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Oracle woos open sourcers with free Java web framework

ADF Essentials gives away the basics

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Battling against an increasingly crowded field of Java web development frameworks, Oracle – ordinarily never one to turn away a buck – has decided to bite the bullet and offer a version of its Application Development Framework (ADF) as a free download.

Oracle ADF Essentials is a slightly stripped-down version of Oracle ADF, the Java EE framework that Oracle uses to build many of its own applications, including its Oracle Fusion suite of business software. The main difference between ADF Essentials and the full product is that developers can download ADF Essentials – and even deploy it on production servers – without paying any license fees.

While the full Oracle ADF framework requires the database giant's commercial WebLogic Java application server to run, ADF Essentials can be deployed on the open source GlassFish alternative (or IBM WebSphere, if you prefer).

Both versions of Oracle ADF aim to make it easier for developers to build web applications based on the Model View Controller (MVC) architecture by providing many essential components out of the box.

To aid in building application frontends, ADF Essentials includes Oracle ADF Faces, which extends the core Java EE platform's JavaServer Faces framework to provide a set of more than 150 prebuilt web UI components. In addition, the Oracle ADF Controller extends the JavaServer Faces Controller layer to allow web apps to serve up more dynamic content. Developers can then bind these UI components to business logic using an XML-based metadata abstraction layer.

On the backend, Oracle ADF Business Components provide a set of reusable modules that implement common software design patterns, which can be configured using a simple, declarative syntax.

Of course, there's a catch (or two). While all of the components included in Oracle ADF Essentials function the same as their commercial cousins, ADF Essentials leaves out a significant chunk of the paid product's capabilities.

Most significantly, ADF Essentials doesn't include Oracle's ADF security framework, so developers can't integrate their apps with Oracle's granular security controls. Any security features must be implemented with regular Java EE security features or some other, add-on security framework.

A number of other features have been left out as well, including the ADF Mobile and Desktop Integration frameworks, data controls for business intelligence (BI), and integration with advanced Oracle Fusion Middleware functions such as support for high availability and clustering, among others.

For what you do get, though, it's a pretty good deal. The general idea is that by giving away the core tools, Oracle hopes to win more developers over to its framework instead of the competition's – including web frameworks for competing languages.

"With the ability to leverage the Oracle ADF functionality for production applications without incurring a license fee as well as the ability to deploy to open-source servers, more developers can adopt Oracle ADF as the base for their applications," reads the ADF Essentials FAQ. "Oracle believes that increased use of Oracle ADF can also help the adoption and usage of Java in enterprise applications."

In other words, Java wants developers to build enterprise apps with Java rather than wandering off to competitors such as PHP, Python, Ruby, or Microsoft .Net – and to do that, it's going to have to compete on price. ®

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