>In terms of American cultural currency, Harvard University has a vaunted legacy. But it has another legacy that is just like any other big company’s -- that is mainframe-based systems that must be made interactive, and fast! As a result, the famed institution in Cambridge, Mass. turned to its MIS staff, who turned to advanced systems integrators like Nevo Technologies (also of Cambridge), which in turn called upon IBM VisualAge tools for assistance.
The task faced by Jon Clay and Ken Leeden, CTO and CEO, respectively, of Nevo was to improve access to Harvard’s non-financial information. The system that held a databank of transcripts, grades, names of faculty and students and such was originally introduced in 1980.
"Now we are bringing in a very leading-edge, all-Java-based system," said Nevo CEO Leeden. The evolving system is a three-tiered, multiplatform set-up that uses the Visigenic (Borland) VisiBroker Corba ORB as middleware, and an Oracle DB for persistent data storage. Commenting on this latter aspect of the design, Leeden said that his firm’s experience has led to the conclusion that "part of good design is to use the database as a database."
Said CTO Clay: "This really is a distributed object system. There are multiple objects working on multiple machines with different operating systems and different languages." The vast bulk of the new writing, he noted, has been in Java. IBM’s VisualAge for Java and Visual Enterprise Application Builder were used for Java code generation. In Nevo’s original experience with Web design, experience taught that two-tiered architectures where HTML forms were connected to databases showed no flexibility over time, Clay added.