IBM Corp says it will ship the first three application development frameworks developed as part of its Java-based San Francisco project by the middle of next year. The programs will provide ISVs with a common set of business objects which can be used to develop customized applications for warehouse management, general ledger and order management that will run on multiple platforms. Now in testing with 10 of IBM’s 70 San Francisco partners, the frameworks will supposedly support a variety of development tools, including non-Java languages. The availability of the frameworks, essentially class libraries for Java, should speed up core development work, reduce cost, improve reliability and allow new technologies and complementary business applications to be integrated more easily, the company says. Below the high-level application-specific frameworks live a class of components which can record customer type, currency and other values. IBM is submitting design specifications for these objects to the Object Management Group’s Business Object RFP. While San Francisco is being targeted for use with OMG’s Corba distributed object communications infrastructure, the frameworks currently ship with JavaSoft’s end-to-end Java remote method invocation mechanism, which doesn’t currently support Corba. Whether it eventually does or not is not an issue IBM says, because it has written an abstraction layer for San Francisco that will hide the specific object request broker from the application. It hasn’t decided whether it will ship an ORB of any description with the frameworks or whether it will leave ISVs to add their own favorite. It may also develop an implementation specifically for use with the VisiBroker ORB that Netscape is bundling in its next-generation browser and groupware. IBM hasn’t worked out pricing for the software, but says it won’t be freeware. IBM will allow ISVs to extend San Francisco APIs wherever they choose without having to ask its permission. IBM says it’s not in competition with the Open Applications Group, which is attempting to develop specifications for enabling applications such as SAP, Oracle, JD Edwards and Baan to interoperate. Indeed it claims it will be able to implement OAG specifications on top of San Francisco. It claims to have been approached to license the design of the frameworks and components to third parties. It declined to comment on whether the APIs might be licensed to JavaSoft for incorporation into the core Java technologies. Windows NT and HP-UX ports of the frameworks are planned in addition to OS/400, AIX, MVS and OS/2, and with hardware isolation provided by the Java run-time virtual machine, the frameworks should be easily transportable to any Java-supporting machine with little modification. Key San Francisco partners, Birmingham, UK-based JBA International Plc and Stockholm-based IBS AB, are still providing development resources and IBM now has around 100 staff working on the project. It’s being run by general manager Steve Ladwig out of IBM’s AS/400 headquarters in Rochester, Minnesota, whose software group spawned the initiative. In his new role as general manager of network computing and solutions frameworks Ladwig is also responsible for software such as IBM’s solution to the year 2000 problem. The unit is part of IBM’s worldwide general business division created last in July (CI No 2,959) which offers sales and services to the fast-growing small and medium-sized business sector under Robin Sternbergh. She in turn reports to Ned Lautenbach, head of IBM worldwide sales and services.
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