In a second article, Tom Welsh takes a further look at Ovum’s controversial report on object request brokers
Arthur C Clarke, inventor of the communications satellite and author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, once made a perceptive remark about innovation. Every revolutionary idea, he wrote seems to evoke three stages of reaction. They may be summed up by the phrases: (1) It’s completely impossible; (2) It’s possible, but its not worth doing; (3) I said it was a good idea all along. Apparently Ovum’s middleware analysts have reached stage (2) as far as object technology is concerned. This seriously undermines the credibility of their report ‘Ovum Evaluates Object Request Brokers’, the fifth and last volume of an ambitious survey of middleware. Previous reports dealt with database connectivity, message-oriented middleware (MOM), RPC and DCE, and distributed transaction processing monitors (DTPMs).
Ovum analyzed all of these expertly. Confronted by ORBs, however – the first radically innovative technology of the bunch – it has turned into a crusty old reactionary. The report says precisely nothing about the benefits of object technology. Instead we find a virulent and consistent objectophobia that seems to stem from a lack of understanding of basic object concepts. For instance, an object is, in any case, only a group of functions (methods) that have something in common. Or again, it is the use of object technology that makes the task complex. So it is not surprising to read that after our evaluation of the products, we felt that pure CORBA products were really only of interest to object purists wanting to stick to a standard based solution. Ovum’s Henk Bakker later explained: Having looked at Corba-based products, we felt that they were too difficult to implement and write applications for. We have in mind here a mainstream enterprise IS shop, not a laboratory full of propeller heads. But if a mainstream enterprise IS shop is defined as one that uses procedural languages to program relational databases using MOM, RPCs and DTPMs, Ovum’s argument is circular. When Arabic numerals and the digit zero were introduced, no doubt there were diehards who argued that these new-fangled methods were far too difficult to understand, and plain folks would be better sticking to Roman numerals. Fortunately today’s younger developers cut their teeth on C++ and Java, and find OO concepts perfectly straightforward. Ovum complains that CORBA is too difficult to program and says that access to code on non-object-based programming languages [is] virtually impossible. Andrew Watson, chairman of OMGs Architecture Board, begs to differ. Actually, CORBA’s first language mapping was to C, he points out, and the most recent to COBOL. Legacy application integration has turned out to be one of CORBA’s greatest strengths. Serious factual errors. In a previous article I pointed out half a dozen serious factual errors and omissions in the ORB report. Based on research that was up to two years out of date, Ovum said that CORBA products do not interoperate (they do), that IIOP doesn’t work (it does), and that few platforms were supported (at least 30). Ovum also said that CORBA is hardly being used seriously, and that there is little tool support. In fact over 260 organizations have publicly announced their adoption of CORBA, including many of the world’s major banks, financial institutions, telecom providers, oil companies, airlines, hospitals, utilities, engineering firms and government agencies. And practically every client/server tool vendor – with the predictable exception of Microsoft – supports CORBA or will do so soon. The four leading database suppliers IBM, Informix, Oracle and Sybase have all announced new architectures based on CORBA/IIOP, as have the two best known systems management specialists, Computer Associates and Tivoli.