Firms Test App Components via Web

FRAMINGHAM (04/03/2000) - Amid the rush to quickly develop and deploy applications for the Web, vendors that sell application components are also offering testing services to detect structural design flaws in applications minted from prebuilt components.

Components are portions of an application that perform specific functions within the application, such as populating a form with data.

Even though individual components may work fine, they can slow or stop an application if they are combined improperly.

Component-based programming is like building a house of cards: Pull out or add the wrong object, and the whole structure could come tumbling down, says Tracy Corbo, an analyst at Hurwitz Group Inc., a Framingham, Massachusetts-based consulting and research firm.

Testing Adds Credibility

"Selling components on the Web is relatively easy, but there is more that can be done there," explained Corbo. "Testing is very important for a user's comfort level with using components. It adds an element of credibility for the buyer."

The most important aspect of building component-based applications doesn't involve programming at all, said Corbo, who recommended performing more up-front testing of source code and documenting of the application specification.

"The pitfall of application development programming for the Web is that many developers have not gone back to the basics in application design," Corbo added.

To meet the demands of developers, several online component brokers have expanded their service offerings to include design analysis, tests of code structure and individual component performance and tests of the component's performance as part of the overall system.

Cleveland-based component vendor Flashline.com Inc. recently began offering online quality assurance testing to developers using testing tools from KL Group Inc. in Toronto and Metamata Inc. in Fremont, California. Tests start at $50.

Flashline customer Suneet Shah, chief technology officer at Diamelle Inc., an information services and luxury goods company based in Cortlandt Manor, New York, operates two Web sites: www.travelesque.com, for leisure travel reservations, and www.diamelle.com, a diamond and jewelry vendor.

Fast Development

Using Enterprise Java Beans (EJB), Shah and his team of five developers built travelesque.com in less than three months. For example, Shah said they used prebuilt EJBs for catalog, search and navigation functionality, cutting the coding task down to writing four or fives lines of reference code to link each component with the Java Native Directory Interface.

"We're using relatively inexpensive PCs - off-the-shelf stuff like Intel machines running Windows NT and SQL server on [the] back end - and [we] wanted to handle very high volume," said Shah. "By doing the load test and quality assurance online, it helps us to maximize performance" on that infrastructure.

Janet Absher, enterprise applications team leader at the U.S. Bureau of the Census in Washington, said she plans to use workflow components to develop collaborative, administrative Notes/ Domino applications to handle procurements, asset inventory and budget models. She explained that this step was necessary because this year's census crunch has put her team under more pressure to ensure quality while cutting development time.

"We have a lab environment and full testing capabilities on the development server; it simulates everything, like code looping and populating data," Absher said. However, she said her team would welcome external testing services to improve the performance of applications developed in-house.

"We'll let someone else do the testing, then run the code through some of the paces on our own," Absher said. "We're new to this ... and are interested in picking up tools and tricks from other folks."

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