Software bridges the platform barrier

In early 1969, an unknown British band called Led Zeppelin released its first album, and one song title in particular, Communication Breakdown, addresses a major concern today in technology in regards to differing operating systems being able to talk to one another. But one Canadian company claims its software has platforms talking up a storm.

Vancouver-based Intrinsyc developed the J-Integra in 1998, a piece software written completely in Java that is a component object model (COM) – a Java bridging tool. It allows the user to access COM components from Java as if they were Java objects, and conversely Java objects from COM as though they were COM components. The ability lies in the use of Java.

“It is completely in Java, meaning you can integrate between the Java and Microsoft worlds. You can use Java without having to use platform-specific codes because Java is platform independent,” said Damion Mehers chief architect at Intrinsyc. The software features pure Java distributed component object model (DCOM) implementation, high-speed native mode for Windows platform and Java Virtual Machine (JVM) across any platform. He said the software transparently translates the Java request from the Java software into COM requests using the DCOM protocol.

Once the JVM is loaded, you can access Java objects through the DLL to perform calculations or talk to the back end from the program language and the Java window of the JVM will then be loaded into the Excel process space. One of the advantages, Mehers said, is that Visual Basic programmers don’t need to learn anything about Java but can re-use their existing system to access the Java world.

“(It) let’s you talk from a Java program, for example running on a Unix machine to talk to Excel or Exchange or any other COM based product running on Windows. From the Java programmers perspective all you see is standard Java.”

One industry analyst said that company chose Java for one specific reason over other program languages.

“The advantage of it being written in Java is platform independence. An advantage over using a native language like C++ is that it doesn’t migrate well (and) you would have to modify it to run on a disparate operating system”, said Alister Sutherland, director of software at IDC Canada in Toronto. He called the product a pre-built middleware between Active X components and operating systems, provided a JVM is installed.

He added that the middleware market is a growth area because with so many different operating environments based on different generations of technology, there is a need for these different systems to be able to communicate. “That’s like the Holy Grail at this point, to Web enable all these environments operating under a common interface.”

Dan Lamb, software asset management consultant at Corporate Software in Calgary, Alta., agreed that there is a need for cross platform interoperability. “In the past you would build a product for a specific platform and there it sits as did the data,” but added that products like the J-Integra are addressing a problem that has existed for nearly a decade.