You will need a support contract.
It's possible to manage a production FileMaker database without having any type of support contract. To FileMaker Inc.'s credit, they have created a very manageable product and generally make free database patches available to their customers.
But with an Oracle database you have to maintain a support contract before you can even download patches to fix problems. Due to the complexity of the Oracle database, there is no way a single person can know everything about managing every aspect of the database. Oracle's own support department is subdivided into over a dozen different support areas just to provide support to customers. Additionally, there are bugs, incorrect and poorly worded documentation for complex tasks for which only Oracle has the answers. And there are some issues for which even Oracle doesn't have the answers because they come under the category of being bugs that will be fixed in the next major patch release.
Oracle 9i is not FileMaker Pro
Being a faceless server application there's no graphical user interface built directly into the Oracle database as there is with FileMaker. The first tool that most DBAs will use is SqlPlus, which is available in command line, Java, and Web-based versions. Most DBAs will generally use the command line version shown below in Figure 1.
This tool provides access to the actual database server software for database creation, database startup, database shutdown, and for running SQL queries. With Developer Release 1, SqlPlus is one of the few tools available for managing the database. The production release will include the full Oracle Enterprise Manager Console application, providing a graphical interface for database instance management, import/export, backup, recovery, graphical Log Miner interface, creation of database objects, and graphical data editing. Please see Figure 2 for an example of the OEM Console running on Windows.
You need external tools to develop applications for an Oracle database.
This is not the case with FileMaker. Everything you need to develop and deploy a database is contained within the FileMaker application. If you want to create a stand-alone FileMaker application, then you would purchase FileMaker Developer, but for most databases accessed either locally or across a network you won't need to make this extra cost purchase when working with FileMaker. (You will have to purchase a copy of FileMaker for each user who will be accessing the FileMaker database.)
A view of the data within a similar Oracle database table is shown in Figure 4.
It will be necessary to purchase some type of development environment to create a stand-alone graphical application for an Oracle database.
One development tool, which works very well on Mac OS X and works cross-platform too, is Revolution. If you are familiar with Apple's Hypercard, then you will feel very comfortable with this development environment. Compiled double-clickable database applications can be created that make full use of a graphical interface.
If you want to create Web-based applications, you could write Perl scripts making use of the DBI and DBD:Oracle Perl modules to access the Oracle database. These applications could run within the Apache Web server that is already installed on Mac OS X. This would be the lowest cost development and deployment environment that you could put together by using these open source tools. But low cost does not mean low performance. Using the mod_perl Apache module will enable this type of Web environment to serve many times the load of the same system that just runs Perl code as standard cgi scripts.
One interesting product, which could be helpful for automating the development of Perl, ASP, PHP, ColdFusion .NET, and JSP Web-based applications is Code Charge Studio. Once you define the application functionality in the graphical environment, you just pick the output programming language, and the application generates the code. There are no deployment licensing costs or royalties required on the resulting code that this tool generates. Unfortunately this tool is only available for Windows, so you would need to either run it on a PC or under Virtual PC.
Oracle has developed their own product named JDeveloper for creating Web-based Java applications. This tool provides a wealth of graphical features for RAD development, project/team management, UML modeling, and software configuration management. JDeveloper provides a graphical interface to the feature-rich Oracle BC4J Java framework that handles the management of data between the Web user and the database. It is important to note that if you make use of some of these features like BC4J, you do need to purchase licenses for the Oracle 9iAS application server product. This $20,000 per-processor cost is in addition to the $995 licensing cost of the JDeveloper software. As with many Oracle products, you can download JDeveloper at no charge for evaluation purposes from otn.oracle.com, but you will need to license the product for a production implementation. JDeveloper is now written as a Java application but is only officially supported on Windows NT/2000/XP, HU/UX, Linux, and Solaris at this time. Since it is a Java application containing no x86 code, it is possible that Oracle will add official support for Mac OS X in the future.
Apple also has a full-featured Java development environment with their WebObjects product. One of the notable features of WebObjects is that it's very economical to license and deploy compared to most of the other application servers on the market. Java capable applications servers (IBM WebSphere, BEA WebLogic, Oracle 9iAS) are often licensed for prices in the range of $20,000 - $30,000 per processor.
Apple's WebObjects development product is priced at $700, and it includes an unlimited processor deployment license and software that can be deployed on any Java 2 capable Web server, including Mac OS X, Linux, and Solaris. In fact Mac OS X server (both 10 user and unlimited editions) include a WebObjects deployment license as part of the purchase price. As you would expect with a product from Apple, WebObjects provides a rich user interface for creating HTML or desktop Java client applications. Apple implements an enterprise objects framework in Java for managing database access, sessions, events, and Web requests. Quick prototypes can be created with the Direct to Java and Direct to HTML Assistants. Apple is one of the few development tool vendors that does not provide any type of demo software download directly from their Web site.
You need to know some UNIX commands.
Actually with Developer Release 1 of Oracle for Mac OS X you need to know a lot of UNIX commands just to build, start, and stop the database. When the production version is released, you'll have the option to install the database with the Java-based Oracle Universal Installer and create the database 3instance with the graphical database creation wizard. You will also be able to use the OEM Console application to view/edit data, create tables, and manage the instance.
You need to know SQL commands.
With Developer Release 1 you will need to know quite a few commands in order to create and manage the database instance since none of the graphical management tools are available.