With some developers considering jumping ship for more Web-savvy tools, Powersoft last week announced several Internet enhancements to PowerBuilder - software that once pioneered client/server development.
Some developers at Powersoft's user conference said they tempered their enthusiasm, but others were more inclined to believe that PowerBuilder has a bright future in the Internet age. To inspire that belief, Powersoft's parent company, Sybase, promised users software - to be delivered next quarter - that will instantly convert PowerBuilder applications to Java applications that can run on Java virtual machines, including Web browsers.
The company also announced a new version of its PowerJ tool, as well as an application server. Analyst Larry Perlstein at Dataquest said the PowerBuilder-to-Java software, dubbed the Web Deployment Kit, will serve as a stopgap until the company comes out with stronger tools for distributed computing later next year.
In Colorado, businesses may soon be able to handle municipal taxes and licences online if the kit can quickly and inexpensively move the State's current PowerBuilder applications onto the Web, according to the State's application programmer Dany Santee. "It just opens up where management wants to go without in-house Java training," he said.
Shaun Twist, corporate information manager at AgPro Grain in Canada, called the kit "absolutely incredible". AgPro developers had been faced with either rewriting a PowerBuilder grain-accounting system in a Web-enabled language or using Citrix Systems WinFrame to deliver to thin clients. Twist said he wonders about the performance of the applications on client machines with 28.8Kbps dial-up connections.
Guy Gardner, chief research and development scientist at Dynamic Healthcare Technologies which is currently alpha-testing the kit, said its performance exceeds that of WinFrame and Symantec's PCAnywhere. Dynamic, in Massachusetts, makes reporting software for pathology labs and hospitals.
Most users praised the concept of the conversion kit, which is based on Corel's JBridge tool. But some, such as Jon Rice, a senior applications analyst at Sony, wanted to see more. "If it works, we'll probably want to use it with any application," he said. Both Rice and Twist said they have been forced to consider alternatives to PowerBuilder to reach the Web. Sybase also announced several other products at the conference that were designed to increase its Internet appeal to users it may otherwise lose.