Summer break

What a summer it's been in the corporate software development world. Over the past few months corporate IT managers have been forced to reduce spending while in turn observing substantial cutbacks at many tool and technology suppliers, including some, like Rational Software and Computer Associates, that analysts once touted as somewhat immune to economic downturns.

At times like these, corporate development managers and vendors alike have some time to step back and seek out "the next big thing." Over the years, we've seen several "next big things," like computer-aided software engineering (CASE) technologies, client/server software development, Web-only software development tools and change management software (read: Y2K tools).

In this issue, we examine some development options that backers once again promise will dramatically ease the process of building complex corporate software. Some, like component-based development, have been around for years, while others are more recent innovations. Our cover story, "Doorway to data," looks at a newer development, the corporate portal, designed to provide corporate users with desktop access to data hosted on multiple platforms. As the story notes, some early portal plans failed to gather momentum, as limiting technology coupled with the dried-up venture capital well caused the early efforts to fail.

Now, however, many established firms are investing heavily in portal technology development, as IT managers see an opportunity to bring their users an OS-neutral window to the world. This story examines the state of portal infrastructures, applications and platforms, and looks at how some early technologies are being used today.

Meanwhile, we take another look at the promise of Microsoft's emerging .NET technologies, this time focusing on its CBD capabilities. Based on some early looks at .NET, consultant Russ Lewis explains Microsoft's plans for .NET component development and its likely compatibility with today's COM objects and ActiveX controls. The early returns on compatibility look good, though managers are still left to determine how the technology can best be used in specific environments.

We also take another look at the emerging Extreme Programming (XP) phenomenon, which at times is touted as the future corporate standard and at other times is dismissed as a method for small, very technical projects built outside the purview of IT. Veteran IT journalist Johanna Ambrosio examines potential corporate uses for the methodology.

Last but not least, regular contributor Deborah Melewski looks at the state of traditional transaction processing systems like CICS, Encina and Tuxedo in the Internet age. These systems continue to run at several large sites that still need robust TP engines for Web and non-Web operations. Experts say large commercial Web ventures require robust TP engines, which today can only be found in the long-established technologies. The big question for users and vendors alike, Melewski asserts, is how these technologies can be used with emerging systems.

About the Author

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