things like Excel and Microsoft Access, those have jet engines in them that will talk to an Oracle database. All of these things can do what APEX does. A lot of that is driven by like, if you're an organization and say you've got a bunch of .NET programmers. Well if you've got .NET programmers use .NET.
Years ago I was in a small shop and we were using Visual Basic 6. Visual Basic 6 at the time was going to be deprecated by Microsoft. With this team I was looking down the road and I was looking at using Java and I was looking at using .Net going forward. Since those are heavy in the mid-tier, I was seeing maybe tiers at 2:00 in the morning for this team especially the team when they saw curly braces the Java they got with catatonic. I was really nervous because these folks were coming from like a Fox pro background and a VB park. They were just really uncomfortable with the Java stuff, .NET stuff. Then I found application express and I went back to my team, showed it to them, we got to the apex.oracle.com workspaces up which is a free cloud based solution that allows you to kick the tires. We kicked the tires and realized we were saved. We went down that road because it was very easy for my team to come up to speed very quickly with that product and we did that.
What other advice do I have?
Rating: with the current version I would say eight because like any other tool it's got its strengths and there are a few weaknesses, but I consider it a very high quality product. I've been with APEX now for over ten years. I built the farm on APEX and I've been very successful with it and many of my clients have been very successful using the product.
Basically if somebody comes to me like a young millennial says, "Okay, should I learn APEX?" The short answer for me is, "Yes." The company I am with, Insum, we've been doubling over the last few years because there's a huge amount of uptake of APEX right now. We have some very large clients here in the States some of the major banks use APEX for their production systems. We're into other large industries that have really found it very very useful and we jumped into it with both feet. We have no direct competitors because the people that theoretically are our direct competitors are basically our joint venture partners. There's so much work out there that we don't step on each other and it's growing every day.