Of Mills and mantras

IF MUCH OF THE INDUSTRY has been slow to see the growing significance of middleware and software life-cycle issues -- and the lessened importance of raw tools -- this has not been the case at IBM. "Customers want to build system management into their apps," said Steve Mills, general manager of the IBM Software Solutions unit. Mills cites, for example, event handling. "That's what the e-Business framework is all about," he said, referring to the all-encompassing and well-advertised strategy that has become "the vision thing" for Lou Gerstner's IBM. Moreover, said Mills, "We feel we have provided a 'build-run-and-manage' middleware road map." In fact, this phrase is a mantra among IBM hands; it provides a beacon in their quest to unseat Microsoft as a software trend-setter.

And in the IBM tools program there is yet another mantra. It is "Simple. Simple. Simple." This is in part a reaction to a lineage of often complex tools -- a trend that may have reached its zenith in the troubled Taligent project. And, although tools marketing managers are not quick to cite Microsoft as a competitor, the embrace of simplicity may be seen as a response to the success of the Redmond upstart that looks to forgo the overly complex.

IBM has a sense of the dual face of its development customer. Said one tools product manager: "We're selling toys. At least in the sense that the developer wants something interesting to work with all day long. Meanwhile, we have to prove to their bosses [the application development managers] that the 'toys' are safe."

Mills takes another tact: "There are many programmers that don't like simplification. We've watched this for decades. If you are a business person, you want to think otherwise." Mills and others admit that this knowledge came about due somewhat to Taligent.

Meanwhile, here is one more mantra: "We don't subscribe to the rip-and-replace philosophy." Naturally, with such a massive installed base.

About the Authors

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.

Mike Bucken is former Editor-in-Chief of Application Development Trends magazine.