The lowdown on RAD tools

What are they? RAD tools are software that can be used to quickly build applications others can use. Enterprise RAD tools connect to vital organizational computing resources, including legacy mainfraime applications, databases and packaged applications. They can be used to build citizen-facing Web applications, internal applications, or Web services that integrate older applications in new ways.

Who uses them? Some enterprise RAD tools are designed for power users'information workers familiar with the requirements for the application to be built and who may even be regular users of the application. Others are designed to simplify normal development tasks, handling the architectural requirements of software development so programmers can work faster.

How much do they cost? That depends on how much automation you want to buy. At the low end of the scale'tools that require you to actually learn a programming language'they can cost as little as $100 per developer. At the high end, where most of the programming is done by the software, systems can run in the thousands of dollars per developer.

Must-know info? If you're looking for a tool to build applications that can be customized later by experienced developers, moved to different server platforms or targeted to clients, and easily documented down to the source code level, you'll want a tool that works with a standard development environment such as Java 2 Enterprise Edition or Microsoft's .Net application framework. If high productivity is more important, your choice should be governed by who's going to be doing the development work and what features you'll need for your applications.

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