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  1. Technology
November 4, 1991


By CBR Staff Writer

Object Management Group reveals the results of the Distributed Object collaboration…

Ninety days of tyranny was how Object Management Group president Chris Stone described the summer period during which six companies were forced to sit down and piece together their respective technologies which form the Object Request Broker, ORB. For the object-oriented, the Broker is really the end of the beginning, a compromise between different approaches to doing object-oriented development work. If the future is to be object-oriented, then the Broker is its start-point, enabling messages to be passed between objects, regardless of the type of host computer system or network. In the object-oriented paradigm, everything from applications to a print queue, an electronic mail message to a graphic, is regarded as an object. The ORB is a high-level specification that sits on top of distributed computing approaches like Sun Microsystems Inc’s Open Network Computing framework and the Open Software Foundation’s Distributed Computing Environment, the first stage in Object Group’s plan to create a distributed application environment. The Request Broker combines the two main approaches to objects that featured in the original submissions. The dynamic method in which objects can be added to the Broker on the network in real time is supplied by HyperDesk Corp and Digital Equipment Corp. The static model, which defines application objects when the Broker is set up on the network, originates from the joint Hewlett-Packard Co-Sun-NCR Corp-Object Design Inc submission. The Request Broker gives developers a choice between the two methods – it has an interface for each though each of the six firms say they will incorporate both topologies into their Object Request Broker-compliant products. A development language – the Interface Definition Language merges the two elements, enabling object-oriented developers to write just one set of code. There are, however, performance differences between the two approaches. The Broker specification, which also includes an Object Adaptor and an Interface Repository, is out in January of next year, and costs $50. The Request Broker will be followed by the Object Model specification, a common language enabling objects to communicate with each other, in the first quarter of next year; specifications of object services will start shipping during the third quarter of 1992.

DEC, X/Open offer support

One year old Data General Corp spin-out HyperDesk Inc said it would offer its distributors an object management system based on the Broker specification in January, including applications development features and services. SunSoft and Hewlett-Packard promised their joint Distributed Object Application Framework, already a year in development, by the second half of 1992, with source code available to developers by the second quarter. DEC, which submitted its NAS Applications Control Architecture Technology as part of the Broker said that ACA Services on VMS and Ultrix was the first commercially available distributed object-oriented software to implement the ORB. As for consortia, X/Open, the Open Software Foundation, Unix International Inc and the Interactive Multi-Media Association all offered support, with X/Open committing to publish the specification as a preliminary requirements document. Notably absent were Microsoft Corp and the new IBM Corp-Apple Computer Inc Taligent venture. Retro-fitting existing object-oriented technology, such as Microsoft Windows or Pink, to the Broker, was described as non-trivial but manageable, and Object Management Group president Chris Stone predicted that IBM-Apple would offer more concrete information in the future. Hewlett-Packard and NCR are among those integrating the Object Request Broker with Windows applications.

IBM and Apple plan to keep the best bits of Taligent Pink to themselves

Apple Computer Inc executives have been revealing to MacWeek magazine a little more about how the futuristic object-oriented Taligent operating system will co-exist with existing software. E

d Birss, senior vice-president of Apple’s object-based systems division, tipped as the future chief operating officer of Taligent Inc, told the paper that Apple and IBM Corp would address the problem through a set of Taligent objects called Personalities. These, running under the Taligent operating system, should provide full emulation of operating systems including MacOS, IBM’s AIX and Apple’s A/UX Unix versions, and even OS/2. When an application is launched, the Taligent operating system will know which Personality it should run, and will automatically set up the interface and the application. But what about new features? Taligent should make it easier to develop and customise generic applications, said Birss, with a solid set of objects that enable new application categories to be developed that aren’t possible now, because they are economically infeasible to develop and support. A three-dimensional version of Apple’s QuickDraw application could be an example of an object that Apple or IBM could take and layer into their current operating systems, providing some of the functionality of the fully object-based system. Such objects will even find their way into IBM mainframes, Birss predicts. But there are plenty of issues still unresolved. While Taligent’s operating system will be available from Apple, IBM, Taligent and authorised third party companies, it is not known if the Personalities will be freely available, or simply bundled in with machines from Apple or IBM. For instance, will IBM and third parties be able to sell the MacOS Personality on its machines? Birss hints that they won’t. There are certain advantages that Apple and IBM, as founders of Taligent, would have. It’s not our objective to foster a clone business. The operating system user interface will take the best of what’s available from both IBM and Apple, so that customers don’t have to re-learn how to use a Taligent machine. Birss says that Taligent will run on a wide range of machines, including Intel Corp iAPX-86 and Motorola 68000 family systems, as well as the IBM PowerPC RISC.

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