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Java is successfully making inroads into the enterprise market worldwide. But what is the right way to use Java in the enterprise? Many businesses are using Java to build serious business applications that have moved well beyond the applet model in terms of functionality, size and strength. Unlike traditional applications, which thus far have been confined to living inside a company's Intranet, these new Java-powered applications can be deployed outside of the traditional enterprise using the Internet, creating a direct link between the customer and the enterprise's information systems.

Take, for example, the SAVI application suite developed by OMIX. This Castanet-powered, mission-critical application suite allows real estate professionals to list, search and view property listings, as well as order newspaper advertising and area mailings. SAVI was created by OMIX for Alain Pinel Realtors and was deployed in March. The objective of the application suite is to boost productivity for Alain Pinel's sales executives by automating time intensive and laborious tasks by using Java. SAVI also generates Comparative Property Analyses, which help make the best pricing decisions when listing or buying a property.

This application is intended for Alain Pinel's internal use on a 10BaseT Ethernet LAN. However, the system will also be accessible by customers using a dial-up connection. SAVI creates a virtual office for over 400 sales professionals which is accessible anywhere, anytime to instantly search for information, maps and images of regional properties. Since SAVI is a mission-critical application for Alain Pinel, reliability is very important.

Deploying and managing such a widely distributed and media rich application is not a trivial task and requires sophisticated tools. Using the traditional browser-centric approach can be inefficient and require significant server resources, as well as a high bandwidth connection to the Internet. The richness of the media, as well as the sophistication of the required software, would make the application too slow to deploy as an applet over a 28.8k modem. To resolve this problem, the application is written entirely in Java and is distributed using Castanet, Marimba's intelligent Internet software management technology.

This is not simply a Java applet, or a few Web pages strung together with CGI bin scripts. This is a real Java application which runs off the local hard-disk and uses rich multimedia to present the user with a compelling interactive experience. OMIX has used a variety of Java tools to build this application: a JDBC implementation by WebLogic to access to an Oracle database containing over 1,000,000 records, and Marimba's Bongo, an extensible GUI builder for creating the user interface, as well as Castanet.

Castanet is used to manage the distribution and deployment of the resulting application in an efficient, scalable and robust manner. With Castanet, it is possible to publish new versions of the application and propagate the changes automatically to all users with very little overhead. This reduces the cost of deploying the application because it avoids manual software installation and management by a system administrator, or even a real estate agent. Updates of the application are not restricted to the code alone, Castanet also distributes data which describes available properties, information about location, as well as any promotional advertisements.

This is a great example of how to expand the reach of the Enterprise using the Internet, Java and Castanet. It not only gives real estate agents direct access to information, but it also allows direct access using dial-up connections by customers. All this allows Alain Pinel to provide real value added services, which involves much more than simple information push.

About the Author
Arthur van Hoff spent three years at Sun Microsystems where he played an important role in the development of the Java language, the Java compiler and the HotJava browser. In early 1996, he left Sun together with Kim Polese, Jonathan Payne and Sami Shaio to form Marimba Inc, a company dedicated to building solutions for the intelligent distribution and management of Internet applications.

 

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