Tango Moves Data-Driven Apps to the Web

SAN MATEO (05/08/2000) - To maintain your company's competitive edge, your IT department must constantly reinvent your Web offerings while also reducing costs by exploiting the efficiencies of e-business. To this end, companies of all sizes are looking to deploy data-driven Web applications and are facing a variety of integration prerequisites. The job requires proficiency in several programming languages, expertise in cross-platform database and SQL query development, and the ability to merge supply-side applications -- on time and on budget.

Pervasive Software Inc. helps surmount most of these challenges with Tango 2000 Service Pack (SP) 1, a RAD (rapid application development) environment that is composed of a middleware application server plus a drag-and-drop editing studio. It is perfect for midsize and smaller enterprise-scale IT shops looking to speed deployment of data-driven, Web-based applications.

Tango's application server lacks some features, including server clustering and support for Enterprise JavaBeans or CORBA, found in higher-end products such as Sybase Enterprise Application Server and Bluestone Universal Business Server.

But for a considerably lower entry price, Tango delivers load balancing and can be mastered with fewer skills. The reusable, task-and design-specific code in Tango's development environment lets even modestly experienced IT teams quickly build and deploy applications that can Web-enable line-of-business processes.

Tango 2000 supports XML to facilitate business-to-business transactions across disparate applications and business partners. New support for WML (Wireless Markup Language) makes data presentation possible to a variety of wireless communication devices, which improves data availability to mobile sales forces.

When stacked against competitors such as Allaire Cold Fusion and Microsoft Active Server Pages, Tango is easier to use, particularly for team-based environments. It has clear code delineation that separates business logic and back-end interaction from the presentation layer, reducing long-term costs via easy maintenance and updates.

Despite Tango's use of a proprietary scripting language, it remains extremely extensible, supporting applications written on open standards such as C/C++, Java, and JavaBeans, as well as COM/DCOM (Distributed COM), VBScript, and ActiveX. This enables easy integration of existing applications and ensures a return on your investment through open-ended usefulness.

Guided development

Tango is brimming with development shortcuts. Several tools -- including Builders, a wizardlike helper for constructing new databases and queries; and Objects, reusable drag-and-drop software components -- bring instant functionality to your application without requiring an understanding of the underlying code.

With a New Record Builder, I set up a Web-based SQL search on a database recordset in minutes. Tango provides a live look into existing database tables, so I was able to see specific fields available in any database and select them for my query. Tango generated all necessary SQL query logic for the search and the HTML required to display results.

The Builder palette also contains several commonly used actions for tasks such as if-then loops, database record retrieval, and sending e-mail messages. A collection of code snippets provide preformatted HTML, JavaScript, and Metatag templates and drop-in support for XML and WML deck and card development.

In addition to the development environment, Tango installs and sets up an application server and Pervasive.SQL to use as its relational database.

Installation is automatic, but you can modify it to accommodate custom installations. Tango natively supports databases from Oracle as well as Microsoft SQL databases, plus any ODBC-compliant database.

Once Tango 2000 was installed, I could manage all administrative tasks of the application server remotely from the Web-based interface, including optimization settings for cache usage, security settings, and system restarts.

Tango not only supports load balancing between servers but also provides a server-watch utility for Windows and Unix platforms that enables Tango to recover from fatal errors, improving server uptime.

The server-side components include a new Web Analyzer feature. It delivers real-time monitoring and feedback of site metrics and supplies information on site hits, processing time per visit, and average length of a user's visit, which are stored in Tango's database.

Using Tango's supplied class files, information culled from the site metrics can be integrated into your Web applications, allowing developers to build personalized offers or tailor marketing based on a visitor's site interaction.

With some effort, your development team could improve the end-users' experience with some of the capabilities found in more costly e-CRM (customer relationship management) solutions.

Jump-starting e-commerce

Tango also has many sample applications, including a fully functional e-commerce storefront with catalog development, Web-based administrative management, and a shopping-cart checkout. I was impressed with its thoroughness right down to the integration for third-party payment processing via CyberCash and CyberSource. With minimal effort, this application could easily be customized to springboard your e-commerce initiative.

All told, Tango represents a very good choice for companies looking to integrate back-end resources with Web-based applications without demanding the skill set, or costs, typical of the task. Tango delivers tools that enable you to increase productivity, facilitate maintenance and code reusability, and ensure extensibility as your business requirements continue to grow.

James R. Borck (james.borck@industrialart.com) appears frequently in InfoWorld and is director of IS at Industrial Art & Science in Connecticut.

THE BOTTOM LINE: VERY GOOD

Tango 2000 SP1

Business Case: Tango 2000 enables speedy deployment of data-driven applications to the Web. A good selection of wizardlike helpers lets developers become quickly productive. Extensibility with open standards ensures a long-term return on investment.

Technology Case: Delineation between application logic, back-end interaction, and the user interface makes for easy maintenance. Load balancing and automatic restart ensure maximum server uptime.

Pros:

+ Drag-and-drop application development

+ Broad platform and database support

+ Non-DTD (Document Type Definition)-specific XML+ WML (Wireless Markup Language) supportCons:

- Uses proprietary language

- No Enterprise JavaBeans or CORBA support- Weak HTML layoutCost: Development Studio, $495; Application server: Windows/Linux starts at $1,295, Mac $995; Professional Edition, Windows/Linux/Solaris $10,000Platform(s): Windows 95/98/2000 and Windows NT; Server: Solaris, Linux; Server and Studio: MacintoshPervasive Software Inc., Austin, Texas; (800) 287-4383; www.pervasive.com.

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