At OpenWorld 2015, Oracle announced Application Builder Cloud Service (ABCS), and they announced it again at OpenWorld 2016. In accordance with the general rule that products are available after no more than two OpenWorld announcements, ABCS is now here for everyone to sign up for.
With ABCS, Oracle now has seven different development tools (the others are Forms, APEX, ADF, MAF, JET, and MAX). So where does ABCS fit into this crowded landscape?
Oracle bills ABCS as a “no-code” tool intended for the mythical “citizen developers.” Completely browser-based, ABCS allows anyone to build simple applications. Unfortunately, while the UI looks modern and cool, the data you can use in your ABCS applications are severely limited as described later in this article.
You sign up for an Application Builder Cloud Service trial at cloud.oracle.com like for every other cloud service. ABCS is found under Platform > Application Builder.
As part of the signup process, you have to provide your mobile phone number so Oracle can send you an activation code. This is the step where you might get stuck – the text messages from Oracle have been known to disappear on the way. And unless you can get an activation code, you can’t sign up. Oracle also uses the mobile phone number as a unique identifier to ensure that you only sign up for one trial (at a time) for each product.
Once you have completed the signup process, you have to wait for Oracle to activate your trial. They say it takes a few hours – in my experience it has always been less than 24 hours, but others have waited several days. Obviously, Oracle’s idea of cloud is still different from everybody else’s; in the Oracle Cloud, some human has to do something before you can get started.
When you have received your activation mail and clicked on the link, you can start using your Application Builder Cloud Service to build applications. From cloud.oracle.com, you click Sign In, choose your data center (most often US Commercial 2 for trial accounts) and click My Services. You enter your Identity Domain (that you created or selected when you signed up) and your username and the temporary password to get to the dashboard. From the dashboard you click your service to get to the Service Details window.
From here, you can click Service Console to actually start working with ABCS.
Your first ABCS window provides a short video (that you should watch) and a link to create your first application.
Creating an application is a simple three-step wizard where you provide a name and an application ID that this becomes part of the URL, and make a few other choices.
When you are through the wizard, you get a short tour of the user interface.
Oracle has clearly invested some time in making it easy to get started with ABCS. When you have gone through the tour, you will be presented with your first application. If you went straight through the application creation wizard, your application will look something like this:
ABCS is mainly a tool for building the user interface for existing services, so the development approach is UI-driven. This means that you normally start from the Page Designer by building a page. First, you need to drop a collection object onto the page, either a Table or a List.
For a stand-alone trial, you’ll be told you don’t have any business objects and given the opportunity to create one using the Table Creation wizard.
You can click on the green plus sign to create a new business object. When you have given a name, you’ll be asked to add fields (ID and some history fields are automatically added to all objects). The fields have a detailed selection of data types, not just the usual text, number, date. The other types involve different rendering, different validation, or both.
In the third step of the wizard, you define which operations you allow (create, edit, delete) as well as which value to use as a hyperlink to drill down from the overview table to the edit or details page. If you allow editing (Edit On), you get two seemingly identical “Field to Link On” selections. However, you can only set one. Use the topmost.
The last step allows you to specify sorting and filtering. When you are done with this wizard, you can run your application by clicking the “Play” triangle to the top right. The application will display placeholder data until you have created some of your own.
At the very top of the ABCS window (next to the Oracle logo), you find a menu icon. This allows you to change from the Page Designer to the Data Designer (and other functionality).
If you go into the Data Designer, you can work with your business objects (created when you dropped the collection item on the page), work with services and import/export data.
Your ability to edit the business objects is severely limited. Once a field is created, the only change possible is to change whether it is required, read-only, sortable or searchable. It is not possible to change the data type, and if you drop a field to re-create it with another data type, you will find that you cannot reuse the field name. You’ll be stuck with HIREDATE2, though you can change the label.
Generally, the data you create in your business objects remain locked into ABCS. The ABCS data sheet says “New data objects created in the applications are stored in a cloud hosted Oracle database instance and automatically exposed through REST services” but I have not found any way to access my business objects. For now, I assume this statement is more a declaration of intent that an actual product feature. When asked about the ability to access ABCS data with SQL, Oracle has categorically denied such a feature will ever exist.
Using the Data Manager, you can import Excel sheets and CSVs. However, this requires you to match all the object and column names up exactly for the import to succeed. There is no functionality similar to the APEX ability to upload a file and create a matching table, so you really need to be feeling adventurous (or desperate) to want to get Excel data into ABCS.
These are very early days for Oracle Application Builder Cloud Service. As a stand-alone development tool, it seems extremely limited compared to APEX. If you have already purchased an Oracle SaaS solution like HCM Cloud or CRM Cloud, you can use services from these to build your applications, but since the number of services in the Oracle SaaS cloud is very low, not even that use case seems promising.
Like your article gives good insights beyond the marketing material.
I still have a question:
ABCS has a price per month for each developer but not for users. So, once you have created an application and deployed it, how do you grant access to the users. Can you create and add users unlimited and is there a mechanisme for password control or do you have to build that in ABCS? Or is access to an ABCS app limited to users who have already a possibillity to login in the Oracle Cloud of the identity domain in which the ABCS app is created and does the identiy administrator have to grant access for those users for the ABCS app (and can he do that for each specific app or only for all ABCS apps in that domain)?
You can add an unlimited number of users. You create them as users in the identity domain where the ABCS app is created. An ABCS application has full security features: The developer can define application roles and limit access to specific pages by role. The identity manager then maps user groups to application roles. See the doc: docs.oracle.com/.../working-security.html