Another Component Challenge
By any measure, component-based development hasn't met the expectations first set by software development gurus more than 20 years ago. Many dramatic events have occurred during this period—from the decline and fall of once mighty suppliers like Burroughs, Digital Equipment, Legent and Platinum Technology, to the shocking (at least to this reporter) decision by Charles Wang to step down as CEO of Computer Associates, the company he founded and ruled over for more than 20 years—but IT organizations are still waiting to gain the full benefits of widespread reuse of component-based systems.
That's not to say improvements, and strong ones at that, haven't been made. Clearly, Microsoft's ubiquitous Visual Basic spread COM components through client apps of IT organizations. The emergence of Enterprise Java- Beans is leading to the widespread development of server-based components. And the number of firms selling packaged components seems to grow daily. IT organizations now face the huge problem of integrating homegrown and packaged components to create large, corporate applications.
Our component guru, consultant and former IT executive John Williams, looks at the issue of integrating diverse components in this month's Cover Story ("Raising components," p. 27). Williams notes that many of the technical obstacles surrounding the linking of components have been overcome through the years. At the same time, new technical challenges have cropped up, as well as the more human problems of altering development methods and corporate cultures to meet the requirements of component-based development.
And, of course, the longstanding issue of component standards continues mostly unresolved. For example, as the Microsoft and Java camps continue to battle each other, key Java players IBM and Sun argue over the future of that standard as Tony Baer points out in his column ("Family matters," p. 16). At the same time, the CORBA standard of the Object Management Group (OMG) is still important to many an IT unit, while Smalltalk and other displaced object-oriented languages retain small followings.
Nevertheless, Williams points out that, however difficult, homegrown and packaged components can be integrated to a point, and corporations should still be looking to take advantage of components. The technologies and potential component development methods are advancing quickly. The quality of available off-the-shelf components is also rising swiftly. This story explains the state of component integration and where we can expect it to be in the coming months. We'll be sure to keep an eye on the progress of the effort and continue to report on it regularly.
Mike Bucken is former Editor-in-Chief of Application Development Trends magazine.