Higher-level tools yield much-needed productivity improvements, but at what price in platform choice?
The eWEEK Excellence Awards for 2004 are now accepting entries.
Developer productivity is critical to achieving next years IT goals,
and developer acceptance is vital to the success of any IT platform, so
I hope to see developer tools well represented in the field of entries
that well be judging as the new year begins. The deadline for
submitting entries is Jan. 31, 2005; for more
information, go to www.excellenceawardsonline.com
Development tools have a long tradition of pushing PC hardware more
aggressively than any other software genreand machines
get faster more quickly than people get smarter, which is
why we may never end our continuing upward spiral of higher-level tools
for writing code. Software
, notably the Jetson
released last week by DataSource, of Greenbelt, Md., represent the
coming years run around that axis.
Jetson attacks the complexity of developing Java 2 Enterprise
Edition applications using Enterprise
, an excellent but
undeniably complex component architecture. "EJBs represent the most
difficult part of J2EE development, but they
provide the level of services that enterprises need," said DataSource
President/CEO Pamela Hopkins when we spoke prior to the products
I distinctly remember the first time that I walked through an
EJB-based design and realized that it felt very much like doing
quantum physics with Feynman
. (Ironically, theres now a
software tool for drawing those
: No matter how easy things
get, theres always someone willing to work harder to make them easier
still for everyone else.)
Developers using Microsoft Access or Visual
Basic might find that Jetson makes their lives much easier: "Access/VB
developers using the beta product with no documentation were able to
build an application that met scalability needs and the desire to move
to an EJB/SOA approach," asserted DataSource CTO Joe Brinkman during
the pre-launch conversation mentioned above.
Jetson isnt the only contender for the future mind share of
rank-and-file enterprise developers. Microsoft wants to move those
Visual Basic troops forward toward its own enterprise-application
development offerings with factory-development
in the next
generation of Visual Studio. Microsoft development gurus like Ward
(whos just co-authored a new
) are trying to avoid the academic
introspection that sometimes seems to afflict software development
"You get into the theory and you wind up with pattern experts
writing patterns for other pattern experts," said Cunningham during a
conversation we had late last month. "We back them up with
implementation patterns," he said, adding, "What I see in
.Net is not only a coherent set of
classes and frameworks, but their assembly with a purpose in mind."
The coherence that Cunningham mentions should not be taken lightly.
No small part of Windows mind share comes from the way that the
platform and tools work together. Personally, I tend to resist using
anyone elses monolithic design, preferring to have the freedom to mix
and match my own choices of best-of-breed boxes and connections: I like
what I hear when DataSources Hopkins says that "One of the goals is to
generate code that you can take anywhere else so that you dont feel
forever married to one tool." Thats not the same, though, as being
able to move without cost between J2EE and .Net.
Some will say that boundaries between platforms are the price of
writing really good code, whether by hand or with the aid of a factory
tool or other framework. In the long run, Im not convinced of that. I
distinctly recall when people warned that writing in C for
processor-level portability required a serious compromise in code
performance. We seem to be living with that.
This is why I call programming automation a spiral, and not a simple
because we seem to go through an almost identical cycle with every
major advance. We grow tired of high cost, low output, and low quality
at the level of tool that were using. We look at the next generation
of application development and delivery, and were overwhelmed by the
complexity of trying to tackle it with current tools.
Click here to read about Sun Microsystems Creator tool, which is aimed at VB developers.
We look at the greener grass on the research side of the fence, and
think about bringing some of that great stuff over to the mainstream
production-code side. We hear people tell us that real-world code cant
live with the overheads of the inefficient code thats produced by
automated tools, and that lower-level coding techniques will always
produce more compelling commercial software products.
A few years later, we realize that the controversy
seems to have come and gone, that the formerly speculative idea has now
become the mainstream, and that were getting ready to start a
remarkably similar debate over the next level of advancement and the
next upward spiral spin.
Tell me what youd consider a useful move to a higher level at firstname.lastname@example.org
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