Create network-centric apps

Tim Hoechst, an evangelist for
network computing, says the federal government eventually will reap maintenance benefits
and save money by adopting a network-centric computing model.


Hoechst, vice president of technology for Oracle Corp.’s government, education
and health sectors, joined Oracle in 1989 after graduating from Harvard University with a
bachelor’s degree in computer science.


GCN senior editor Florence Olsen interviewed Hoechst at his office in Bethesda, Md.


GCN: What do agencies gain by developing
applications that run only on a network instead of on a PC at a manager’s desk?


HOECHST: Maintenance moves to the network, so you can have one person administering
thousands of PCs instead of merely tens of PCs. You save money.


GCN: So what is preventing network computing from
taking off?


HOECHST: Companies like Oracle are still developing the tools to build network-centric
applications. We’re disagreeing at the moment about which standard is
best—whether it should be the Common Object Request Broker Architecture or the
Distributed Component Object Model from Microsoft Corp.


We’re hoping we can agree on as few standards as possible to make it all work
together. Step 1 is agreeing on an authentication standard. Step 2 is agreeing to support
Java.


GCN: Why is there still disagreement about Java?


HOECHST: Java is a little immature. We had the same problems with computer hardware.
Java is just a software computer, and right now you have 20 different flavors and releases
of the Java computer, so how do you program to it?


Until Java gets nailed down, which it will, you can’t trust that when you write a
piece of software for one Java computer, it will run on another.


Java will uniquely solve the problem of writing a program that will run on
anybody’s computer, and that’s what we need. Distributing data is not the
problem anymore. The hard part is distributing applications.


GCN: How does the network-centric model make
distributing the applications easier?


HOECHST: What if the applications you used were stored on the network in a database and
managed with the same concurrency as the data? A programmer could be editing an
application program, so you couldn’t access the version being edited.


There are all sorts of complexities in managing such shared access to anything.
We’ve solved the complexities of managing shared access to data but not shared access
to applications, let alone the complexities of version control and of applications calling
each other. All of that will be managed inside the database.


GCN: What kind of product does Oracle plan for
this?


HOECHST: Oracle Application Server 4.0 will be a fully distributed application server.
It is going to do for applications what Oracle did for data. It will store, deliver and
manage all the apps in a network environment. 


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