Application servers not always the answer

Many organizations that once had a client/server infrastructure have moved to distributed systems, but they are not really taking advantage of what application servers have to offer, according to John Fisher.

Fisher, president of Markham, Ont.-based software maker Borland Canada, said the motivation for going to a distributed system and using an application server as a platform was that people could separate business logic from the presentation layer.

“You could leave the presentation layer alone and change the plumbing and add it in the background without affecting the users,” he said.

One of the problems is that people moved to application servers when they didn’t have to. Fisher said two or three years ago people spent a lot of money on app servers and were using them to drive JSPs (Java Server Pages) and servlets, when the servers are better suited to something needing more scalability such as EJBs (Enterprise JavaBeans).

“They are using a truck to carry something that would fit on a bike,” he said.

Borland recently introduced its Enterprise Server 5.1, which is a J2EE 1.3-compliant application server designed for highly scaled deployment of distributed applications and some Web services.

Fisher stressed that some Web services will not need the “heavy-lifting” app server and would be better with something akin to Borland’s Web server. He did note that more enterprises are developing EJBs and are going to need to look at an application server as a result.

“If you need more scalability and additional features, then we would recommend an application server,” he said.

Borland’s app server has a common interface, which allows users to switch to another server product in the future, if needed. Fisher said the server has Busy Broker as its underpinnings with CORBA as a key part of the application server, which will allow for “speedy” rollouts.

Kevin Dean, CTO for Mississauga, Ont.-based BladeNET Communications, said real-time updating is very important for his company, which develops software for the amateur sports community. Real-time scheduling on the Web is a key part of its business.

BladeNET uses Borland’s Enterprise Server to host all components of its application and to provide the Web tier.

Dean said it helps to be able to maintain all servers from a single station. “I don’t have to go from one station to the next to work on applications. We can focus more time on application development.”

New version deployments are handled through a single common line and then the production system is updated automatically, Dean said. Looking to the future, Dean said he would like to see some of the internal management applications grow to encompass external management as well.

Fisher encouraged people to learn more about taking full advantage of J2EE by contacting companies that provide support for it.