Product review: Better business builder

The recent planned acquisition of Netscape by America Online has led to much discussion about the convergence of consumer and business computing on the Web. In that milieu, Netscape's Application Builder 3.0 will be a real asset to AOL and to IT sites that need to develop and deploy Web-related business applications. (AOL has said that it will fully support Application Builder after the merger.)The second beta of Netscape Application Builder 3.0 is an integrated development environment that works in conjunction with Netscape's Application Server. As part of an overall Web application serving solution, Netscape Application Builder is right on par with rivals such as SilverStream, IBM's WebSphere Application Server, and Oracle's Application Server.

Netscape Application Builder offers an integrated development environment with support for client components, business logic, and data objects. This environment includes tools to create distributed multitier applications.

I used Netscape Application Builder to create several test applications; one supported Internet commerce, and an intranet application provided customer account information.

Those creating HTML components will appreciate Netscape Application Builder's WYSIWYG editing facility. The graphical editing is straightforward, with drag-and-drop support that lets you design pages or templates. You can also switch between graphical and source code editing at any time.

Developers building the business logic portion of an application will find the going easy with Netscape Application Builder's Java tool support. The colour-coded editor was simple to use, and Netscape also includes some helpful graphical wizards.

I especially liked Netscape Application Builder's tools for integrating data into Web applications. I was able to point and click to build my queries, and I could preview the results while I was creating my applications.

Developers can build and test individual components or the entire application. The integrated debugging facilities were useful and worked well during my tests.

I liked Application Builder's Application Map. This graphical tool let me see all of my application components across multiple tiers. I also used it to check application flow and component dependencies.

The Extension Builder toolkit enables developers to integrate disparate systems. Netscape offers some prebuilt extensions, including SAP, CICS mainframe query system, and MQSeries.

Deployment with Netscape Application Builder is a simple matter. I was able to point and click my way through deployment in my multitier test application environment.

Netscape Application Builder provides the tools developers need to quickly create, test, and deploy Web applications. IT sites investigating Web application solutions -- whether intranet, extranet, or Internet -- will find it well worth looking into.

Senior Analyst Maggie Biggs (maggie_biggs@infoworld.com) evaluates application development and database technologies.

The bottom line:

Netscape Application Builder 3.0, Beta 2This integrated development tool bodes well for the rapid creation of Web-based business applications to be deployed to Netscape's Application Server.

Pros: Enables the creation of multitier Web applications; separate components for presentation, business logic, and data objects; wizards and integrated tools; enterprise connectivity.

Cons: Some minor beta bugs.

Platforms: Development: Windows 95, Windows NT, Solaris. Deployment: NT, Solaris, HP-UX, Irix.

US Shipping date: December 15 for Windows; January 15 for Solaris.

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