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Q & A with Dr. Raj Nathan

Q & A with Dr. Raj Nathan

In light of the release of PowerBuilder 9.0, PowerBuilder Developer's Journal had the opportunity to pose a number of questions to Dr. Raj Nathan, SVP and GM of Sybase's Enterprise Solutions Division, about PowerBuilder and where it's headed.

Q: Sybase has put increasing effort behind PowerBuilder recently. What is the importance of PB to the company?
A: PowerBuilder is Sybase's flagship application development environment and is extremely important to the company. We are continuing to put more and more resources and energy behind PowerBuilder as we move forward with its development. The continuing evolution of J2EE, the emergence of .NET, and the growing demands of the mobile market mean that we must, and want to, devote a lot of effort toward developing and marketing PowerBuilder.

Q: In the fast-moving world of application development, where is PB positioned?
A: PowerBuilder is in an enviable position in the application product market segment. It's unmatched in the world of rapid application development, whether it's for client/server, Web, or n-tier architectures. It can address the needs of organizations in all three frameworks, and that's an important value proposition since companies have a mix of architectures composing their computing environments. Perhaps most important is that PowerBuilder is an open tool that, with the release of PowerBuilder 9.0, lays the groundwork for what we believe will be a new generation of application development tool, the 4GLplus+.

Q: How will PB deal with J2EE and the emergence of Microsoft .NET?
A: We are incorporating many capabilities to provide our customers with the functionality they require to integrate with or develop for the J2EE and .NET environments. The upcoming release of PowerBuilder 9.0 provides a feature set for developing applications for both frameworks. Our .NET strategy will be implemented in a number of phases, with Web services being the first, followed by DataWindow.NET and DataStore.NET.

Our J2EE strategy has been evolving strongly over the years and we will keep adding functionality that will enhance PowerBuilder as an open tool even more than it is today.

Q: Can you talk about some of the trends you see coming down the road and how PowerBuilder will address them?
A: Some of the important forces we see affecting the future of application development revolve around this idea of better integrating design and modeling with development and deployment. We call a RAD tool that can do this a 4GLplus+. The combination of increasing application development complexity and the urgency to develop applications quickly is driving the need to get it right the first time. There is little room for error in this brave new world. And the way to get it right from the get-go is through the implementation of a development regime that makes it easy for developers to plan ahead for what they are going to build. In addition, the 4GLplus+ will also incorporate other types of life-cycle management concepts to simplify the overall management and administration of applications.

Q: You think that design and modeling will be important to end users in the future?
A: As I said, we are now dealing with a world that includes different architectural frameworks, putting increasing pressure on development teams. For example, you may want to build or maintain an existing client/server application but also create new applications for mobile and n-tier deployment. You are now talking about very sophisticated applications that must operate in heterogeneous environments either independently or perhaps with one another. With this increasing complexity and riskiness, it's imperative that developers map out what they are doing before they start expending precious time and financial resources on their coding.

Q: PowerBuilder 9.0 is an important release for Sybase. Can you talk about some of the capabilities that will be in it?
A: This release of PowerBuilder lays the groundwork for our long-term strategy for the 4GLplus+ through our support of J2EE and .NET, as well as having tighter integration with PowerDesigner. Axiomatic to the 4GLplus+ is the ability for a tool to be open and flexible. By incorporating capabilities in PowerBuilder 9.0, such as Web services, third-party application server support, XML DataWindows, XML services, and JavaServer Pages, the foundation for the future is being created.

Q: What about Pocket PowerBuilder for handhelds? Will that be part of the 9.0 release?
A: This will be a separate product from PowerBuilder and it will be a 1.0 release. The reason we created a separate product for the handheld market is, well, just that: it's a separate market - it has its own requirements that will differ from those for which PowerBuilder is targeted.

There are many capabilities that PowerBuilder has that simply are not relevant or needed for the handheld market. We have also done a lot in terms of paring down key components in the rich feature set and functionality of PowerBuilder for use with handheld devices. Pocket PowerBuilder is scheduled to go into beta during the first half of 2003 and to be released in the second half of this year.

Q: What are the plans for future PowerBuilder releases?
A: We have a lot of ideas in the works. A 9.5 release is scheduled to ship in 2004 and will include further support for the .NET environment with DataWindow.NET and DataStore.NET. We may even be able to get support of PowerBuilder NVOs in J2EE-compliant servers into this release as well. PowerBuilder 10.0 will move the product further into the 4GLplus+ territory through tighter integration with modeling and design tools.

Q: Any last words for the PBDJ readership?
A: Sybase has been the leader in RAD for over a decade. We continue to make substantial investments in PowerBuilder, along with Pocket PowerBuilder, because it's an important part of the company's product portfolio. We are committed to maintaining PowerBuilder's leadership in this area and believe that the market is looking for a next-generation tool that can further meet its application development needs.

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