Oracle Application Express (APEX) formerly HTML DB has matured into a very strong tool for managing DBA infrastructure information. A lot of DBAs are still using Excel spreadsheets and Word documents to store their key database infrastructure information and storing it on shared drives.
Unix administrators and DBAs should be storing their infrastructure information in web applications. The issue is, they can't get a budget for application servers and developers to build them a web-based infrastructure management system. With APEX being a rapid development tool, it is easy to build a web based application that runs directly in the database.
The cool thing is that APEX applications are as scalable as the Oracle database is. Running APEX applications in the database allows the applications to automatically tie into Oracle security, backup/recovery and the functionality of the database. It has all kinds of wizards for building web applications by pointing and clicking. Advanced applications can write custom SQL, PL/SQL, Java and HTML code under the covers to add more complex functionality.
APEX 2.2.1 is currently out and there is already a roadmap to version 3. Organizations looking for a quick and easy-to-use application development tool for Oracle will find APEX a good fit. APEX is not a replacement for enterprise Java or .NET programming environments, but it can help develop and deploy Web applications quickly. APEX is a great tool for DBAs and Developers to easily build web applications. APEX is not a tool for end users or business users unless that have some type of technical database background. APEX is relatively pretty easy to learn. APEX is not designed to replace enterprise Java applications. It is more of a quick and easy way to build web applications.
APEX does not need an application server. HTTP requests can be sent directly to the database server. A lot of DBAs do not understand the full capabilities of using the Oracle HTTP Listener for web based applications. HTTP requests are sent to the Oracle database to process APEX applications in the database server. Java Web Services can use the Oracle HTTP Listener to run web service applications. If you want to go down this path, Kuassi Mensah, a group product manager in the Oracle Server Technologies group has some great articles on running Java web services in the database.
Although APEX is easy to learn and you point and click to build applications, its amazing the types of powerful applications that are being written by APEX. Sites such as Metalink and the AskTom website are written with APEX. The Oracle equivalent of Myspace is being written in APEX by the IOUG. There is also an IOUG APEX Special Interest group that can be found at APEXSIG.
For learning to build web applications easily and not have to go down the Java or .NET path, APEX can be a lot easier to learn and master than Ruby or PHP. APEX can be manually installed on any Oracle9iR2 or greater database. APEX also comes standard in the Oracle Express database (free). It's amazing that you can use a free Oracle database (Express Edition) along with a free tool (APEX) to quickly build web applications.