Oracle and IBM are not normally names you associate with simple, highly productive software development tools. Arguably, it is the over-complexity of J2EE that left the door open for Microsoft .NET as well as nimbler open-source options like PHP and Ruby on Rails. Still, let me mention two tools that demonstrate how even these giants are devoting attention to productivity. IBM’s Project Zero is the first:
The Project Zero environment includes a scripting runtime for Groovy and PHP with application programming interfaces optimized for producing REST-style services, integration mash-ups and rich Web interfaces.
And what about Oracle Application Express (or APEX)? This seems to be a well-kept secret at Oracle, though its users love it. Once known as HTML DB, it lets you write applications declaratively. A snag is that you have to know PL/SQL if you want to extend it with custom components. That said, APEX has a couple of big advantages. One is that it is a web services client, so you can integrate it with other web applications. Second, it is ideal for hosted development:
Oracle Application Express enables a single database to host large numbers of users. Users work in a dedicated work area called a workspace. This flexible architecture enables a single database instance to manage thousands of applications.
It all sounds strangely similar to what Salesforce.com is doing. Salesforce.com also calls its platform APEX, runs on Oracle, and was founded by former Oracle executive Mark Benioff.
A difference is that Salesforce.com says its APEX platform is the future of web development and will host your application for you, while Oracle markets Application Express as an alternative to Microsoft Access for small departments.
IBM is equally reticent about Project Zero. I couldn’t find it mentioned on the developerWorks site.
It is much easier for startups to promote new models of software development.