Intranets: The price of popularity: Page 5

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Making the intranet-database connection can be one of the larger intranet-building challenges. Indeed, Carl Olofson, research director for database management at market research firm International Data Corp. (IDC), in Framingham, Mass., says that the intranet/thin client model is being embraced by many of the database vendors (not just Baan). But for data intensive applications, he warns, it can still be necessary to fortify the connection to the end user with a dedicated application server.

The right tool

Still, it's hard to know sometimes which system resources will become the weak link when setting up an intranet. And that's where testing comes in (see sidebar below, "Testing may be the key"). Paul Roach, a senior quality assurance specialist at Northern Telecom Limited in Richardson, Texas, helped develop various functions within Northern Telecom's global intranet. Roach says, "when you have all kinds of different applications that are deployed across a global intranet you need to be able to test the Web servers and the applications." That need was what moved his group forward in finding tools that could do the job and that had the scalability and a feature set robust enough to handle the multitude of technologies found on the intranet.

A timeline of recent intranet-related announcements

March 11, 1997: Astra SiteTest was made generally available by Mercury Interactive Corp, of Sunnyvale, Calif. Astra SiteTest makes Web site testing simple and affordable by enabling organizations to stress-test a Web site using a single Windows NT workstation.

June 29, 1998: Mercury Interactive unveiled a functional testing version of its popular line of Astra Web-based products. Astra QuickTest, the first icon-based functional testing tool for e-business applications, simplifies and automates the entire Web and e-business testing process, making testing "as easy as using a browser."

April 21, 1998: Segue Software Inc. launched LiveQuality. This solution supports the diverse range of e-business systems' user and developer roles; operates with a wide variety of platforms and technologies; and customizes to meet customer demand. LiveQuality is comprised of a real-world scenario testing component--LiveQuality Realizer; the industry leading Web testing capabilities of its Silk product line--LiveQuality Producer; and a packaged consulting component--LiveQuality Delivery. LiveQuality is targeted specifically toward high-volume transaction, service-oriented organizations where system reliability is the lifeblood of the business.

Oct. 5, 1998: Segue Software Inc. launched LiveQuality Foundation, the scenario testing platform that provides comprehensive, system-level testing for all e-business applications. LiveQuality Foundation combines the scenario testing methodology recently delivered in the LiveQuality Solution, with Segue's industry standard Silk technologies to create a base system for managing e-business system reliability.

Oct. 27, 1998: Rational Software Corp. announced Rational TeamTest 7, the latest version of its award-winning functional testing solution. Rational TeamTest 7 provides new capabilities for Web and e-commerce testing, iterative test management against project requirements, and a new level of integration with Rational's best-in-class products across the application lifecycle.

Dec. 7, 1998: RadView Software Inc. introduced WebLoad 3.0, a comprehensive solution for testing the performance and robustness of Web applications. WebLoad 3.0 provides developers and IT resources with the necessary tools to ensure the scalability of Web applications, including Internet, intranet, and e-business.

In one instance, Roach helped deploy an employee satisfaction survey that would be accessible by 70,000 employees worldwide. Other sites that required testing included functions as diverse as financial accounting, sales, and marketing, he notes. "You name it, we were involved in it," he says. Roach and Northern Telecom ended up selecting Performance Studio from Rational Software, one of several competing testing systems now on the market.

Finding the right product or tool can be crucial to getting an intranet launched and keeping it running. Fortunately, a lot of the learning--and tools--from client/server is transferable to the intranet, says SPG's Taylor. For instance, vendors such as Segue, Rational, and Mercury Interactive all have testing tools that can predict bandwidth bottlenecks and, perhaps more importantly, help plot out usage scenarios that could bury mission-critical applications. In fact, she notes, many of the issues faced in rolling out client/server are similar to those now being faced in intranet development.

Other analysts agree that Web testing is a good place to invest money. When intranets were simply a collection of one-way, static pages, "failure was an annoyance but not business critical," says Dick Heiman, an analyst with IDC. But, he notes, those days are gone forever. //

About the author:

Alan Earls is a technology writer based in Franklin, Mass.

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