Inprise/Borland Brings CORBA to Windows Developers

Inprise Corp. (Scotts Valley, Calif., believes you have the right to choose -- between COM and CORBA, that is. Along with a host of other features, the newest versions of its Delphi and C++ development environments can create components that can connect to other components via Microsoft Corp.’s COM and the CORBA standard.

For those who haven’t heard, Inprise is the new name of Borland Corp. But although the company has changed its name, it has retained the familiar moniker for the newest versions of its development products, Borland Delphi 4 and Borland C++Builder Enterprise.

Many of the enhancements to Delphi 4, Inprise’s rapid application development (RAD) environment for Windows platforms, were made to its Multi-Tier Distributed Application Services (MIDAS). MIDAS handles communication among database servers, middle-tier business rules and clients, including remote systems.

MIDAS first became available in Delphi 3, but it has been significantly enhanced in the new version. In particular, MIDAS now enables developers to add simultaneous COM and CORBA support to components.

With this new feature, Inprise may be able to attract the segment of Windows developers who need to work in a CORBA-based environment, according to Phil Costa, an industry analyst for the Giga Information Group (Cambridge, Mass.). "Even if you're building applications on Windows, you still may be building on a CORBA infrastructure, especially if you're trying to tie into back-end systems that don't run on Windows," he says.

Developers are also demanding tools that can handle multiple protocols because of the increasing heterogeneity of their IT infrastructures, according to Zack Urlocker, Inprise's vice president of marketing. "The driving issue is interoperability. It's, 'Can I get to my server code from any tool?'" he says.

Michael Barnes, a senior analyst for the Hurwitz Group (Framingham, Mass.), agrees that application integration is becoming a more important issue for IT organization. "The ability to support more than one component model is increasingly important for more users," he says. "I don't think the choice of component models is an issue for IT organizations yet, but it will become increasingly more important.

In order to extend simultaneous COM/CORBA support to C++ developers, Inprise also released C++Builder Enterprise. The suite includes version 3 of C++Builder, which was released earlier this year, and two middleware tools that enable developers to create applications that support multiple protocols: Inprise VisiBroker, which supports CORBA, and Inprise Entera, which enables developers to encapsulate business logic in a shared middle tier so that it can be accessed by different client applications, including those based on RPC.

In addition to the CORBA support enhancements, Delphi’s MIDAS now also supports Microsoft Transaction Server (MTS) through the MTS Component and Deployment wizards. Delphi uses two-phase commit, which enables applications to perform transactions across different database servers. Delphi also supports the XA transaction standard, which enables other transaction servers to communicate with MTS' resource manager.

Other new MIDAS features include native support for Oracle8, Access97 and Informix 9; automatic support for updates to all master and detail data, which users can synchronize for laptops and other disconnected remote systems in Delphi-created applications through briefcase mode; MIDAS Client for Java, a set of JavaBean components that can be added on to Borland JBuilder to enable interaction between Java clients and business logic servers created in Delphi; load balancing: and automatic failover for DCOM and SocketServer.

Delphi 4 contains several non-MIDAS-related enhancements as well. Most focus on improving productivity, especially with regard to creating multitier applications, where both data and business rules can be shared and reused by multiple applications, according to Ben Riga, Delphi's product manager.

These enhancements include the AppBrowser IDE code editor, which allows developers to browse code through a Web browser-like interface; Visual Component Creation, which enables developers to combine components together and place the new component on the Delphi palette page; wizards for building Windows NT services, which launch on startup and run in the background; and a SQL Builder component, which visually constructs complex queries.

Several of the enhancements are also designed to make it easier for less advanced Delphi developers to use the product. The new version includes a Code Completion wizard, which provides the list of properties, methods or event names for the given component on which the developer is working; a Code Parameter wizard, which displays parameters for procedures, functions, methods and events in Windows ToolTips as the developer types; and ToolTip Expression Evaluation, which allows the developer to position the cursor over an object, variable, parameter, constant or any other expression and see the assigned value in a Windows ToolTip.

Delphi 4 also includes new debugging features, including module view, which allows the developer to view multiple modules within a single debug session; event logs, which show process control messages, breakpoint messages, OutputDebugString messages and windows messages; data watch breakpoints, which cause breaks when data is written to a specified memory address; integrated DLL debugging; and remote debugging for objects on remote machines.

The new version also includes enhancements to the Delphi language.