Want to know what the software developer of the future will look like? Find a bricklayer.
"The corporate software architect of the future may have a function more akin to a plumber or a bricklayer than to a developer," said Barr in Seattle. "To keep his dignity intact, lets call him an assembler of components."
What Barr is getting at is the early stages of a shift in how enterprise software could be developed. For instance, Barr is helping Amazon.com turn small pieces of code into Web services governing e-commerce transactions that can be reused across the company.
Analysts said this shift will allow for converged services where enterprises can provide their technology users and customers with a variety of loosely coupled services using Web 2.0 tools—a term referring to using the Web as a platform for developing applications—and AJAX, a style of development that creates Web-based applications with the performance of desktop software.
These services will be tied together with an underlying SOA, an architectural style that enables Web services to communicate with each other.
"I think the big story here is the convergence of Web 2.0 front ends with Web services-enabled back ends," said Eric Newcomer, chief technology officer of Iona Technologies, which markets SOA technology and leads the Eclipse Foundations SOA Tools Platform Project.
"We are seeing a lot of innovation in the programmable Web, where technologies mainly concerned with user interaction and commodity-level services are gaining some traction," said Newcomer, in Waltham, Mass.
The software developers toolbox will include AJAX and Macromedias Flash and its ability to provide RIAs (rich Internet applications). Microsoft, for its part, put its tools on parade last month at VSLive, in San Francisco. The software maker showcased its upcoming "Atlas" AJAX development tool. Microsoft also demonstrated its support for using the Web as a development platform, with its MSN Search API, MSN Messenger platform and Visual Studio 2005, among other technologies.
Newcomer acknowledges that corporate adoption of these technologies isnt widespread yet, but there are more than a few companies dabbling in them.
Businesses go experimental
When TrueCredit needed to put a more interactive face on one of its SOA-based applications, the company looked to Web 2.0 technology to provide its users with a richer, more desktop-like experience.
Scott Metzger, CTO at the San Luis Obispo, Calif., credit services company, said TrueCredit chose the Flash environment to provide RIA functionality to a credit underwriting analysis tool called KnowYourLoanRate.
TrueCredits SOA infrastructure is built on BEA Systems WebLogic Integration and WebLogic Server. Metzger said the company is considering using the AJAX model for some of its services, "but we dont have any plans to adopt it across the board," because the rigorous regression testing required for presenting credit data "represents some challenges."
Michael Smith, general manager of operations at Forbes.com, said the company is "using AJAX in certain lists we present on our site." Forbes used AJAX to develop a search-and-sort function for its Web site.
"We found that with AJAX we could offer many more types of search-and-sort operations, and the speed is very compelling," said Smith, in New York.
Moreover, Forbes.com is looking to employ AJAX in other applications such as streaming quotes, he said.
Barr said the goal of Amazon.coms Web 2.0 efforts is to give customers "more control of what they see, how they see it, how they interact with it and how they can provide feedback on what they see."