The cultural changes of component development

Experts have been touting a variety of different component-based software development schemes for many years. But most corporate I/S organizations have done little more than design some front-end GUIs using Java widgets or OCS controls. Critical enterprise-class applications continue to be developed from scratch.

Despite the hype from the vendor community, and from some consultants and analysts, most corporate developers have so far stayed away from serious component development. The promise sounds great -- as it has for at least a decade -- but for many reasons, few corporate development teams are using components to build important applications.

A lack of tools and technologies that can build solid, server-side components has been cited in many quarters as a key reason for the lack of I/S attention. Another reason, perhaps even more important than the immaturity of the technology, is a corporate culture that leads many business users to cringe at the thought of reusing a peer's business logic. As James Chong, vice president for architecture and planning at Charles Schwab & Co. told our Tony Baer, "Consumers of business logic are always cynical initially because they think that all of their processes are unique." It takes some strong arguments to convince users otherwise.

In this month's cover story, "The culture of components," consultant Baer reports on the status of some early efforts to develop large-scale component-based applications at several firms, including Schwab, Burlington Coat Factory, Emery Worldwide, Nationsbank and Barclays Merchant Services. I/S officials at these organizations talk about the trials and tribulations of implementing component development efforts, as well as the results of those efforts. Baer finds that while the process is not always smooth, the outcome can be worth the effort.

Our Northern California Correspondent, George Lawton, provides an update on the condition of the Java Virtual Machine in "The machines are virtual, the issues are real." Lawton says that while the Java VM still holds abundant promise, nagging questions about cross-platform compatibility and performance remain unresolved.

Also in this issue, Managing Editor Jack Vaughan continues his look at the technology options for integrating applications ("Let the data do the talking ... or, Keep an eye on objects"). In Part 2 of his two-part series, Vaughan explores how development firms are using objects and data to integrate packaged and/or internally developed applications.

About the Author

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