SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 13, 2002 -- The September 11 attacks that toppled the World Trade Center towers in New York also severely damaged a nearby building owned by Verizon Communications Inc. Millions of voice and data circuits were silenced in a matter of seconds, and Verizon workers were soon overwhelmed as they tried to manually track, evaluate and restore downed circuits throughout the New York region.
Six days later, they were back in business. How? Reusable software components.
Using beta versions of Microsoft Visual Studio .NET and UltraWebNavigator, a package of Web-development software components from Infragistics, Verizons IT experts worked with solution provider Ajilon to quickly re-engineer an existing maintenance application. They created a program that enabled Verizon to prioritize repair of its damaged circuits. Developing the software needed in this emergency and getting it into managers hands took only six days, a process Verizon later estimated would have taken six months without Microsofts Visual Studio .NET and Infragistics reusable software components.
"People are going to experience incredible productivity gains with Visual Studio .NET, " and much of that will be achieved by using off-the-shelf reusable components, " says Dean Guida, president and CEO of New Jersey-based Infragistics.
"Visual Studio .NET is the most technologically advanced piece of development software that I have seen, "says Sam Patterson, CEO of ComponentSource, an Atlanta-based global e-business and component marketplace that has driven the open market for reusable software components since 1995. "Its going to dramatically change the way applications are developed going forward."
Microsoft Visual Studio .NET launches today at a "VSLive!" event in San Francisco, where Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates addresses some 4,000 software developers. Coupled with the .NET Framework, the XML Web services engine for Windows, Visual Studio .NET provides the core developer platform for Microsoft .NET, offering developers a comprehensive set of tools for creating XML Web services simply and easily. Together they support not only the industry standards XML, SOAP, and WSDL, but also more than 20 programming languages, giving this new developer platform a reach to virtually every programmer in the world.
According to Marie Huwe, general manager for the Developer and Platform Evangelism Division at Microsoft, developers using Visual Studio .NET will be more productive not only because of component reuse, but also because they won't have to learn new languages or technologies to write sophisticated Web applications, which means they continue to get full value from their existing technology investments, software and skills.
Huwe says developers can write programs for .NET using virtually any programming language, from COBOL to C++, from Visual Basic to Java. And once they create a program on the .NET platform using one of those languages, a developer using any other language can reuse the same program with full fidelity, saving time by enabling unprecedented component reuse.
Beyond code reuse, the whole programming model in the .NET Framework makes developers more productive. "According to Mike Sax, founder and CEO of Sax.net, formerly Sax Software, Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Framework create a unified, consistent model for development, so the learning curve is much easier and the knowledge developers acquire in one area can be applied in others.
"For example, developing Windows applications and Web applications can be done almost in parallel, with those two types of applications sharing a lot of code, " Sax says. "Likewise, if you have an existing Windows client application that you would like to deploy on the Web, using Visual Studio .NET you can use a large percentage of the code that you have already written, which will give you a tremendous head start in building your Web application.
"Components have really become a central part of the platform that people build solutions on," Sax adds, "and Visual Studio .NET is by far the most component-oriented version of Microsoft programming tools that has ever been released.
Visual Studio .NET will increase the use of components by corporate developers, according to Sax, because component developers are now reaching out to corporate developers to make it easy for them to select components to develop solutions for a fraction of the cost of doing all of the development internally.
"I think Visual Studio .NET will help corporate developers understand and fully exploit the benefits of using components, and buying ready-made high-quality components versus the high cost of building everything internally and reinventing the wheel, " Sax says.
"We have personally seen productivity gains of two or three times compared to previous development environments, "Sax adds. "The time we normally would estimate for something to get done would actually get done twice or three times as fast, which for developers is truly amazing because they tend to be late on everything."
Sam Patterson of ComponentSource, which advises developers to "reuse before you buy, buy before you build, " noted that many organizations are trimming their IT spending this year, giving added importance to the availability of pre-built reusable software components.
"Reusable components available for the .NET environment could save billions of dollars in application development costs," he says. "At the same time, third-party vendors are embracing the new revenue opportunities offered by the Microsoft .NET Framework, and many are offering brand new product lines."
Microsoft has always understood that its success depends on helping others succeed, Huwe says. "Thats a fundamental part of Microsofts business model, and it continues with Visual Studio .NET. For the .NET platform to be successful, we need many healthy component vendors providing great functionality in pre-built reusable software components."
New opportunities for component vendors
Patterson says the availability of Visual Studio .NET and the Microsoft .NET Framework is also set to change the market for components based on Microsoft technology, dramatically promoting a strong shift from client to server and offering stiff competition to the adoption of J2EE 1.3 (Sun Microsystems Java 2 Enterprise Edition). "Already the third-party momentum in the software component market for Microsoft .NET is unprecedented, far exceeding the Java market for pre-built reusable components," he says.
Huwe calls Visual Studio .NET a tremendous new opportunity for component vendors. "One of the things that made Visual Basic so successful was the number of components that were available, so developers didnt have to build everything from scratch. They had a host of pre-built reusable components they could choose from. Now, were entering a new world of interconnected XML Web services, and we think a lot of that business is going to be in pre-built software components."
"Technology shifts happen, and were in the midst of another profound technology shift, "Huwe explains. "Were making it very easy for components to be plug-and play within the .NET Framework, and were making it easy for developers to work with those components in any language and use them to build great applications."
Microsoft .NET and Java
Developers worldwide are already preparing to take advantage of the new Microsoft .NET technologies and the opportunities they provide. In October, ComponentSource surveyed a representative sample of 150,000 developers -- about half of them Java developers -- from its user base of 500,000 users in 110 countries. Of the organizations participating in the survey who were asked if they would be using, evaluating or planning to evaluate Microsofts .NET platform and/or Sun Microsystems EJB (Enterprise Java Beans) platform during the next year, 79 percent said .NET only, 14 percent said EJB only, and 7 percent said both.
According to Patterson, approximately one-third of ComponentSource's expert community, comprising over 640 software component author companies, are enrolled in the ComponentSource .NET ComponentBuilder Program and have pledged to release .NET software components through 2002. Following todays launch of Visual Studio .NET, around 25 percent of the participating component authors will offer final "off-the-shelf " .NET components as early as this month or next, and they estimate that .NET will account for between 20 percent and 30 percent of their revenue this year.
"With the technologies that are in Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Framework, Microsoft has definitely leaped ahead of what Java has been able to do, "Patterson says. "But competition is what has made Microsoft great in the past; having outside competition has always allowed Microsoft to innovate and stay one step ahead."
Mike Sax of Sax.net agrees: "If you compare the two platforms, Java and .NET, the .NET Framework is already beyond where Java is today, and Java has been going at it for several years. The level of momentum that Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Framework have right now, in terms of ISV support and corporate developer interest, is much, much higher than for Java."
According to ComponentSource, component support for .NET is 7 to 10 times higher than for J2EE 1.3 (Java 2 Enterprise Edition), and theres an upgrade path for component authors with .NET, because many have written COM and Visual Basic components in the past, and now they have an opportunity to migrate those components to the .NET platform.
Increased momentum for Microsoft .NET
"Interest in commercial 'off-the-shelf' components for Microsoft .NET from companies evaluating the Microsoft .NET platform has been very high," Patterson says. "As the industry barometer on the component market and the market builder, we can truly say that the early excitement and momentum around .NET is unprecedented exceeding the early COM market of the 1990s."
With the availability of Visual Studio .NET, Patterson believes the market for Microsoft technology components will change dramatically, with component authors taking full advantage of the .NET architecture to offer new feature-rich client and server-side components. "The Microsoft .NET Framework offers a very mature platform for component-based development, which addresses common issues such as component integration, cross-language and server-side development support," he says. "This is extremely attractive to our worldwide community of component authors and corporate developers."
With the launch of Visual Studio .NET today, ComponentSource announced the availability of an add-in that provides integration between the ComponentSource Enterprise Reuse Solution (ComponentSource ERS), a Web-services-based reuse infrastructure and the Microsoft Visual Studio .NET development environment. The add-in accesses the SOAP and XML-based Web services that form ComponentSource ERS to enable developers to intuitively find, evaluate and procure expert-built reusable components available on ComponentSources online marketplace, from within the Microsoft Visual Studio .NET integrated development environment (IDE). Developers are able to perform advanced searches for "off-the-shelf" components in over 116 business categories. In addition to this they can list preferences and specify filtered views.
"Microsoft has a competitive advantage; theyve leapfrogged their competitors," says Dean Guida of Infragistics, which has 2,600 beta testers in its .NET program. "This is a mature environment, from the .NET Framework up to the integrated development environment. People are very positive about it. . Microsoft is delivering on the promise. I think customers see that."