Tools needed to support DCE
Competition with CORBA and Microsoft signals trouble ahead
London -- A lack of easy-to-use development tools threatens the long-term survival of DCE, the Distributed Computing Environment originally developed by the Open Software Foundation, now part of the Open Group.
In the third of a series of reports on middleware, London-based research company Ovum Ltd. casts serious doubt on DCE's ability to prosper in the face of growing competition from the Common Object Request Broker Architecture on the one hand, and the possibility that Microsoft Corp. may step into the arena of large scale distributed systems.
"Designers of DCE originally aimed for power, rather than ease of use, and envisaged that tools to make DCE more user-friendly would soon appear on the market," said Rosemary Rock-Evans, a joint author of the report. "This has failed to happen. Unless DCE becomes easier to use, it will be overshadowed by Microsoft's emerging middleware strategy."
The report predicts that Microsoft will soon be in a position to offer many of the functions that DCE was designed to provide, such as security and transaction processing. And with its ActiveX interface and its Falcon message-oriented middleware product, Microsoft will have two advantages over DCE -- usability and support for messaging.
DCE has been widely adopted by some large organizations, such as General Motors, the U.S. Army, and Barclays Bank. But according to Eric Woods, the report's other joint author, "Although it has been adopted by these companies, it is still failing to get into the lifeblood of the organization." He cited anecdotal examples of project managers in those companies finding other ways to link systems, rather than use DCE, because it is too hard to handle.
In many cases DCE has been hijacked by the technical elitists who have little interest in making DCE more accessible or spreading its use in the organization, Woods said.
He added that sales of DCE outside the U.S. are also being hampered by export restrictions on its encryption software. Ironically, the report points out that the technical doubts over DCE have now been resolved, and says it now offers a technically excellent standard, with well-established and well-tested services.
"The software tool vendors know they have to be more open in their approach and need to support whatever middleware the customer has already implemented," said Woods, "With the large Fortune 500 customers currently using DCE, the tool vendors could have a big opportunity if they targeted that market." --Ron Condon, IDG News Service, London Bureau
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