Ultimately, the company opted for a framework that would provide generic building blocks for its server. RespondTV developed its interactive shopping cart and multidimensional catalog using BEA's recently introduced WebLogic Commerce Server 3.1. Included in the BEA product are what the developer calls pipeline components, or out-of-the-box commerce functions, that include user management, catalog, search/browse, shopping cart, order management, shipping address, tax and shipping calculations, payment services, event tracking, and logging. In all, WebLogic Commerce Server 3.1 includes more than 80 integrated components designed to provide a range of pre-tested commerce functionality.
RespondTV developed a list of criteria for its framework, says Sadler. For example, the framework had to support open standards--in this case J2EE. In addition, it needed to run on Sun and include a scalable database platform, as well as best-of-breed services. In addition, RespondTV wanted a scalable framework that could support interactive TV, which, Sadler points out, has greater scalability demands than building a Web site (for an example of RespondTV's interactive shopping cart, click "View the Image" below).
|Over Time, Frameworks Pay Off|
|Unquestionably, the use of well-tested frameworks saves application developers time and money. Less clear, however, is the question of how much time. "Vendors will say that their frameworks provide developers with 80% of what they need to develop applications," says Michael Blechar, vice president of application services at Gartner Group Inc., of Stamford, Conn. "But, that depends." It depends entirely on the application in question. For example, if there are a lot of customized business rules, the development team may end up writing 85% of the application, says Blechar. "Or in the case of a simple application, 85% of it may be automatically written for you if the other 15% is the business logic you need," he says. Another factor regarding time savings and the use of frameworks has to do with reuse. The bottom line: The more you get involved with developing the framework, the greater potential for reuse. Likewise, says Blechar, the more projects you use the framework for, the greater the productivity.|
For example, on the J2EE side, companies can evaluate core application servers from BEA, Bluestone Software Inc., IBM Corp., iPlanet E-Commerce Solution, or Oracle Corp. "After selecting an application server, IT has to examine how the framework will fit its needs," says Murphy.The MIS department must investigate scalability. It also must determine whether it has the internal capabilities to look at that framework for holes, documentation, the ability to extend or mold the framework, as well as to examine if the framework makes use of well known, well documented patterns, he adds. Evolutionary Market Today, the focus for many frameworks is e-commerce. However, industry watchers predict frameworks, components, and patterns will evolve from programming tools to solutions. In the meantime, companies that carefully select their framework investments will find few limitations to using them, says Murphy. "A good framework should shoehorn a developer into a good design and eliminate doing things poorly," he says.