Agencies milk the Web for help

Some agencies are turning to the World Wide Web for daily transactions such as issuing
permits and accepting payments.


"We're trying to discover how the Web can help us get our work done," said
Chris Hopkins, senior technical specialist in the Bureau of Land Management's New Mexico
office.


Hopkins already has chosen the first transaction-based application he wants to get up
and running on the Web. It will maintain lists of vendors that want to bid on BLM
contracts. "The vendors will put themselves on the lists they want to be on and keep
themselves up to date, so we don't have to maintain that list," Hopkins said.


But the regional office, which issues permits for everything from wood gathering and
recreation to oil and gas extraction, wants to do far more than keep lists and issue
permits online. "We've got to figure out how to collect money on the Web,"
Hopkins said. "We're not there yet."


Hopkins' group selected a transactional application development tool, JAM/Web from
JYACC Inc. of New York, to build the application.


"I've been waiting while I got the tool under control," Hopkins said.
"Now we're ready to go talk in some serious detail with the users, and that should us
take a couple of months."


The two-tier, client-server procurement application will be deployed on two IBM Corp.
RS/6000 servers running AIX, one on each side of the regional office's IP firewall.


Unlike some other BLM regional offices, the New Mexico state office is replacing its
386 and 486 PCs with IBM Corp. X terminals. "Almost everything we do is somehow
related to a map and involves very complex data sets," Hopkins said. "We wanted
to make sure we had enough horsepower on the desktops to be able to run it all."


Developers working with JAM/Web can build transaction-based applications that let
Structured Query Language code pass through the firewall and update internal database
server applications. The firewall risk "is manageable," said Charles McGuinness,
technical marketing director for JYACC.


JYACC also sells a three-tier development tool and transaction processing middleware
that lets only transaction requests pass through the firewall. "This is very
leading-edge," said Mark Jaffe, marketing vice president for JYACC's Prolifics
subsidiary.


The Prolifics tool for building three-tier partitioned applications combines
object-oriented programming techniques and rapid application development. RAD alone, Jaffe
said, actually fosters "a hacker's approach to development."


With Prolifics, developer teams get a visual repository and a transactional object
model to work with. Inside those transactional objects, Jaffe said, is all the code
required for database access, sorts, updates and deletes.


The tool's inheritance features boost productivity, Jaffe said, because "most
object programmers don't understand multiple inheritance."


Inheritance ensures consistency among clients, servers and database schema.


Included with the Prolifics three-tier development package is JetNet transaction
processing middleware based on the Tuxedo transaction monitor from BEA Systems Inc. of
Sunnyvale, Calif. It handles run-time load balancing.


Hopkins said he's not ready to take on three-tier development as long as the agency's
two-tier applications work well.


But Hopkins said he's glad "to have that option hanging out there if we ever need
to scale up."


The JYACC developer tools run on Microsoft Windows NT and Unix platforms including IBM
RS/6000, Digital Alpha, SunSoft Solaris and Hewlett-Packard HP-UX. Clients are available
for Motif, Windows 3.1, Windows 95, NT, MacOS and Santa Cruz Operation Open Desktop
operating systems, and for Web browsers.


A five-user Prolifics development license starts at $35,000. A JAM/Web license is
$2,000 for the server software and $3,150 each for two developer seats.


Contact Prolifics at 212-267-7722.


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