Published in Solutions Integrator by Joe Devlin and Emily Berk Click here for list of articles
  March 15, 1998 RAD tools begin to take on multi-tiered application development
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The RAD paradigm becomes more, not less, important as we move from two-to three-tier development. Scott Hebner, IBM Software

 

     

The Midas Touch

Borland's blend of RAD and Midas middleware lets Midwestern integrator tackle a $40-million n-tier project.

Cris Ross knows from experience that RAD tools aren't just for pretty GUIs anymore. The president of Artemis Alliance, a five year old, 35-person custom software integrator in St. Paul, MN, specializes in client/server and multitier development for government and commercial clients.

Ross also happens to be lead consultant on a large project for the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Using Borland's Delphi (and the Midas middleware extensions built into the current version of Delphi tools), Artemis is helping build a system capable of supporting 2,500 users distributed among 100 different servers.

Minnesota integrator, Cris Ross uses the new generation of RAD tools to ease his state's growing pains.

The $40-million project, begun last July and slated for completion by year-end 1998, cried out for a three-tier implementation, says Ross. Each county in Minnesota maintains its own data on Human Services clients, he explains, so 100 separate servers are required.

However, the rules that drive how each county is supposed to manage its caseload come from the state and federal governments, so all these servers work from a single, constantly updated rules engine. The 3,000 child welfare caseworkers that use the system are scattered across the state and they needed a maintenance-free thin-client application.

Spared The Usual Headaches

The Midas middleware tools provided an easy way to pull this off, says Ross. We created a flexible and robust middle layer quickly, while facilitating connectivity to all major database platforms. In this particular project, hooks to an Oracle relational database were key, as was the ability to write a thin-client app for the Windows 95 PCs of caseworkers.

Midas also let Artemis developers interact with remote data sets using the same Delphi components they employ for two-tier client/server coding. And Delphi's support for COM, DCOM, and TCP/IP is superb, says Craig Johnson, a principal architect on the project. It saves us from the usual headaches of hooking NT servers and thin clients together.

In this case, Johnson and his team wrote the hooks using the DCOM tools they were most familiar with. When it was time to add TCP/IP, Delphi did it automatically-no program changes required.

Who's Ready For n Tier?

If Delphi makes n-tier development so easy, why aren't more of Artemis's projects n tier? The tools may be ready for n tier development, Johnson warns, but not all customers are.

Because n tier requires a different type of analysis than does client/server, Johnson explains, you're forced to think deeply about how to pool sessions and manage security most efficiently It gets even more complicated with the distributed-logic requirements for thin clients.

This deeper level of planning and testing demands more time, which translates into higher project costs for n-tier applications. Many corporate development budgets aren't prepared for these costs, even if Artemis is ready to deliver.

 
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