Developer Sites Expanding

Oracle and ActiveState introduce online resources, making jobs easier, saving time and money.

The trend by software companies to pump ever more dollars and energy into their online resources is taking hold as developers flock to the sites. Oracle Corp. is continuing to expand its developer site. The Redwood Shores, Calif., company recently added online training and seminars. Meanwhile, ActiveState Corp. launched last week an online site for open-source developers.

The efforts are music to the ears of developers, who say online resources such as these can help them do their jobs and learn new technologies more quickly.

"Its a good idea if you can get enough people to know the name of your site," said James Martin, technical coordinator for a grant program administered by the University of Arkansas, in Fayetteville. Martin said he has mostly worked with the SourceForge site started by VA Linux Systems Inc. "I usually try to find out what sites are the best clearinghouses," he said.

While Oracle boasts that it has 1.5 million members in its free OTN (Oracle Technology Network), the company recently expanded its online offerings to include online training and education, such as streaming video conferences and seminars.

Oracles iDevelop2001 Online, launched earlier this month, has 25 tracks, ranging from products like the Oracle 9i database to technologies such as Extensible Markup Language and Java. In upcoming weeks, Oracle will add the ability for developers to share code and collaborate with one another.

Oracle officials said the online offerings wont replace their in-person conferences altogether but will allow them to cut back significantly and save millions of dollars in the process. In addition, they said, in the current economic downturn it is easier to get developers online than on a plane for a seminar.

"This makes Oracle a real possibility for a smaller shop like ourselves," said Alex Hochberger, CEO of Feratech Inc., in Boston. "The cost saving is tremendous, but its also nice not needing to have any downtime. Its hard in this space to find a week you can lose someone for."

On the open-source side, Active- States ActiveState Programmers Network includes Komodo, the companys recently released integrated development environment for the Perl and Python programming languages, as well as "cookbooks" and sample code. It also will include ActiveStates work on Visual Studio.Nets integration with Perl, Python and XSLT when Visual Studio.Net is ready later this year.

"As a company, what we really want to do is make it easier for people to program," said Dick Hardt, the companys founder and CEO, in Vancouver, British Columbia. Hardt said he believes developers will still attend conferences, but he said online resources can broaden a companys reach.

"Everyones realizing that ... people are going to go where its easiest to program," Hardt said. "Most of these developer networks are very much focused around a platform. We really view ourselves as the Switzerland of platform vendors. We support a number of different languages."

Although ActiveState did not have specific figures, Hardt said that in the few days since the launch of the online network, traffic to the companys Web site has been heavier. ActiveState normally gets more than a million visitors a month, he said.

While there are many Web sites for specific languages already, ActiveState is trying to provide a central point for open-source resources.

ASPN has three tiers. A free level, called ASPN Open, targets hobbyists and beginners. ASPN Komodo, designed for professional programmers, costs $295 for a one-year license. For more advanced programmers, ASPN Perl costs $495 for a one-year license.