Oracle unveils free SQL Developer: Has Toad met its match?

Oracle's newly released free SQL Developer could spell trouble for Quest Software Inc.'s popular Toad for Oracle software.

Quest Software Inc.'s Toad for Oracle software could be in trouble, thanks to Oracle's free SQL Developer tool.

SQL Developer, a new download formerly dubbed Project Raptor, lets database developers run SQL statements and SQL scripts, edit and debug PL/SQL code, view and update data and conduct object browsing and creation. Developers currently handle those tasks with Toad for Oracle and other less popular offerings like Allround Automations' PL/SQL Developer and Oracle's own SQL Plus.

The Toad program has a nice plug-in for performance tuning, whereas with the Oracle tool you have to switch over to Grid Control or their application server...
Floyd Absher
database administratorProgressive Medical Inc.

Database professionals said that while Toad for Oracle software is more mature and offers more features, it's hard to ignore the price for SQL Developer. Oracle said the tool is available free of charge without restriction.

"I find that [SQL Developer is] very similar to [Toad for Oracle], but the cost is right," said Chris Tryon, a Project Raptor beta tester and manager of programming at Hatch Mott MacDonald, an engineering consulting firm based in Milburn, New Jersey.

Toad for Oracle vs. Raptor

Toad for Oracle is offered in both freeware and commercial versions. But the Toad Freeware license comes with restrictions. The freeware license is available for up to five users within an organization and expires every 60 days, while commercial versions of Toad range from $870 to about $4900 per seat, according to Quest Software's Web site.

Tryon said that one of the things he likes about SQL Developer over Toad is that Oracle is letting the user community develop plug-ins.

"I know they've already had people develop some plug-ins for it," Tryon said. "That's a lot better than what you can do with Toad. You can't build anything for [Toad for Oracle] and share it with anybody else."

Floyd Absher, another Project Raptor beta tester and a database administrator with Progressive Medical Inc. in Westerville, Ohio, said that the full version of Toad offers a lot more functionality than SQL Developer. But he added that many of SQL Developer's gaps can be filled with other Oracle applications, such as those found in Enterprise Manager.

"The [Toad for Oracle] program has a nice plug-in for performance tuning, whereas with the Oracle tool you have to switch over to Grid Control or their application server for performance tuning," Absher said. "But as far as reverse engineering database schemas, I'm pretty impressed with what they were able to stick inside of SQL Developer."

Absher suggested that one of the possible benefits of staying with Toad for Oracle despite the cost is that most seasoned developers are probably used to it by now. He said it's sort of like Coke versus Pepsi in that some people are simply loyal to a particular brand.

"Anytime you make a switch to something different there is kind of a learning curve," he said.

More Toad for Oracle info:

Toad for Oracle vs. Oracle SQL Developer: Users speak out

Features and functionality

SQL Developer includes an extensive set of pre-built reports and features like a code formatter and code snippets, which Oracle says help database developers produce code faster.

The tool runs on Windows and Linux platforms and is available for Oracle9i Database Release 2 and all editions of Oracle Database 10g. Support for SQL Developer is available for free from the Oracle Technology Network.

"We're committed to enhancing the tool in the future and increasing its maturity over time," Mike Hichwa, Oracle's vice president of software development, said in an interview.

A strategic release?

Why has Oracle now decided to release a full- featured SQL Developer for the first time? Hichwa says that it's because JDeveloper has evolved to the point where Oracle had a "great" integrated development environment infrastructure to build on, at a reasonable cost.

Absher's impression is that the new release was prompted at least partially by Oracle's recent slew of acquisitions.

"I think that with Oracle's recent acquisitions they're trying to do some A-to-Z on the market and cover all their bases," Absher said. "I guess that now more than ever with all their acquisitions it sounded like a good idea to make sure they could do it all."

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