Just Follow the Sirens

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2005-12-05 Print this article Print

Opinion: Aggressive developers are taking the wheel in the drive to dynamic platforms.

Well, eWEEKs Jim Rapoza warned Firefox users of likely problems with extension compatibility in his review last week of Firefox 1.5: Others have since confirmed that theres more than a slight speed bump on the road to adopting this Web browser update. Firefox is a tool that I recommend and that Ive chosen for my family to use (my own systems run Mozilla)--but the distinctive Firefox logo is also, to some degree, a warning sign of "Construction Ahead."

Were at risk of breaking our axles on more such obstacles as we build more of our systems on remotely owned and operated Web services, as well as on open-source technologies that rapidly evolve. Now that both of these genres are out of the science-project stage of proving that they work well enough to use at all, its necessary to get them into a more mature stage of life-cycle manageability.

In the Dec. 12 eWEEK, readers who receive our Developer Solutions special coverage will see my report on a roundtable discussion of application life-cycle quality issues, practices and tools. That conversation included participants from customer organizations and from technology providers Segue Software, Identify Software and Microsoft. What most impressed me about that conversation were the comments of customers who are treating application quality as a strategic opportunity, not merely as a housekeeping goal, and who are seeking out best-of-breed technologies from both commercial tool providers and the open-source ecosystem.

Crucially, a requirement just to get on these customers radar is the availability of tool APIs that let them build developer-centric environments, in which information comes to the developer--for example, through the ALF subproject of Eclipse--rather than requiring developers to take their eye off the road and go fiddle with some quality gadget that isnt part of their core process.

Also aiding developers move to a life-cycle orientation is todays release of Mindreef Coral, a Web services life-cycle collaboration platform. An SOA (service-oriented architecture) requires "a more formal way of collaboration," said Jim Moskun, Mindreefs co-founder and chief strategy officer, when we spoke in advance of todays announcement. "The ad hoc collaboration that might work in a silod environment wont work in an SOA environment," he said.

Youll get an inside look at a large-scale SOA project, involving just that kind of choreographed collaboration, in another story in the Dec. 12 eWEEK--where youll find my case study of a NASA SOA initiative that offers earth-science data users a unified metadata model, embracing more than 60 million data items, combined with a UDDI v3-based environment for discovering and chaining many different partners services into customized analytic tools.

Finally, another sign of the momentum toward dynamically assembled systems comes with todays announcement of BBN Technologies three-year DARPA contract to develop urban wireless communication platforms that resist infrastructure disruption. As we found during the summers Gulf Coast storms, the flexibility of ad hoc networks like those assembled by ham radio operators is crucial in the face of extraordinary events.

Tell me what youre seeing down the road at peter_coffee@ziffdavis.com

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis in programming environments and developer tools.
Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at salesforce.com, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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