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Web services reignite component reuse

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InfoWorld

(IDG) -- Based on industry standards and application components, the emergence of Web services is breathing life into the long-heralded idea of reusing software code.

And just as the Web services development framework creeps into the enterprise, an emerging marketplace is sprouting up to support the reuse of code, including hosted application development life-cycle services and prewritten component brokers.

Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle in a couple of weeks will announce community code and collaborative development extensions to its Oracle Technology Network. These will arm disparate developer teams with the tools to manage, track, and test software components online, officials said.

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The highlight of this free service is that once the components are built, they can be placed into other applications, saving developers the trouble of rewriting code that already exists.

Also this week, Oakland, Calif.-based iSpheres will unveil what it claims is the first framework for developing meta applications. Dubbed the MetaApp Framework, the technology allows corporate users to convert existing Web and non-Web applications and services into reusable components that can then be used to build new applications for locating business events (such as transactions or automatic triggers that routinely occur in things like supply-chain applications).

iSpheres officials believe their product and others like it will help revive confidence in the benefits of reusable code for application development. These products are being designed to meet development standards backed by major industry players and to span most server environments, but that was not always the case.

"Attempts to establish reusable code as a meaningful development methodology have failed because these movements were too tied to proprietary technologies and not industry standards," said Santosh Alexander, iSpheres' co-founder and CEO.

Because Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) and Microsoft .NET have emerged as the dominant development architectures for Web services, reuse may be easier to manage with only two platforms to focus on. In the past, developers had to deal with a plethora of components, according to Charles Stack, CEO of Flashline.com, a Cleveland-based broker of prewritten components.

What's more, emerging Web services standards, such as UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration), will enable identification and discovery of components or specific application functions needed to build Web services.

"Web services are just another form of component, no matter how you look at it," said Sam Patterson, CEO of ComponentSource in Kennesaw, Ga.

ComponentSource is among the crop of prewritten component brokers that are looking to shore up the reuse model. Also bolstering reuse are solid technologies such as Enterprise Java Beans (EJBs), which are becoming increasingly accessible and reusable.

The cost benefits of reuse are being felt in corners of the IT community.

Pitney Bowes, in Stamford, Conn., for example, has been reusing components since 1996, said Kevin Bodie, engineering manager of the company's software components and reuse group. When he developed a savings matrix to measure the effectiveness of Pitney Bowes' reuse efforts, Bodie realized that the company was getting 500 human-weeks of development progress in only 200 human-weeks of time by using components his developer staff had already built and by purchasing others from Flashline.com.

Still, Bodie said he first had to fight for corporate acceptance of the model.

"Reuse was not a technical problem for us; it was an organizational problem," he said.



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