Technology, Quality, and Customer Options Define IT Agenda

Events highlight fusion of technology strengths, rise of developer skills, and ascendance of open-source applications.

When I wrote in my letter of March 15 about an upcoming conference panel discussion, several readers asked me if Id be providing details of that planned session on SQL, XML, Web services and grid computing. Im overdue in letting you know about some multimedia links and commentaries that have been posted concerning that session, but I hope that the material remains of interest.

I also heard from many of you concerning one particular passage in last weeks letter of April 19, in which I quoted a passage from a report by the National Cyber Security Partnership on the subject of software life-cycle security. That controversial passage appeared in the context of national commitments to developer training as a key component of efforts to elevate software quality—and hence, application security.

Specifically, I passed along the reports assertion that "India produces programmers that make fewer errors per line of software code than programmers trained in the United States." Several of you challenged that statement, based on your personal experience with offshore work on various projects; in fact, it took surprisingly little effort to find hard data on the subject, and Ill share some of your comments along with the results of my investigation in my eWEEK column a week from today (available soon afterwards at

If you dont want to wait, youll find key source material for that column at the site of the Center for eBusiness at MIT in a July 2003 report on a global survey of software development. That paper subsequently appeared in the November/December 2003 issue of the journal IEEE Software as part of a special package on the state of the practice of software development. The other articles in that package are available online, but only by purchase or subscription. Very brief abstracts of the articles are free, and may help you decide if further investment is worth your while.

But while were speaking of the international search for software talent, note that Microsoft will open today its new R&D lab in Aachen, Germany. Reports note the new centers proximity to a university with noted strength in IT areas including wireless communication, and glückwünsche (congratulations) to all, Im sure—but its ironic that Microsoft is opening such a center in one of the hotbeds of open-source adoption, not only in the domain of operating systems but in growing acceptance of open-source application suites as well.

You can benefit from eWEEKs own head-to-head evaluation of the open-source OpenOffice versus Microsoft Office, conducted at an enterprise site in South Carolina, in todays issue of eWEEK—that special Labs feature begins on page 43.

eWEEK Labs Jim Rapoza also shared his thoughts on enterprise-class support for open-source software in a recent column that makes for useful companion reading.

Personally, Im not a big fan of office suites. As I noted on December 18, 1995: "In a suite-centric market, a vendor can concentrate resources on one product at a time, needing only one suite component that is clearly superior at any instant: for example, knowing that the vendors word processor will continue to sell even if it falls slightly behind competitors in minor features, as long as the vendors database remains the indisputable leader.

"This is not a competitive model that gives users the best possible outcome in terms of rapid improvement in every aspect of their desktop tools," I continued, "unless, that is, the linkage between the suites components is sufficiently flexible and nonproprietary that users remain open to multivendor solutions. This has not been the case to date, nor are there prospects for near-term improvement." Application interactions were the original battleground; file formats have become another.

Web services and XML-based data formats offer a long-overdue solution, and one that perhaps enables new concentration on improving software practice instead of racing to the bottom in developer salaries worldwide.

Tell me what you want, and where youre looking to find it, at