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David Dewan
VP, product strategy SilverStream

JDJ: How is Java used in SilverStream?
Dewan: Java is used throughout SilverStream. The application itself is written in Java completely. It is now over a million lines of code., so it is one of the largest, if not the largest, commercial Java applications that exists. It is a full application server as well as a full development environment. All of the development tools, all of the interfaces, also are built in Java. The final thing is that Java is the programming language that our customers use. Since SilverStream is a development environment for building applications, the programming language in SilverStream is also Java. Of course, that ties in very nicely because you can build an application, just compile it and use it immediately. You don't have to go through the normal linking steps and so on. We found it a very productive environment. Our developers - and they are pretty conservative developers - estimated a 2 to 1 improvement in time to market doing SilverStream and Java as opposed to doing it in C. We have done a lot of C code over the years, so I think that assessment is probably correct.

JDJ: You have a new release. Was it at the Expo? Did you debut it?
Dewan: Just a little before the conference. So SilverStream version 2 is out now and of course in any version 2 you have a lot of features. The important areas were in scalability and reliability. Scalability... allows you to build a cluster of SilverStream Servers. So you put together an application that gets more popular than you thought - and that happens a lot on the Web - you can simply add another SilverStream server or three or four or five. And it scales almost linearly. We will get almost five times the performance out of a five-server cluster as with a single server.

Of course another benefit of that is reliability. If you are running a cluster of servers and one of them goes down, then the other three or four or whatever can continue running the application. And that's only part of it in terms of reliability. We have server failover, which means if a server goes down the applications can keep running.


David Dewan
VP, product strategy SilverStream

We also put in SilverStream 2.0 session-level failover, which means if you are halfway through entering your book order, for example, and a server goes down, the session itself from all the customers or users who are on that particular computer will get transferred with their session state information to another server and then the work will continue as usual. So that was certainly one of the big features in 2.0 - enterprise scalability.

The other thing in terms of major features we found is connectivity. We found that an application server is a piece of infrastructure. It needs to connect not just to relational databases for new applications but also to all the existing data sources. So for example, we added in DB2 connectivity for databases. We also added connectivity to Lotus Notes, for SAP, and for PeopleSoft and the ability in fact to connect to any data source. You just write some code in Java and you can connect to the data source. From the client developer's point of view, it looks just like a relational database table. So it is a very familiar way of programming but can connect to just about anything that's out there.

JDJ: What kind of applications are your customers developing?
Dewan: Well, it's all over the map. They have financial applications, accounting applications, workflow applications, distribution, some that are working internally within a company, perhaps monitoring new products or drug testing, for example, and other products that are doing e-commerce and are running literally all over the world. And we have two airlines that are doing scheduling and ticket sales over the Internet with SilverStream applications. It's a very wide range from internal control and workflow applications out through Web and e-commerce applications that run all over the world.


David Dewan
VP, product strategy SilverStream

JDJ: What makes your product more appealing to the consumer? What are they going to look at and say, wow, that's what I'm looking for?
Dewan: One is the ability to build very large scalable applications. We found over and over again that an application that starts out for a certain sized audience gets loose and ends up with many more. For example, we have an application in the state of Texas to monitor children that are placed in foster homes. That was originally designed to work for just 12 judges. It turned out to be very popular; it is now used by 300 judges and the people who work in the court system all over the state, and of course they needed to scale up the support for that application. It is used all day by hundreds of hundreds of users throughout the state. So scalability, reliability, the ability to build large applications are important.

The second is more related to the development side. SilverStream has a full set of development tools for building Java-based forms, for building the Java logic - a color-coded editor and compiler and so on - all built in as part of the SilverStream product. And time-to-market is so important now, whether it might be time-to-market for an internal application or for something that's really going out to the market. It is always important to get these done quickly, to get it done well, then to be able to change it, to be able to modify it, to enhance, to add to it, to do that just about at real time. So the development tools that are built into SilverStream, I would say, are the second major area in terms of appeal of the product. You see it at the booth here at the show and see it on the Web site in terms of how that actually works.

The third big area has to do with business objects, the ability to encapsulate logic, such as server-scheduled objects connecting into a mail server. We've got CORBA support because there is plenty of CORBA in the world and the more enterprise an application is, the more likely it is to use CORBA. We put full CORBA support into the version 2.


David Dewan
VP, product strategy SilverStream

And the final feature I think is the broad connectivity. Every single customer has a variety of data sources ranging from traditional databases, many different brands usually, to the more nontraditional sources. That could be CICS or MQ Series or it could be applications like SAP and PeopleSoft. SilverStream provides the ability out of the box to connect to a wide variety of data sources. Those have been the things I think that have been most appealing. Couple that with support that's worldwide, the strong training that's available - again worldwide - and a management team that has been through this before. So on the one hand we are not a group of 25-year-olds that can work all night. No, our all-nighters are behind us. But on the other hand, we have been through the experience of building a large successful software company and understanding the development process and so on, and I think certainly our large customer base. That is very important too. They know they are dealing with a management that understands their needs and concerns and has a track record of dealing with this.

 

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