PowerBuilder 6.5's strong set of tools bodes well for development teams that need to create client/server, Web, or distributed applications. The addition of bolstered Web, database, and component generation support makes this a worthwhile upgrade for current customers as well as a viable choice for those evaluating development tools.
Sybase stacks up well against rivals with this latest version of PowerBuilder. In particular, the Web, database, and component generation options put Sybase on par with Inprise's Delphi.
While PowerBuilder by itself is a good tool for developing applications, Sybase is also moving toward integrating the product into its forthcoming Enterprise Application Studio. PowerBuilder will still be available for separate purchase though. The suite of tools is expected to include not only PowerBuilder, but also PowerJ, the company's Java development tool, and an Enterprise Application Server.
Some of the components of the Enterprise Application Server, such as Jaguar Component Transaction Server (CTS), which is a transaction server, and PowerDynamo, which is a dynamic Web page server, were included with my copy of PowerBuilder.
However, no cohesive framework exists yet to bind these tools. Also, some components such as Jaguar CTS exhibited bugs that need resolution by the company prior to the fourth-quarter ship date.
In addition, the installation of PowerBuilder and the other Enterprise Application Studio components needs further automation and a reduction in the number of dialogue boxes you need to wade through. Sybase is working on making the installation process easier.
Sybase's Enterprise Application Studio - when completed - should provide some good competition for other tool vendors that also sell development suites. All of the companies currently working to create common development frameworks, including Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM, are struggling with many of the same issues. Integrating a number of different development tools is no easy task. As a dev-eloper, I would love to have a single entry point to access multiple tools.
One of the most useful aspects of this PowerBuilder version is the introduction of additional component generators. The product already has the capability to create PowerBuilder and C++ objects. This version adds support for JavaBean Proxy and Component Object Model object generation.
Developers will also appreciate the inclusion of AppModeler, which supports data modelling and Web site generation. I found that AppModeler was especially easy to work with while creating some of my test applications.
On the database front, this version of PowerBuilder expands Oracle support with native access for clients running with Oracle Version 8.0.3 and higher. In addition, PowerBuilder is now supporting accessibility to DB2 data stores on MVS systems.
Current PowerBuilder developers should keep an eye out for the Web Deployment Kit, due in the fourth quarter. This kit will enable server-based Web deployment of PowerBuilder applications. It should make it easier to run server-based applications with lower client overhead.
The Bottom Line
PowerBuilder Enterprise 6.5
Sybase's 4GL rapid application development tool boasts bolstered support for Web appli-cations, data design tools, and Component Object Model (COM) and CORBA support. This version also marks the beginning of PowerBuilder's integration into Sybase's new Enterprise Application Studio. But not all of the shared components and features are fully implemented.
Pros: Offers graphical HTML editing; includes tools for Web page generation and site management; supports physical data modelling; component generation toolsCons: Installation routine needs improvement; integration into Enterprise Application Studio not yet complete; some minor bugsPlatforms: Windows 95, Windows NT, HP-UX, AIX, Sun Solaris.
Price: $4980 per user for Windows.
Sybase Tel (02) 9936 8800
Integrating the pieces
PowerBuilder Enterprise 6.5 includes the following features:
PowerBuilder - 4GL application development environmentAppModeler - For physical data modellingPowerSite - Web development environmentPowerDynamo - Web application serverJaguar Component Transaction Server - Transaction serverAdditional components - Reporting, version control, etc.