SAN MATEO (03/27/2000) - The world would be a boring place if there was only one model of car to purchase or one style of home to live in. When we shop for these major purchases we choose those that are solidly constructed yet practical, given our circumstances.
Likewise, no matter what the marketing hype tells us, no single technology solution completely solves our business problems. The reality is that we are running a mixture of technologies that must mesh to form a solid infrastructure.
I'm excited that this year -- as we focus on integrating business processes with Web technologies -- there are more options than ever. The Web and open-source initiatives have greatly increased developer communications and collaboration. This has sped up development cycles while increasing software quality along the way.
Many of you have written me expressing that you like having more technology options and that Linux and open-source software, in particular, are compelling.
The majority of you also say you feel that Linux and open-source products are a good match for specific functions, such as Web serving, but that you don't feel this technology is yet a match for the desktop or for back-end processes. I share your sentiments to a point, but I believe that Linux and open-source technologies are gaining ground and soon will be viable for widespread enterprise use.
For example, this month Novell Inc. delivered its NDS eDirectory for Linux (see www.novell.com/products/nds). The broadening of eDirectory's reach is compelling for three reasons.
First, the business case is strong for leveraging directory services for more than just network functions. Whether you are supporting business-to-business or business-to-consumer products, you can leverage directory services to better manage applications and to expand customization options for businesses and customers.
Second, you most likely have implemented multiple server platforms and Novell's directory services can easily be used to manage a mixed environment. In many cases, it may be less costly to deploy e-business applications on Linux, but you still should expect to implement directory service support to stay competitive with your rivals.
Finally, NDS is mature. There's much ado about the long-awaited arrival of Windows 2000 and Active Directory. Although I suspect some companies will adopt Microsoft Corp.'s directory service, I'll be surprised if this version lacks significant problems. I certainly would weigh Active Directory as an option, but I think it more realistic to implement NDS given its maturity and broad platform support.
Other exciting advances are popping up on the middle tier, too. I've tested myriad application servers that can be the centerpiece in integrating e-business processes.
My favorites include BEA's WebLogic, IBM's WebSphere, and SilverStream's server, reviewed last week. Another of my favorites is Enhydra, from Lutris Technologies Inc.
Taking its name from the scientific term for the California sea otter, Lutris Enhydra began as an open-source Java application server. Although Enhydra is a solid product, in the past it has lacked some of the high-end features of its application server rivals.
This is changing, though, as Lutris is preparing to deliver Enhydra Enterprise, which supports Enterprise JavaBeans, CORBA, and integration options for legacy systems and enterprise applications. The company will maintain its open-source application server and expand its enterprise capabilities. Next month Lutris expects to release a commercial version of its application server with traditional support mechanisms.
I believe Lutris will greatly increase the competition with rival servers.
Enhydra is available on Unix platforms, Linux, and Windows; requires Java 2; and works with most major Web servers. See www.lutris.com or www.enhydra.org for more information.
Sorting out which options are best for your company may be a lot like shopping for a new car or a new home. However, having more choices will expand the notion of just how far we can go with technology. Are you eyeing all of the options that are available? Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maggie Biggs is director of the InfoWorld Test Center.