1999: Simply the best from the Test Centre

IDG Communications, the publisher of ARN, has wrapped up its 19th Annual InfoWorld Test Centre Awards for the most outstanding products of the year. As part of the awards, leading journalists and technologistsat the test centre benchmarked and studied hundreds of products, solutions, and technologies to help readersmake sense of the flux the IT industry experiencedin 1999. Here are some of the winnersDevelopment ToolsIBM VisualAge for Java3.0, Enterprise EditionDevelopment tools are the workbench with which to create new software and the most important companion to the ingenuity and skill of developers. For the third year in a row, our accolade for such a tool goes to a development product for Java, a choice moti-vated by the widespread expectations of portability across platforms and the standardisation generated by this matchless programming language.

The competition was stiff in 1999, but we decided that IBM VisualAge for Java 3.0, Enterprise Edition, was the top offering. VisualAge for Java earned this award because of its unsurpassed openness to multiple platforms, simplified development functionality for a variety of traditional and novel technologies, and unparalleled project and object-repository management features.

A company with diversified deployment and development systems can standardise on VisualAge for Java across all platforms for a simplified, homogeneous programming environment, ultimately saving money in training and licensing costs.

VisualAge for Java is the only tool that promotes development of Java applications on Windows, Unix, Linux, and IBM OS/2, AS/400, and OS/390. Its rich set of Java-class libraries simplifies programming interfaces for IBM's proprietary software, the ubiquitous transaction-monitoring system, the WebSphere application server, and third-party enterprise resource planning products.

VisualAge for Java is the undisputed leader of such software. It offers comprehensive and reliable functionality to maintain a consistent, automatically controlled set of Java classes for the developer. To simplify project control, IBM includes an integrated Team Server that monitors programmers' access to multiple, independent repositories of Java libraries.operating systemsRed Hat Linux 6.1Red Hat Linux 6.1 is the most user-friendly Linux release yet, and its installation and system management enhancements make it a strong contender for the enterprise OS space. With this release, Red Hat Linux jumps into the enterprise space feet first - for the fourth year running.

Red Hat Software has made a consistent effort in each release to improve and enhance its product. This is especially true for corporate environments, in which service and support costs are important factors when deciding on an OS platform.

Several operating systems were released this year, including SuSE Linux 6.0, SCO UnixWare 7.1, and Microsoft Windows 98 Second Edition, but none of them have had the wide-ranging impact on corporate customers of Red Hat Linux 6.1.

This version offers an intuitive graphical installer and supports network and systems management standards, including Lightweight Directory Access Protocol and Wired for Management 2.0.

The Red Hat Update Agent saves IT managers time by automatically downloading and optionally installing system updates and security patches, reducing downtime, and enhancing system security. In addition to these enterprise-level features, Red Hat Linux 6.1 includes Star Office 5.1a and two applications and tools CDs.

The Professional edition adds three Server Bonus Pack CDs that provide tools for installing Red Hat Linux 6.1 as an intranet or Internet server. This wealth of additional software makes this release attractive for both server and desktop environments.

The newest release of the Red Hat Linux OS combines an optimised graphical installer, easy software updates and security fixes, and excellent management capabilities.


Macromedia Generator 2

Keeping sites updated with new content is a full-time job if you're stuck doing it by hand. Although many tools for creating dynamic Web pages exist, no solution we saw last year can match the power offered by Generator 2.

Generator eliminates the need to update sites manually, which will save your IT staff many valuable hours of Web-site maintenance. When coupled with Macromedia Flash 4, which is the development application for creating template files, anyone can create sites that deliver dynamic content. A server-side component, Generator automates the updating of dynamic media within predefined placeholders in Flash template files. As pages are requested, it inserts new content into the placeholders and serves them as new Web pages to a browser.

This is particularly useful for targeting content towards specific users, updating banner ads, and ensuring that Web pages maintain a fresh look with new content. All of this is made possible by creating Flash templates using a version of Flash 4 that includes Generator extensions, available free from Macromedia's Web site.

In addition, Generator adopts Flash's scripting capability by inserting new content based on script commands in a Flash template file residing on a server.

Generator runs on Windows NT, Sun Solaris, IBM AIX, and Linux servers. It can process and create new content each time a page is requested or work in offline mode, in which script commands, or batch files, can run at intervals to update content that changes less often. This helps alleviate the load put on the server and helps improve performance. Generator has no client licence limitations.back-end servicesOracle8iMany back-end services last year gained greater integration with a multitude of mid-tier products, which helped sites that needed to rapidly roll out distributed electronic-business applications. The addition of Web standards on the back end with an increased focus on security created sharp rivalry among providers of back-end products.

After considering the back-end offerings that we evaluated during 1999, we selected Oracle8i as the winner of the Back-End Services Product of the Year. The newest release of Oracle's flagship database stands apart from rivals on several fronts.

In particular, Oracle8i boosts database support for Java and Web-content management and offers multiple object models and security-policy options.

If you move to Oracle8i, prepare to invest in training costs for administrators and developers - this release contains many new and enhanced features that will require some staff education.

But once the initial ramp-up is complete, you can expect long-term savings in the form of increased manageability and new application possibilities that can help in generating revenue.

Of particular interest in Oracle8i is JServer, a Java virtual machine that runs within the Oracle8i database. The company has also announced plans to eventually increase Java support for the database to include a native-code compiler, among other features.

Moreover, the newest version of the Oracle database includes a "virtual private database" function that lets customers set security at a table or view level rather than in individual applications.

Also, Oracle8i links closely with the company's WebDB product, a set of tools that helps organisations closely but flexibly manage Web content creation and modification.

WebDB, together with 8i's interMedia support, enables companies to easily include audio, video,geographical, image, and text components in Webapplications.

Winners in other categories were:

Productivity Software: Microsoft Office 2000Client Hardware: Sony Electronics VaioPCG-F190Mid-tier Services: BEA Systems BEA WebLogic Server 4.0.2Network Hardware: IBM RS/6000 Enterprise Server S80Network Management: Network Associates Sniffer Pro Portable Analysis Suite 2.5Security: IBM eNetwork Firewall 3.3