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July 17, 1991

INTERLEAF ADDS VALUE TO ORACLE WITH OBJECT-ORIENTED EXTENSION

By CBR Staff Writer

Interleaf Inc’s active document technology, discussed earlier this year (CI No 1,677) as part of its Interleaf 5 product did not offer data management and security, something the company has now remedied by providing an object-oriented extension to the Oracle database. The problem of providing storage and management facilities for your product when you are a software company using object-oriented technology and thus ahead of the technology used in the current relational database game is something that a number of software houses will have to consider over the next couple of years. The sensible solution, from a technical point of view, might be to shack up with an object-oriented database vendor, but from a marketing point of view, if you want wide market coverage, the relational vendors are the only game in town. However, the main relational players in the market either have no facility for storing objects, or they can store them but do not offer tools to manage the objects once they are held in Binary Large Object form. So one solution is to write your own extension to a relational database. This, in effect, is what Interleaf has announced with the release of its new relational document manager.

Centralised vaults

The manager stores objects in centralised vaults – logical storage areas – that it defines and controls, while the Oracle database handles the information about the objects that are being stored and manages the checking in and out of objects in the vault, although objects can be placed in the vault or removed from it only by the relational document manager. This tool was developed with a customer that wanted to use Interleaf 5 with the Oracle database and once the tool was developed the company realised it had a marketable product on its hands as more and more customers expressed an interest in it. The relational document manager was built using Oracle’s relational database technology, the C programming language and Interleaf Lisp. The relational document manager treats documents as separately addressable objects and can manage any Interleaf entity represented on the user interface including documents, folders, drawers, cabinets, and books as an object. It can also manage non-Interleaf objects from word processing documents, ASCII files, and graphics. The current release of the relational document manager offers three main functions: an electronic librarian, a production control system and revision management. The electronic librarian offers the user a series of menus to locate the document. When the object data base vendors and the relational database vendors locked horns and wagged manifestoes at each other a year or so ago it looked as if a straightforward battle between the two types of technology was about to take shape. Then everything went very quiet for a while – the object database vendors announced their products, a few got signed up by the large hardware vendors, product started to ship but the relational vendors didn’t start to lose accounts. August research bodies such as Ovum forecast that object-oriented databases were doomed to take only a tiny share of the database market in the next 10 years, arguing that users would wait for the relational technology to be extended. However, gradually more and more software houses are waking up to the potential of object-oriented technology and are using it in their products. Interleaf is one such company that has a product – Interleaf 5 out in the market which requires data management and storage facilities not yet available in relational databases. Katy Ring looks at Interleaf’s answer.

Before delivering the document the librarian checks that the user has the appropriate access permissions to the file before searching the vault for the correct version of the document. If appropriate the file will be delivered and if another user requests permission for the document he is informed that the document is being edited. The production control system deter mines the users and groups that can access an object at a particular point in its development. For examp

le, in publishing, a writer may be able to get access to files for editing, whereas a reviewer might be restricted to viewing copies of files and filling in review forms for comments. The system tells users that an object has been sent to them and prompts them to respond. The revision management tool ensures that once an object has passed through its defined route it becomes an official version and cannot be altered – changes have to be made in a new revision cycle.

Object relationships The next release of the document manager will make more use of object-oriented technology in breaking documents down into smaller objects as well as in enhancing object reusability. Object relationships will enable the user to select an entire book from from the library or selected chapters from the book, as well as the sharing of objects among multiple larger objects. For example, documents or catalogues could be shared among books. The new version will also offer a where-used facility so that the user can quickly find out the documents that would be affected by a change to an object. This tool can also be used for research in providing a listing of more sources of related information. TPS 4 users can make use of the relational document manager although they currently have to use Oracle’s SQL*Forms interface to access the manager. Until recently the relational document manager was only available by contract through Interleaf Systems Integration, but now Interleaf has signed up as an Oracle value added reseller selling runtime licenses along with itsdocument manager. So is this the beginning of a trend resellers offering the object-oriented extensions that relational vendors are not providing? Neil Morgan, ISV programme manager for Oracle UK thinks so. He believes that third-party object-oriented offerings integrated into the Oracle environment are no more or less a threat to Oracle than third-party 4GLs or end-user tools. Furthermore, such developments do not preclude Oracle’s own, unstated, developments in the object-oriented area. Maybe not, but if a database model begins to be surrounded by an army of third-party extensions using a different technology model, chances are a new computing paradigm is being commercially established…

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