Web development tools enter the next generation

Peggy Watt
Network World

Dec 2, 1996

You can tell a market is maturing when its tools get more sophisticated, more numerous and even released into the second and third generation. So it is within the intranet arena. The application development environments, editing and publishing utilities, management tools and other instruments of programming being used to design and deploy intranets are no longer a hodgepodge of favorites from past projects.

Today, intranet developers have lots of good Web-specific options to sort through - a task that sometimes is as much a challenge as sifting through the melange of the not-too-distant past. But they don't have to relearn everything; most application development products accommodate programmers' favorite tools along with the Web-oriented new stuff.

Authoring/development tools

Four Seasons Software, Inc. (4seasons .com) combines client/server and Web technologies in its SuperNova application development tool, which it recently updated to help move existing applications to an intranet.

The tool, called SuperNova 5.0//Web, revamps the company's existing fourth-generation language development environment, adding support for Web applications, says Jossi Gil, president of Four Seasons. One new component helps developers Webify any E-mail system by encrypting messages and code sent across the World-Wide Web. The E-mail extension also supports authentication via digital signatures.

Four Seasons added Web technology through object components, Gil says. Developers can create Web applications by generating HTML code objects from the SuperNova environment.

In development for release in the first quarter of 1997 is an application state server component, which tracks transactions to ensure they are completed, addressing the problem of the Web's statelessness, Gil adds. Four Seasons also is adding Java support as an object component.

Pricing for SuperNova 5.0//Web begins at $5,000, depending on the user's operating system platform.

Web development tools are moving into the second generation from several vendors. Allen Systems Group, Inc. recently posted Version 2.0 of its Web Galaxy rapid application development builder for download from its Web site - webgalaxy.net. The tool, which includes new programmer's utilities and feature options, has a graphical interface and generates Java code.

Web Galaxy 2.0 does not require programming. However, the software developers' kit (SDK) in the update gives programmers direct access to the application program interface and includes libraries of Java applets and Common Gateway Interface (CGI) script.

Programmers can build applications that generate either Java or CGI scripts so any browser can access the application, says Dave Bunker, general manager of the company's Web Solutions business unit.

Also new as part of Web Galaxy 2.0 is a forms-generation tool that automates form creation, without requiring programming.

Allen Systems Group requires licenses when its product is deployed on a server; fees begin at $5,000 for a Microsoft Corp. Windows NT system. Client licenses are not needed. Sample applications are posted on the Web at allensysgroup.com.

Another next-generation Web development environment is shipping from Haht Software, Inc. (haht.com), which released an SDK add-on along with an update to its Hahtsite integrated development environment.

The update, called Hahtsite 2.0, is intended to help IT managers quickly move existing applications into Web environments. It includes content generation and conversion tools, programming hooks for linking Web sites to existing client/server systems, and query functions to build into applications. The SDK provides a library of reusable code objects.

The package also provides management tools such as a programming activity log, Web site mapping and several views to check links.

The Application Server component of Hahtsite 2.0 is now available on several platforms, including IBM AIX, Sun Solaris and Windows NT; HP-UX implementation is scheduled to ship in the first quarter of 1997.

The Application Server costs 52,495 per server; licenses for the Integrated Development Environment part of Hahtsite 2.0 are $995 per user. The SDK is priced at $695 per user.

Another new Web-oriented programming environment supports existing object-oriented applications that follow the Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) standard. Iona Technologies, Ltd. (iona.com) was scheduled to ship last month OrbixWeb 2.0, which links to CORBA objects through Java applets.

The links can be live and retained to provide updates when information in the CORBA objects change, according to Iona. The function is similar to agent technology, but runs as a Java applet on the browser. OrbixWeb 2.0 also supports server-side development, so programmers can build back-end CORBA services into Java programs.

OrbixWeb 2.0 also is compatible with the Orbix Desktop for Windows, which supports Microsoft's ActiveX functions; it also supports, but does not require, Orbix/C++.

The product is available from the company's Web site; the SDK is priced at $2,500 and the run-time license is free.

Developers can mix and match their favorite tools inside the Web application development environment released in November by start-up Wallop Software, Inc. (wallop.com). The program, called Build-IT, provides for "free-range development inside the firewall," says Rob Bolt, the company's chief executive officer and cofounder.

The environment is designed to accommodate a variety of editors, languages, utilities and other programming implements in a collaborative workspace created particularly for Web application development. The development environment provides a single, common view of an application's components, such as code objects, pages, applets and images.

Build-IT supports common Web servers and access by any browser, accommodates basic Web technologies such as GIF, HTML and Perl, and works with emerging standards such as ActiveX, Java and various multimedia functions. It also can import existing applications for further development or testing.

The package, which includes some management functions to track progress, runs on Windows NT and Windows 95 systems. It costs $2,945.

Even as a relatively new Internet standard, Java already invites extensions. Start-up Net-It Software Corp. (net-it.com) is promoting the Java Document (jDoc) format in conjunction with its Net-It Now publishing tool.

Net-It Now converts existing documents from a variety of common word-processing and publishing formats to a form of HTML that uses jDoc. This means the document immediately supports Java calls and code without needing plug-in functions.

The built-in Java support distinguishes Net-It Now from other document conversion tools, says Dennis Ryan, president of Net-It.

"Net-It Now retains the format of the document before conversion, but Java-enables it for any Java-aware browser," Ryan explains.

Net-It Now also provides management and editing tools for the jDoc pages, but programmers can use Java or any other object-oriented language tools to redesign jDoc pages, Ryan says. The jDoc file also can retain links to the original document and reflect changes to that file.

Net-It, which is soliciting other developers and independent software vendors to support the jDoc format, is working on an advanced version of Net-It Now that will support general multimedia functions. This version of the product, costing $99, supports Windows NT and Windows 95; versions for other platforms are under consideration, Ryan says.

Collaboration tools

StarBase Corp. (starbasecorp.com) has extended its collaborative project management application to reach across the Web. The firm markets a family of applications it calls an integrated team environment, intended to help workgroups communicate and work more easily with remote team members.

StarTeam Server and StarTeam Workstation, introduced last summer, provide traditional client/server architecture for collaborative tasks. Both were recently updated and joined by StarTeam Web Connect, which allows clients to call into the StarTeam environment from any standard browser.

The tools were originally designed to help programmers coordinate a team's work, and many early adopters use the StarTeam family for development, says Bill Stow, StarBase chairman. "We realized we needed to serve workers other than engineers," Stow says.

The product accommodates general project management, offering threaded discussion groups, project and task views and user-defined links among files or documents. The remote access makes it easy to draw in outside contractors or team members who are traveling. A team leader can designate access, either by directory or by file; for example, some data may be designated read-only or not available for simultaneous access, to prevent overwrites.

"In our company, we're down to about onetenth of the meetings we used to have, by using the StarTeam environment," Stow says.

Web Connect, the Web interface to StarTeam Server, works with any HTTP server, and StarTeam can interface to Lotus Development Corp. Notes via the Domino Web server, Stow says. The program integrates through Microsoft's Messaging Application Programming Interface (MAPI) to most E-mail systems, so mail messages can link to files in StarTeam.

Both the StarTeam 2.0 Server and Web Connect server are priced at $995; licenses for StarTeam 2.0 Workstation cost $549 per desktop.

A new conference server from DataBeam Corp. (databeam.com) is designed to provide collaborative functions to even the most basic intranet. The new software, called neT.120 Conference Server (because of its T.120 compliance), provides real-time, multipoint conferencing features to anyone connecting with an HTML browser, regardless of desktop platform.

Clients running conferencing applications such as DataBeam's own FarSite, Intel Corp.'s ProShare and Microsoft's NetMeeting can take further advantage of the conferencing features. They may join in whiteboard-style annotations, document editing and live presentations in addition to the basic threaded conferencing.

Network managers install the neT.120 Conference Server as a link to a corporate Web site. One server supports hundreds of conference participants. Add-on functions include links to Microsoft Open Database Connectivity databases, remote management tools, and test and maintenance applications; developers can write their own enhancements and add-ons, such as Java applets, to customize a conference facility.

The neT.120 Conference Server is available in versions for Solaris 2.5 and Windows NT Server; it works with any HTTP server that supports CGI scripting. License prices begin at $495 for a server and support for eight concurrent users; a free evaluation version is available from the company's Web site.

Web servers

Products are pairing and blending, as intranet developers determine the essentials for the well-run Web server. Folio Corp. (folio.com) recently released Folio siteDirector, its Web server that pairs with the Folio data manager to collect and display information in HTML format. The update is being followed by a new version of the Folio infobase builder.

Folio siteDirector 3.0 is the newest version of the product originally called Infobase Web Server. However, siteDirector provides Web management functions and tighter integration with the infobases generated by the Folio flagship product than a standard Web server.

Folio 4.0, the newest update to the infobase builder, is scheduled to ship by year-end. It adds support for ActiveX controls and builds in management options to set access and keep usage records, as needed for intranet or Internet access, says Jay Fiore, Folio's corporate marketing director.

Folio builds infobases by indexing and sorting documents and data files, which can be retrieved by free-form queries. Used with siteDirector, infobase queries can be executed via a browser. Folio siteDirector translates infobases to HTML as needed. It uses Microsoft's Internet Server API and CGI.

Folio siteDirector includes editing tools for Web pages, and supports HTML 3 and HTML extensions such as enhanced graphics and frames, as well as Java scripts. It also generates a dynamic table of contents for a Web site and can map file locations.

Prices for Folio 4 vary with the license configuration, but start at $295 for a single-user client license and $1,995 for the infobase builder component. Folio siteDirector 3.0 is priced at $9,995.

Also in the world of search tools, Inference Corp. (inference.com) has updated CasePoint WebServer, which can browse and search databases created and indexed by Inference's content manager. It also now integrates with standard firewalls for secure access over the Internet.

CasePoint WebServer has a point-and-click interface for making queries and managing data resources. It uses case-based technology to offer free-form searches that consider context and ref erences for nested searches. It has been deployed in help desk, customer support and sales information applications, the company says.

Inference and Trusted Information Systems, Inc. (tis.com) have shared technology, so CasePoint WebServer can integrate with the TIS Gauntlet family of firewall software, which supports cryptology and security.

The product is available in versions for OS/2, Sun Solaris and Windows NT Pricing is $3,500 per concurrent user or connection, to a maximum of $100,000 per server for unlimited access.

Web server developer O'Reilly & Associates, Inc. (statisphere.ora.com) is now shipping Statisphere, a Web traffic cop that tracks, graphs, and reports on server activity.

The analysis tool runs on Windows NT or Windows 95 and can analyze log files from most Web servers, including Macintosh and Unix systems. Statisphere generates real-time graphs and updates system statistics every minute.

The program can track the number of users that visit a site by day, week or month; determine the most frequently visited sections; identify links to referring sites; and measure traffic during peak periods. It can simultaneously monitor up to 16 servers, and generate logs for each. Statisphere is priced at $399.

Copyright Network World Inc.