Oracle's WebDB 2.0 is a highly viable solution for IT shops that need to create, deploy, and monitor data-driven Web applications - or even entire Web sites. WebDB's browser-based dev-elopment tools are easy enough for your grandmother to use, yet powerful enough for development teams to quickly produce even the most complex Web application.
As you might expect, WebDB ties neatly to the Oracle database. In fact, the only prerequisites to using the product are the presence of a browser and an Oracle database. Those working in mixed database environments can also use WebDB with non-Oracle data sources via gateway support in the Oracle database. The representation of the data in WebDB is identical regardless of the data source.
WebDB's browser-based development tools compare favourably against other Web-based products, such as MaxSol's DBLive@Web extranet development tool. In both cases, the user need not be an experienced developer in order to achieve rapid results. WebDB does offer the added flexibility of using its browser-based interface with or without graphical wizards.
Likewise, WebDB's accessibility to data is as simplified as other database-to-Web offerings, such as Elemental Software's Drumbeat. Although WebDB and Drumbeat differ on the methods used to access data sources, the result is the same.
Oracle's database roots provide several unique benefits for those using WebDB. Web applications and sites are stored inside the Oracle database, which yields greater control and easier deployment. Likewise, built-in performance metrics, version control, and database security improve manageability.
My copy of the early WebDB 2.0, Beta 1 release did not yet have an automated installation routine or the full round of documentation you might expect in a shipping product.
I was able to install WebDB using some man-ual steps. And, even without the completed documentation, I found WebDB easy to figure out. I did encounter a few bugs along the way that are typical of an early beta release. Oracle expects to provide a fully automated installation procedure, complete documentation, and resolution of beta bugs prior to production release.
Once I was up and running I found that WebDB worked equally well with my Oracle7.3 and Oracle8 installations. I also included some non-Oracle data sources in my test setups to mimic mixed database settings.
Using my browser and WebDB's browse function, I explored my test data. I was successfully able to view objects by name as well as look at various tables and views. I also edited and ran a stored procedure without incident.
WebDB's muscles really began to flex with the six options I found under the "build" selection on the WebDB home page. I found tools to create individual components, such as a chart or a report, as well as support for constructing entire Web sites, exporting components, manipulating database objects, and more.
I tried some of the wizards available for building individual Web components. For example, the Form and Chart wizards enabled me to quickly create order-entry and sales summary data components for my test company. I found the wizards useful for novices and productivity boosting for experienced developers.
WebDB's Web site tools are well suited to large teams working together to create and manage content. The site manager assigns portions of the Web site to various users or groups in sections known as "corners." Each owner of a corner can then use WebDB to edit his or her portion of the Web site and automatically regenerate the Web page. As pages are updated, the revisions are tracked for greater control, and the search engine is automatically updated.
I created an intranet site with WebDB for my test company that sold bicycles. I broke out the site into sections that included products, parts ordering, human resources, and financials. I then assigned each of these corners to a different user. My test users were able to edit their portions of the site and generate updated pages as needed. I liked the fact that I could use database security to determine who could access and edit the various portions of the site.
Of all of WebDB's features, the one I liked the best was the built-in performance tracking. This feature let me closely monitor a number of metrics during my tests. I could measure how many requests for a particular Web page or component had occurred, its response time, the type of browser used, requests by user, and more. I was able to easily create reports and charts containing performance measures as well as build custom queries of that activity.
Oracle's WebDB holds good value for those with Oracle databases as well as for customers in mixed database environments. The tools that Oracle provides are equally well suited to both content creators and developers. The high degree of security and manageability that WebDB supports bodes well for those who need to include data in Web applications.
The Bottom Line
Oracle WebDB 2.0, Beta 1
This browser-based development tool does a great job of providing simple-to-use tools to manipulate data, build data-driven Web applications, and create entire Web sites. Administrators will also appreciate the built-in management and security features.
Pros: Very easy to use; stores Web applications and sites within the database; simplified deployment; includes tools for monitoring application performance; security tied to the database; works with any Web server.
Cons: This beta version lacks install program and full documentation; some beta bugs.
Platforms: Any platform that supports the Oracle database Version 7.3 and later; any Web browser.
Price: Not yet available. Ship date: End of September for Beta 2 release; December for production version.
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