Components usher in era of flexibility
Businesses are reeling under the impact of "webtime", the phenomenon driven by the explosive growth of the Internet and the associated emergence of new companies and even new industries. It is now commonly believed that, within three years, the vast majority of new business applications will be based on or extended by the Internet.
Software Futures' Derek Hughes says this results in enormous pressure on the providers of this software. This includes the suppliers of ERP (enterprise resource planning) and other packages, application development tool vendors, software houses and internal IS divisions.
"Many of these groups have turned to object and component technologies to help relieve this pressure. And this transition is being accelerated by the rapid adoption of Java."
The Gartner Group predicts that by 2002, 60% of all new business logic on servers will be developed in Java. The 20 000 people attending Java One in San Francisco this year appear to strongly endorse this view.
Application development is undergoing a major change as components or objects are used in place of traditional development technologies. Objects and components have many similarities; the most important of which is that they facilitate a new style of development: the creation and deployment of small modules rather than large, unwieldy applications.
Hughes warns that object technology and to a lesser extent component technology are inherently complex. They remain somewhat arcane and tough for managers and business users to understand.
But business must come to grips with these technologies in order to cope with the new order. Forrester Research says radical changes in business means organisations face ongoing flux. "Software supporting these businesses must be flexible - IT can't take months or years each time business needs new functionality," says Hughes.
"Old development methods inhibited change," adds Hughes. "The first symptom of this inability to cope with change is to try to have the requirement signed off in advance, preferably in blood. Then IT bases the entire development project on that document. But there is always change on projects. IT goes on the defence. It tries to set in concrete how the business systems should function."
Because object development is done in small, manageable parts, IT can rapidly change to meet business needs. Components and objects lend themselves to isolating pieces of functionality, stopping the knock-on effect when part of a program is changed. This allows the development of the systems to occur in small increments with regular delivery and points of change.
The end result is a business system that evolves gracefully and that can accommodate the time-sensitive demands of a modern enterprise.
Software Futures is a subsidiary of Computer Configurations Holdings.