Joel Kallman passed away earlier this year. He was one of the first creators of Oracle APEX and always dedicated to the user community. He left a lasting impression on all of us and this is just one post among many written to honour a great guy.
For anyone not familiar with Oracle APEX, check out https://apex.oracle.com/.
APEX for Administrators #JoelKallmanDay
It is my impression that few DBAs or other administators have much experience with software development. Perhaps that is why they don’t make any tools to help them manage their projects, but resort to general tools like Excel or an internal wiki. This leads to too much time spent on project management and fighting with a tool that is not fit for the task. This is not an issue with a small infrastructure, but if you need to plan downtime for hundreds of databases and their connected applications it can become a logistic nightmare.
The main goal here is to spend as little time as possible on managing your infrastructure. And we want to achieve this without creating another complex tool that requires a project in itself. Start simple, you can always add something later.
No project happens according to the initial plan. Activities needs to be rescheduled and people reassigned. With a simple data model and a browser interface on top you can update the project plan as you move on. You can delegate part of the planning to more people and even log changes as the project develops.
For instance, have you any idea how easy it is to display a calendar with scheduled activities? A few clicks in the web interface and a query that returns the date and the display text is all it takes. A link from the activity to an updatable form for the activity takes a few minutes or seconds to set up. If you need a demo of this, check out the productivity applications that come bundled with APEX.
A simple status page is always useful. A chart based on a simple query takes a minute to create. Management loves charts that show the status in a second. Can you do that on your wiki or in your Excel sheet?
You probably have some lists or tables with the names of your databases, system owners, and other details. That can easily be imported to the database with SQL Developer (another free tool). Add a table to plan activities and create a few forms on the tables you are likely to update. It does not have to be perfect to be useful.
Maybe you have data from different sources, they can be joined in your database and even cleaned up with some simple SQL. Data coming from Excel or some places where people can write free text may need a bit of cleaning, but I usually do this in an iterative manner to see how much work there is to get it right. Or you can delegate this; add reports and forms on the tables that need to be checked and ask the whole team to contribute.
Not all applicatons need to live forever. But if you can manage a project using your own application, you may actually start enjoying the project more.
A Great Motivator
I rembember how Joel encouraged me when I gave presentations at user conferences, this is a typical tweet from him, almost 6 years ago:
The presentation I gave was probably not that great, but thanks to his friendliness and solid advices I kept going and above all kept working with APEX.
Thanks to the rest of the APEX team and the whole Oracle APEX community, this will not go away any time soon.