Inprise Brokers New Application Server

It's been a whirlwind 6 months for Inprise Corp. (Scotts Valley, Calif., The company, formerly known as Borland Int'l Inc., acquired Visigenic Software, changed its name, and changed its focus from desktop to enterprise development. These changes will soon bear fruit: Inprise will be shipping its Application Server by the end of the year, says Del Yocam, chairman and CEO of Inprise. The Application Server combines its line of Borland application development tools with Visigenic's VisiBroker CORBA-based middleware.

Amid predictions that up to 80 percent of new server-based applications will be built on componentware within the next 3 years, component-based application servers are a potential market opportunity that Inprise and a host of other major vendors find hard to resist. In fact, some analysts feel that Inprise has a tough road ahead with some heavy-hitting competition. Yefim Natis, research director with Gartner Group (Stamford, Conn.), rattles off a growing list of competing applications servers: Microsoft Transaction Server, IBM Websphere and ComponentBroker, Oracle Application Server, Netscape Application Server, Sun's Net Dynamics Application Server, BEA Systems Inc.'s M3, Iona Technologies' Orbix OTM, and Sybase Application Server. "Though somewhat different, the products are all formidable competition for Inprise," Natis says. "There are big names there."

At this time, BEA Systems (Sunnyvale, Calif., and Iona Technologies (Cambridge, Mass., represent Inprise's most direct competitors, says Inprise's Yocam. However, breaking into a "systematic" application development market such as BEA's is not an easy task, Gartner Group's Natis says. In a systematic market, users acquire products only after exhaustive planning and research. "It will take Inprise several years to qualify and penetrate into the systematic market," he says. "It's a very hard market to get into -- new players don't get in easily." Instead, Inprise's growth will be in the more "opportunistic market," in which products are purchased because of unique advantages they offer.

Inprise executives acknowledge that it will take time before their Application Server becomes part of enterprise applications deployments. "As we deliver quarter by quarter, we'll build confidence and credibility," says Inprise's Yocam. Inprise's solution, which incorporates development tools, offers a "simpler process," he adds. "BEA has very scalable TP monitors, but it's a very complex system."

Experience may help. Inprise learned some lessons about enterprise application development from its previous foray into this market, when Borland acquired Open Environment Corp. and its Entera middleware product, Gartner Group's Natis points out. "It was a major failure," he says. "Borland did not know what they where doing. They squandered the whole thing." This second attempt into enterprise middleware "is more organized," Natis continues. "They placed Visigenic Technology -- VisiBroker -- at the center of their strategy. Last time, they tried to adapt Entera to everything else they were doing."

A key component of Inprise's Application Server will be VisiBroker Integrated Transaction Service (ITS), which enables development of Internet-based applications, integration with legacy environments, and support for multiple and concurrent transactions. The framework is structured to handle "tens of thousands of users accessing information for processing transactions all at one time," says Yocam. Inprise Application Server integrates with the company's line of visual development tools, including JBuilder, Delphi and C++Builder. "Because our heritage and roots are with development tools, we can provide seamless integration between those tools and the Application Server," says Yocam. "This solution covers you from development, deployment and management." Along with its CORBA-based infrastructure, Yocam sees this as a competitive advantage over other application servers coming on the market.

An additional feature to be included with Inprise Application Server is a Java-based user interface that enables systems administrators to view and configure components of their distributed applications across the network. Also, through the Inprise Application Server's CORBA foundation and future support for Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB), customers will have access to existing legacy applications, databases and ERP systems, and can extend them to the Web.

In a separate announcement, Inprise announced it has begun shipping Borland Delphi 4, a new version of its rapid application development tool for Windows. Delphi 4 is available in three versions: Delphi 4 Client/Server Suite, Delphi 4 Professional and Delphi 4 Standard.