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SYS-CON Radio Interview with Paul Lipton of Computer Associates

SYS-CON Radio Interview with Paul Lipton of Computer Associates

JDJ: Tell us about your Jasmine product.
Lipton: Most people are familiar with the current release of Jasmine, 1.21 - it's a powerful object database with some characteristics that people tend to associate with application servers. The typical object database is a passive repository for the state of an object, but in the case of Jasmine objects have both state and behavior. In a Jasmine 1.21 environment objects aren't just sitting there being persisted but are actually doing all kinds of work. That's how the current technology works, but of course what we're most excited about is what we're working on now.

JDJ: How about the new product?
Lipton: The new product is called Jasmine ii - Jasmine Intelligence for the Internet. It's a complete environment for rapid development of highly manageable, intelligent e-business solutions. We enable e-business applications to be intelligent using our patented Neugent technology as a Jasmine ii option. As you know, Neugents are the advanced neural network technology that we've developed, and I'll speak more about them in a minute. But Jasmine ii is also an open infrastructure for distributing, deploying and integrating all data providers and applications throughout the enterprise to the Internet and beyond. It's a synthesis of intelligence, middleware, development tools, persistent storage, integration capabilities and modeling. Also, Jasmine ii is an object-model neutral platform. We work with CORBA, COM and EJB in terms of object models and integrate with a vast array of databases and other unique data providers - everything from CICS to LDAP.

JDJ: Is Jasmine ii still a database?
Lipton: Jasmine ii is more than just a database. However, there will be an object database option called Jasmine ii ODB for those interested in using the object database subset to do the kinds of things that the object database does well, like optimized object persistence without the overhead of mapping, object caching and managing complex content. But what Jasmine ii is really about is building robust e-business applications and transforming existing systems into Web assets. To do this we had to go way beyond databases and what they can do. We had to add messaging, ORBs, global resource pooling and optimization, EJB support, Neugents, and so much more. We added modeling capabilities. And to make all this easy for developers to use, we created integration for the popular Java IDEs like VisualCafe, JBuilder and VisualAge. We don't force developers to use a particular IDE. In fact, we offer the same freedom to non-Java developers using Visual Basic or C++. The need for this kind of infrastructure hits developers all the time and in many different ways when they try to live up to object-oriented principles like code reuse.

There are many reasons why programmers don't reuse code that much. Let's face it, most of the data in the enterprise isn't even an object. About 80% of the data isn't even in relational databases. It's in prerelational databases, VSAM files on mainframes, e-mails, on green-screen terminals or whatever. In a world where e-business is demanding applications that are integrated into an extremely wide range of applications and data providers, as well as with partners and customers, that's one important issue. The other issue is that we do have these conflicting component models like EJB, COM and CORBA. To a varying extent they're not really that interoperable. How do you keep track of all their objects and organize them? The lack of a central catalog that understands all object models is also a problem.

That's something that an object database can do really well. Does that mean that Jasmine ii is just an object database? Or that it only talks to object databases? Absolutely not. Jasmine ii talks to relational databases, too - such as Oracle, DB2, Sybase and Ingres, all the relational data providers but also nonrelational data providers.

In the real world there are real systems running on things like IMS, VSAM, IDMS and Datacom, and these systems are quite important. I know we'd like to erase it all and just start with this Java purity, but the reality of the matter is that these systems are running the bulk of today's businesses. If we doubt that, just look at the trillions of dollars that were spent on Y2K. So there's a real need not to be religious about this and integrate at multiple levels.

JDJ: So, is Jasmine ii all about integrating in a really big way?
Lipton: Integration is just one way that we think it will be uniquely positioned in the marketplace, because Jasmine ii is an infrastructure for building intelligent applications using the Neugent technology I mentioned earlier. Neugents work very differently from the conventional rule-based expert systems of the '80s and '90s. Rather than have a developer program in the business rules or do some kind of statistical analysis - which may be expensive and difficult to adapt to rapidly changing business conditions - Neugents are self-adapting and learn the way people do, from their own experience. We've been using them successfully in our Unicenter TNG product for quite a while now. Since Unicenter is an enterprise management product, it uses them to make predictions about events that will happen in the future. You know, instead of waiting for your e-commerce server to crash so you can panic, it posts a warning that says something like "there is a 90% probability of the e-commerce server crashing in 45 minutes."

This is a lifesaver for serious business on the Internet. It happens because Neugents recognize complex patterns and learn from experience, just as humans do. In the case of Jasmine ii we've integrated the Neugent technology as an option allowing developers to create applications that can adapt to changing business environments.

JDJ: What would be the correct term for Jasmine ii? Is it an application server?
Lipton: The new term is infrastructure. Jasmine ii is an end-to-end infrastructure for creating e-business applications, particularly intelligent applications. The reason Jasmine ii isn't an application server is that the vision of it is so much greater. We've taken Java and added to it all our technologies in the areas of networks, enterprise management, security, databases, and much more that have taken us over two decades to develop. And no matter how talented you are, and how many clever people in your garage or office are working on the newest and greatest Java app server, you can't leverage decades of experience and technology if you don't have them to use.

JDJ: Are you going to be running sessions, etc., to train the new breed of Jasmine developers?
Lipton: Well, of course, we'll be offering extensive training, but any Java developer can be a Jasmine developer quite easily. Jasmine also has interfaces for C++ and COM for Visual Basic programmers because, again, we have to face the reality that these systems aren't going to disappear overnight. While we support Java, we have to be responsive to the genuine needs of all our clients.

Jasmine's architecture is quite extensible in terms of the kinds of services we can add to it. For example, it was easy to add XML support to Jasmine ii. But e-business today is putting tremendous competitive pressure on companies to differentiate their Web sites and their business systems. That's where the intelligence of Neugents comes in. It directly translates to an "above the line" competitive advantage.

JDJ: Basically, just as Java brought the threads and multiprocessing to the user very easily, you're bringing the world the neural nets and all the knock-on effects that it has to the end user.
Lipton: Personally, I see it continuing to evolve into an ever-more-useful, intelligent, and self-adaptive infrastructure. For example, at the core of Jasmine ii there's a lot of attention given to visualization technologies, particularly in the area of 3D. The object database is multimedia aware, so we're leveraging that to the next generation and applying Neugent intelligence and visualization technology in a sort of synergy. In the next few years what's going to really distinguish one e-business site from another is exactly the kind of application that Jasmine ii makes possible: an intelligent, self-learning, multimedia-aware application.

JDJ: When is it available?
Lipton: Well, it's in open beta, with some clients already using the new functionality for developing production systems. We're very enthusiastic about our delivery schedule, and are looking at a time frame measured in months to go to full general availability.

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Jeremy Geelan is a regular commentator on alternative social, political, economic, and technological futures for a variety of European journals and newspapers.

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