Development tools expected to flood the industry: Hurwitz

A three-year dry spell within the application development arena will soon snap as vendors flood the industry with new development software and tools.

This is according to Dave Kelly, vice-president, application strategies service at Hurwitz Group Inc. in Framingham, Mass., who expects to see significant changes in 1999.

The Y2K issue, Kelly said, has caused a slowdown in the production of tools, but although the year 2000 bug won’t be officially over until well after Jan. 1, 2000 enough companies will have resolved and tested their Y2K fixes by this June that application development will be hot again. Organizations that have conquered the Y2K bug will begin to invest again in customized development.

“Most companies have opted really to just do patches and fix the problem in the existing systems,” he said. “But I think that there’s going to be a significant portion of corporations that are essentially done with their Y2K problem by June or July. There’s a backlog of applications that has been created because people have put off application development until they got their Y2K problem fixed.”

But, Kelly said, organizations will be focusing their customer development in four main areas: investments in software architectures (including application servers and repositories); extending/customizing packaged applications; creating new e-business applications; and, wrapping and rewriting legacy systems.

Another of Kelly’s predictions is that 1999 will be the year Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) arrive – in tools at least. He expects EJBs to move from a mere spec to an actual product, with tangible deployment of EJBs in the second half of 1999, although widespread adoption will remain at least a year away. Interest in EJB will continue to be strong because many of the companies that Hurwitz Group has surveyed are looking for alternatives to Microsoft Corp.’s COM and DNA technologies for building enterprise applications, Kelly said.

“There’s certainly a significant amount of hype around the EJB specification and movement,” he added. “On the other hand I think there is a lot of potential and we will see in 1999 significant movement towards deployment of critical business applications based upon EJB. One of the reasons we’ll see this is there’s a significant number of vendors supporting it — Sun and IBM are both betting heavily on EJB.”

As well, Kelly said, a lot of corporate architects he’s spoken to have been considering CORBA infrastructures.

“This was probably four or five months ago they were in the consideration phase but I think we’ll see EJB deployed as a portion of IT systems in new development projects.”

Another area Kelly touched upon was process and modelling and workflow solutions. Application servers and development tools will add process modelling and workflow capabilities to make component applications more dynamic and manageable, he said.

“Business process modelling has been around for awhile and process and workflow has been around for awhile. Workflow has typically been oriented towards document automation – automating the flow of information between people or among people,” he said. “What’s new is the focus on workflow, automating the flow of information between not just people but also applications, or just among applications.

“So this starts to take us into the enterprise application integration area – that’s one of the key drivers because a lot of folks have packaged applications they’ve purchased that information has to flow between. And you may want to flow it into custom applications as well, and the most flexible way to do that is by incorporating some sort of workflow or sequencing software.”

Another driver is, just as people or organizations move towards component software and increase a number of components they’re deploying, workflow or process flow software is going to make the assembly, management and flexibility of these applications more significant, Kelly said.

“It is really a time-to-market issue from the business perspective. In order to be able to get your business to respond in a timely fashion, you’ve got to be able to dynamically change your application,” he said. “One of the best ways to do that is through some sort of process or workflow software that you can (use to) resequence pieces of the application or the business flow or the logic or the components.

“So if I have an order-entry system and I need to add an additional branch to go check inventory at my partner’s shop, if that’s hard-coded into the application that’s fairly difficult to do. If that’s defined by a set workflow or process flow, it’s more a matter of just adding a new node to that diagram.”