Beware of VB Reality

The details that make VB development difficult have almost nothing to do with Visual Basic, programming or writing code.

Count among the stumbling blocks the many versions of Microsoft Windows, the supporting cast of database engines and desktop services, performance differentials between Windows 3.11, Windows 95, and Windows NT, as well as the number of password protected administrative applications. Disk space requirements for the supporting development tools and online help for a single programmer runs about 3.3 Gb, which includes VB 5.0, Windows 95 or Windows NT, and tools like Netscape Navigator and Explorer, IIS, Merchant Server, the Transaction Server, and any third-party development tools. The SQL Server Internet Connection ($3,500) is required for live sites to comply with Microsoft licensing and legal requirements. Though the SQL Query Connection Designer is part of the VB Enterprise Edition, the Internet Connector license is not part of the SQL Server, NT Server or BackOffice kits, a point to be remembered when deploying dynamic Web sites with IIS, Merchant Server, VB and SQL.

Developers planning to reuse Office97 components should acquire the Office97 Developers Edition. This includes Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint and Outlook. Avoid Outlook as an underpowered and awkward PIM. The kit also includes the Setup Wizard, Replication Manager and yet another copy of SourceSafe. The kit also includes a distributable runtime version of Access. The value of this kit is primarily with the documentation in exposing the standard desktop components and creating toolbars and wizards. Figure about 400Mb for a full installation. At $495, this is good bargain for the Access97 Developer's toolkit.

Site management is best with tools like Microsoft FrontPage or WebMaster from Coast Software, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, which require another 2.2Gb. Figure another gigabyte for the graphics. If developing links for Lotus Domino, include another 450Mb somewhere on the network for basic Domino libraries. Since hard drives are relatively cheap, this is more of a nuisance than anything else. Since FAT supports partitions only to 2Gb, and with inefficient sector sizes at that, consider NTFS. Add in the 30Mb plus triple the space of the anticipated source files. For project management -- a obligatory evil for multideveloper or multiproject environments -- go with MS Project, ManagePro from Avantos Performance Systems Inc., Emeryville, Calif. These tools require no more than 40 Mb, but eliminates the real overhead of keeping track of the work.

When networked, move peripheral components to a file server running NTFS. Do not use long filenames and FAT-32. Throw in a CD-ROM reader with at least a four-disk caddie. Figure that enterprise development achieves some economies of scale with a network file server. However, consider installing multiple CD-ROMs readers since the 4x4 disc readers can only read one disc at a time. This provides simultaneous access to the development help resources such as online support documents and TechNet. If developing with SQL Server, consider keeping the SQL Server training kit and other similar CD-ROM CBT tools online.

While increases in desktop to network integration makes it possible to create applications for single users, workgroups, Intranets and Web surfers with the same Visual Basic code and ActiveX controls, the functional environment is orders of magnitude more complex and more fragile. Enterprise development is likely to require the services of the DBA, the network administrator, the telecom manager, the Webmaster and various others. Computer integration is uncomplicated when contrasted to the working integration of the people that must support programming development, rollout and ongoing production. Microsoft is still very much a vendor of a proprietary environment, though that environment may be all that is necessary to integrate existing host-based DB2 databases, applications from SAP AG, Philadelphia, or Oracle Corp., Redwood Shores, Calif., to automate E-mail and faxing with interactive voice response, or to connect desktop or server-based data to an Intranet and Internet Webserver.

About the Author

Martin Nemzow is a consulting editor for McGraw-Hill Publishing. His company, Network Performance Institute, Miami Beach, Fla., provides enterprise network design and improvement consulting services, markets capacity planning, and develops and markets shrink-wrapped network configuration software tools.