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Insights on Borland


August 13, 2003

Editorial

Borland is a company that continues to change and evolve. It also is a company that doesn't seem to have chosen a side in the programming languages war. Rather, it has its own language tools and it supports the other key languages. Its Delphi product continues to have a loyal following. Its JBuilder product is one of several products that support the Java world. And most recently, its release of C#Builder has landed it in the center of the .NET world. It has even bridged a section of the language war with its Janeva product.

This year marks the 20th anniversary for Borland. As a company, it has come a long way in that 20 years. The company originally built databases, development tools, and other products. It was a company primarily developing products for developers. In the last 10 years, I believe that Borland has seen the most change. For a while, it seemed to have lost direction and the leaders seemed to forget the company's real name. A few years ago, the name was changed to Inprise and the focus switched to the middle tier. Fortunately, the name is back and so seems the focus.

Stepping back...

In the "old days," the important tool was a good compiler and a good editor. Many developers used an editor and a compiler. These were two different tools. Editors included products such as MultiEdit, Brief, and even the DOS edit program. As time evolved, so did the editors. Companies such as Borland and Microsoft released editors that also included a compiler. Using Microsoft's C++ compiler (before Visual C++), or the Borland tools such as Turbo C++ or Borland C++ (which were the industry leaders in the late 80's and early 90's), you could use an editor that had the compiler integrated into it. Debuggers and other testing tools have also evolved into the editors, which become integrated development environments. More recently, developers tool have also included design tools for doing modeling as well as the integration of database access tools. Tools for doing optimization, testing, source control and source collaboration, and many other features and processes have also evolved into the tools used by developers. While these tools all use to be separate, the tighter integration helps to provide synergy into the overall process of building business solutions (applications).

It should come as no surprise that additional synergies can still be gained by continuing the integration of the different tools from the different stages of the development lifecycle. This is one of the key realizations that the people at Borland have come to. It is also pivotal to the focus they have taken at Borland—the focus of delivering to the full application lifecycle. They are working towards providing the complete set of tools for managing the full application life cycle.

Adding to its existing set of products, Borland has acquired a number of other products that will help it build an Integrated LifeCycle Environment (ILE). This includes Together, which can be used in the design states of product development. CaliberRM was also acquired. It helps in the gathering and management of project requirements. A third product is Star Team, which is focused on collaboration and versioning. On the back end, Optimizeit Profiler helps with the optimization of code and application performance.

All of these products add to the existing line of Borland products in fitting the needs of today's businesses. While Borland has built great tools in the past, it has now shown a willingness to acquire a technology if it fits its needs. The results are shown in Figure 1—Borland is well on its way to building an ILE.

Figure 1—Application Lifecycle Management.

The Hype and the Industry Today...

If you listen to some companies that sell products, you'd get the impression that there is only one solution that can and should be implemented. If you listen to the .NET companies, it seems the hype is all about .NET being the right way. If you listen to those in the Java community, it seems that the hype is all about Java. You'll hear that J2EE is the solution, the "end-all, be-all" for enterprise development. Just ask the folks Sun Microsystems; I'll speculate that they will confirm this for you. If you ask the people at Microsoft, I'll again speculate that they will tell you that .NET is the best answer, especially if integrated with the servers and other products created by Microsoft.

In the real world (that is, the world that operates outside of all the marketing hype), most medium- to large-sized companies have implemented at least a little of both Sun's and Microsoft's technologies along with several other types of solutions. Many companies are still maintaining COBOL, PowerBuilder, or other legacy applications. Only a limited percentage are using just the software from one vendor, and even fewer are using just leading edge versions of the products.

Regardless of whom you ask, one area where the hype is consistent is in the area of standards. Everyone agrees that following standards is the way to help ensure that what you develop today will have a potentially longer life in the future. Of course, you have to figure out whose standards you are going to follow—especially when there are competing standards for accomplishing the same task! Using an older example, consider the concepts of building objects. Two "standards" developed several years back. One from Microsoft was the Common Object Model (COM). The other that evolved and is used more in the Java world is the Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA).

Two competing standards! This raises the question of which standard is the real standard. You'll find the same issue of competing standards when digging into topics such as Web services, wireless development, voice, accessing a database, and many other topics as well. The hype in the industry will try to lead you to believe one standard is better than another. In reality, for most of us it simply means that the word "standard" has lost some of its meaning and value. For Borland, it means that the tools need to be even smarter.

Back to Borland...

Borland seems to be laying low in the marketing and hype arena. More importantly, it seems to be focused on developing tools and solutions rather than simply trying to market hype. Borland is working to provide an infrastructure and a set of tools that will let you plan, develop, deploy, and maintain applications regardless of what other companies you align with. It is working to build tools for the key platforms. It is also working to build tools that help to integrate features of the key platforms together.

For example, the Janeva product allows you to integrate J2EE and Corba objects into your .NET applications. Such connectivity is just one of the areas where tools for real solutions are being provided so that enterprise connectivity and real world solutions can be developed. Better yet, this tool allows you to use both "standard" ways of using objects in your .NET applications—J2EE/CORBA objects are added in much the same way as COM objects. Janeva makes the use of these two competing technologies very similar. There is no extra expertise needed, nor is there any need for additional back-end software or support beyond the Janeva product. Borland is working to keep it simple.

In Conclusion

While Borland is working to provide full lifecycle support, it has not stepped away from its background in building development tools. In just the past few weeks, it has released its newest development tool that is aimed at .NET developers doing C#—Borland C# Builder. Look for a review of Borland C# Builder here on Developer.com in the near future.

At twenty years of age, Borland seems to be moving into adulthood as a company. It's left its rebellious teen years. It's grabbed back its real name, it's solidified its focus, and is forging forward by continuing to focus on its customers. For those of us who develop, it continues to work to provide the tools and the solutions to meet real would issues. It continues to straddle the lines that other companies (read Sun, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle) seem try to get us to believe exist. It is providing tools and solutions for the full lifecycle of building business solutions—solutions that can live across different platforms and across different standards. While Borland has had its ups and downs, it appears to be doing things right today.

Now, where is that Philippe Kahn jazz CD....

- Bradley L. Jones, Executive Editor

Have an opinion on Borland, ILEs, Philippe Kahn's CD, or technology in general? Come discuss them in the forums at www.CodeGuru.com/forum.

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