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Cross-Platform Porting Tools Speed Development

It’s not uncommon to have development teams who are proficient in a Microsoft environment, but customers who demand applications that run on J2EE, UNIX or Linux. Solutions such as rewriting the code or manually porting it after development can take many months.

Reuse might be a better approach, and software porting firm Mainsoft is gaining traction with a variety of solutions that allow users to develop and maintain code in a Microsoft environment for reuse on other platforms. Mainsoft's Visual MainWin product line can help C++ developers end up with code for UNIX or Linux, for example. Mainsoft products include solutions for .NET to J2EE, .NET to Linux, and C++ to UNIX and Linux.

The Visual MainWin product suite enables C++ developers, for example, to write enterprise-class applications in Microsoft Visual Studio IDE, then deploy them natively on a variety of UNIX and Linux platforms. Visual MainWin version 5 for UNIX and Linux supports 15 Linux and UNIX platforms, including versions of Sun Solaris 8, 9 and 10 for SPARC, AMD Opteron and Intel processor-based architectures. The company says the product offers enterprise-class performance and scalability.

One company that has benefited from Mainsoft’s solutions is ESRI, a global firm that produces geographic information system (GIS) software and technology. The products have a wide spectrum of uses, from the federal government to private industry, which means a diverse set of platform requirements from customers.

ESRI has used Mainsoft’s cross-platform products since 2000; it recently used Visual MainWin for UNIX and Linux to port its new Arc GIS 9.0.1 software products from a Windows-based operating system to Linux.

In January, ESRI released a developer version of its GIS software on Solaris and Linux. Driven by a market requirement from the U.S. government to deliver cross-platform developer technology, ESRI built ArcGIS as a component-based technology using Microsoft development tools. It then used Visual MainWin to port it to Linux.

The port using MainWin is part of a much larger project at ESRI, according to Rich Turner, ArcGIS product manager. The five-year undertaking is “an entire rewrite of our complete GIS technology from FORTRAN and legacy code, using Microsoft component technology,” Turner says. The goal: Functionality for whatever platform and environment the customer might have, all built on a common infrastructure.

In ESRI’s case, MainSoft provided a good solution to cross-platform development needs. Because of resource constraints, time-to-market requirements, and ESRI's investments in Microsoft technologies, re-engineering the ArcGIS component technology and maintaining multiple code bases wasn’t an option. 

Without the help of Visual MainWin, Turner said, his development effort in moving the product to Linux would have been much larger, too large to even calculate. “Basically, we would have had to duplicate our engineering staff to do the development. [The cost] would have been significant, and we wouldn’t have been able to get to market quickly at all.”

About the Author

Linda Briggs is a freelance writer based in San Diego, Calif. She can be reached at lbriggs@lindabriggs.com.

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