Infrastructure at your Service

This year again the APEX connect conference spans over three days with mixed topics around APEX, like JavaScript, CSS, SQL and much more.
After the welcome speech and the Keynote about “Reconciling APEX and the Thick Database Paradigm” by Bryn Llewellyn I decided to attend presentations on following topics:
– Temporal Validity and Flashback Data Archive
– Universal Theme and Custom Themes in APEX 5.1
– Using REST Services in APEX applications the nice way
– Uncover the Truth (of APEX application)
– Browser Developer Tools for APEX developers
– Docker for Dummies

Thick Database Paradigm:
What was highlighted by Bryn Llewellyn is that the key to proper Database development, is to encapsulate your database through PL/SQL APIs.
When you work on DB development make your environment such as it can be easily rebuild from scratch with sripts so you have no fear in making anything wrong.
Your schema user should have as less rights as needed so you keep your environment safe.
If you build proper APIs, no mater what kind of client application uses your data (APEX, REST, Java Web App, …), it will be able to interface.

Temporal Validity and Flashback Data Archive:
There is an increasing demand on data history and audit.
Data history means not only keeping track of past data but also managing different versions of the same data over time (e.g. customer delivery address). This is managed by Temporal validity.
Oracle 12c allows to automatically manage such time dependent data by using “ADD PERIOD FOR” on a table.
When retrieving the data use “AS OF PERIOD FOR” in the select statement.
Details can be found on the Oracle website:
Implementing temporal validity
Audit can be managed using the well known trigger business with all issues it can generate but also automatically by using flashback archive.
In this second case data audit is written in a specified tablespace for which you define the data retention period. SYS_FBA tables get automatically created and information tracked is managed by setting context level. This is very powerful tool as it also takes in account DML changes.
Also very important for audit purpose, flashback data cannot be modified.
You can find further information on following Blog:
Oracle 12c Flashback Data Archive

Universal Theme and Custom Themes in APEX 5.1:
After a brief overview of Theme and Templates history in APEX, we were shown how easy (at least it seems) it is to create and manage custom Theme and Templates.
Template options introduced in APEX 5 aim to reduce the number of templates for a specific “object” type to a minimum in order to ease maintenance.
Live template options have been introduced with APEX 5.1 to have a preview of the changes at run time and facilitate their usage.
Theme subscription allows to distribute changes made to a master Theme which can now be defined at workspace level.
Theme styles allow you to have a dedicated CSS file on top of you application standard CSS and define user based styles from the Theme roller.
Note: Themes based on JQuery Mobile for mobile applications should no longer be used, rather use the Universal Theme responsive as JQuery UI wasn’t updated for long and might have issues with the new JQuery core version that might be used in future versions of APEX.

Using REST Services in APEX applications the nice way:
The definition of REST is based on 3 pillars:
– Resources
– Representation (JSON, HTML, CSV, …)
The new REST Client Assistant packaged application in APEX 5.1 will be on a great help for developer as it manages to generate the procedures required to parse JSON data returned by a given REST Data service URL as well as the underlying SQL query to display the data in report.
When the amount of data is becoming to large, REST data services can return them on a pagination fashion which needs to be supported on the client side. At this point only classic report can support that feature in APEX 5.1. Filtering on the data query to the service needs also to be managed. The REST Data Sample application is showing how to implement the different kind of interaction with REST Data services based on Oracle standards.
There will be improvements in supporting REST Data service in the upcoming version 5.2 of APEX, such as remote SQL execution.

Uncover the Truth (of APEX application):
When you have to modify an existing APEX application or take over from customer development you need to understand thee heart of the application which can be a challenge. To do so you need to identify it’s structure and how different elements are used and interact.
Various people are interested in this:
– DB developers
– APEX developers
– Cloud developers
– Project leaders
This is all about:
– Functionality (Page function, application logic, Interfaces)
– Complexity (APEX components, PL/SQL objects, JavaScript, CSS, DB objects)
– Transparency (who changed, when, Conditions, relations between pages)
There are already different tools in APEX allowing to see different aspects of those data:
– Searches
– History
– Application utilities
– Reports
– SQL Workshop
So it can be cumbersome to walk through all those.
We were presented a self developed toll which can be seen as a kind of “Dashboard” to analyze everything in one place base on all sorts of charts reading out the APEX metadata tables. I’m looking forward to seeing it released next summer.

Browser Developer Tools for APEX developers:
The IDE for APEX is the web browser, so it’s important to know about the developer tools provided in your web browser.
Each and every web browser has it’s own tools, some being better than others.
The most used browser has also the most complete tool set: Chrome (Firefox Developer Edition is also worth looking at)
As there are a lot of information to be displayed in the Developer tools, its highly recommended to detach the window from the browser to display it on a secondary screen when possible.
CSS usage is showing all level of the style Sheet to understand what is set where.
Specifications of the web page can be modified on the fly to understand their impact.
Debugging of JavaScript can be done with setting breakpoints.
Application panel allows to monitor cookies.
Device mode allows to emulate mobile devices and even set the network speed to have a better understanding of end user experience.
Even remote debugging can be used on attached devices.

Docker for Dummies
I already heard a lot about Docker but I never took some time to look into it, so I took the opportunity to have it shown today.
What is Docker? A light weight VM?
No, a container!
It allows to share resources and get ride of things like Hypervisor and full target OS (which are used for VMs), which makes it light.
Main characteristics are:
– You can put almost anything into it
– It stays locked
– It’s efficient for transport
– It’s small, light weight
– It’s scallable
Actually it can be seen more as a software delivery platform.
The basic component is an image:
– It contains File System and parameters
– It has no state
– Layers are read only
– Layers are shared
– Updates require only updated files to be downloaded
A container is a running instance of an image. It adds a R/W layer on top of the image.
Images are not cloned.
Persistence of the data used in the container is managed by mapping local folder into the container.
Also Docker is command line based, there is a GUI available called Kitematic.
Docker website
Kitematic website
You can find further details on following blog:
Overview and installation

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Alain Lacour
Alain Lacour

Delivery Manager and Consultant