Microsoft made its first foray into enterprise development with thes, reports Cath Everett in New Orleans. launch of version 6 of its Visual Studio tools bundle at the Teched developers' conference in New Orleans last week.
The vendor has finally added support for developing three-tier applications, several years behind the rest of the market. In doing so, it reaffirmed the now standard mantra that interoperability with other products in a heterogeneous corporate environment is the key to its ambitions.
Paul Gross, vice president of Microsoft development tools division, said: 'Visual Studio is built to address multi-tier applications and integrate client/server with the Web. Recently, NT has come in for use with the Web and intranets, and we recognise that Windows is not the only desktop.
'We're now enabling Enterprise Workbench to work with third party products so developers can write end-to-end systems. We want to bring them the rapid application turnaround of Visual Basic, with support for more complex applications and component development. People want to use technology to react to change, so time to market is a requirement.'
Gross admitted that in the past, the software giant had focused only on the edit, compile and debug part of the picture, but for version 6, developers had spent 18 months trying to address components, lifecycle support, team development, enterprise database support and distributed application services.
The tools bundle, which includes Visual J , Visual Foxpro and Visual Interdev - currently in public beta - plus Visual C++ and Visual Basic in private beta, has been properly integrated using version 2 of the Microsoft repository.
Developers can swap components built using any of the tools, or compliant third party offerings, in and out of their applications. They can store and reuse components more easily and catalogue, index and access them via the newly introduced Visual Component Manager.
Analysts had reservations about the offering. Some said Microsoft still had work to do on unifying the tools into a full development, deployment and management framework. Full modelling tool integration, which is necessary to build complex applications, particularly component-based ones, is still not available. For example, version 2 of the Visual Modeller tool created jointly with Rational has not been integrated with the Visual Interdev Web development tool and does not offer concurrent team development.
On the database side, the vendor has added additional schema design tools, not only for version 6.5 and the upcoming release 7 of its own SQL Server offering, but also for Oracle versions 7.3 and 8.
Gross said: 'Visual Basic is the number one development tool for building applications with Oracle. It's amazing, and it's happened despite any effort we've made.'
Other data sources can be accessed via native OLEDB and ODBC drivers that will come in the box and native support for high-end applications such as SAP's R/3 is also planned. Visual Studio 6 is due to ship on 2 September at Microsoft's Developer Days event.
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