The Almanac

An eclectic collection of research and resources.

Oops! The Cost of Software Bugs

The annual cost of inadequate software testing—in other words, software defects—on the U.S. economy:

  • Software developers: $21.2B
  • Software users: $38.3B
  • Total: $59.5B, or 0.6% of the U.S. gross domestic product

Source: Estimate by Research Triangle Institute for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Md., May 2002

'Amazing Grace' Would Be Happy to Hear This

The Cobol programming language, developed in 1959 and based on earlier work by Rear Adm. Grace Hopper, seems to have a future even in the newfangled world of Web services. The keeper of the flame is Micro Focus International Ltd., which last week announced the first product enabling Cobol code to be deployed directly as a Web service without requiring third-party software.

The vast majority of the world's business applications are still written in older languages like Cobol. "For most banking and insurance companies, those [Cobol] systems are their business and their differentiation from the competition, and they're not about to throw them out," says Ian Archbell, vice president of product management in Micro Focus' Sunnyvale, Calif., office.

So Archbell says Micro Focus is gearing up to help companies unlock their existing software assets and "tie together the traditional world and the new world." He says Micro Focus is investing 20% of its revenue in R&D to cover three areas: making sure that Cobol is a "first-class citizen" when Web services are used to integrate applications, that Cobol and Java interoperate, and that XML support is provided.

The Language Popularity Index

The monthly Tiobe Programming Community Index shows the popularity of programming languages, based on hits at the Google search engine. It's a rating that roughly indicates the worldwide availability of skilled engineers, courses and third-party vendors for each language, the index creator says. Caution: The index doesn't say which is the best language, and it isn't based on the lines of code written.

Language Rating

  • Java 51.2
  • C 37.4
  • C++ 32.8
  • Perl 18.7
  • Visual Basic 17.2
  • PHP 9.4
  • JavaScript 6.8
  • SQL 5.5
  • C# 3.9
  • Delphi/Pascal/Kylix 2.2
  • Python 2.1
  • Cobol 2.0
  • RPG 1.9
  • Fortran 1.8
  • Lisp 1.5
  • Ada 1.3

For methodology: www.tiobe.com/tpci.htm

Source: Tiobe Software BV, The Netherlands, May 2003

Businesses Can CaptureThe Open-Source 'Magic'

Corporate application-development shops can learn something from the open-source movement, says Bill Portelli, CEO of CollabNet Inc. in Brisbane, Calif. "What was the magic that made Apache and Linux work, in the absence of a company? It was a collaborative development process that includes early involvement of all of the stakeholders. And we've tried to bottle that magic," he says. CollabNet offers Web-based tools for collaborative software development that attempt to mimic the open-source world. (The company's founder, Brian Behlendorf, was co-founder of The Apache Software Foundation.)

Portelli says CollabNet tools let programmers, systems integrators and end users work together in real time—even from far-flung locations—cutting 25% to 50% off development time.

But is it possible to have too much collaboration? "You can always have too much of a good thing, if it's unmanaged," Portelli says. "So you need to establish access controls—you don't want everyone able to make changes. Sometimes unfettered collaboration needs to be cut off." In other words, in a corporate IT environment, he says, "you want a blend of the open-source practices and corporate practices."

Antarctic Data Center Uses ColdFusion

Antarctic Data Center Uses ColdFusion

ANTARCTICA—Storing and maintaining the mountains of scientific data that Australia's Antarctic researchers generate isn't a job for the faint hearted, but that's the challenge the Australian Antarctic Division Data Centre has undertaken.

The Australian Antarctic Treaty requires all data, such as statistics on flora, fauna, weather and marine life, to be publicly available. So the data center has developed an online central repository—actually an interconnected collection of 30 databases—that can be queried on the Web.

Based on Oracle Corp.'s database suite, the repository sits on a Sun Microsystems Inc. server running on Solaris 8.

The database holds about 500GB of data. Linkages that cross-reference the data and allow queries across all of the databases were developed using Macromedia Inc.'s ColdFusion Web application language.

Recently, the center decided to also use ColdFusion for all of its front-end database development needs, says data center manager Lee Belbin.

"[ColdFusion] is faster than PL/SQL, which is what Oracle uses, and it's faster and more robust than Java," he says.

The latest version of ColdFusion MX includes Java support, allowing the database team to write applications in the ColdFusion programming language but have them translated into Java, Belbin says.

Future plans include a field-trip database system, which will allow members of expedition parties to post information about the condition of the various base stations, such as whether they need cleaning, repairs or more toilet paper.

Special Report

The Web Services Tsumani

Stories in this report:

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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