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Introduction

Introduction

The purpose of this book is to introduce object-oriented technology to the broadest possible audience. The worldwide movement to object technology is proceeding at an ever-increasing pace, yet I still find that a genuine understanding of objects is the exception rather than the rule. This is unfortunate because the full benefits of objects cannot be realized if the key principles are not understood. These principles are simple, natural, and easily grasped. However, they are often masked by a seemingly impenetrable veil of jargon. This book is designed to strip away that veil by explaining objects in simple English and with graphic illustrations.

The concern of the book is on using objects in business settings, and the focus throughout is on translating the advantages of objects into business benefits. These benefits include improving the efficiency of software development, but they go far beyond that goal. The true motivation of this book is to demonstrate how the use of object technology can help your company become an adaptive organization, able to respond rapidly to changing business conditions and outmaneuver your competition in the marketplace.

As the book's title suggests, the target audience is managers, not technologists. The level of manager can range all the way from project managers up through CIOs and CEOs. The common denominator that makes you a candidate for reading this book is that you want information systems that make your company more competitive. The emphasis throughout is on giving you just enough insight into objects that you can make informed decisions about this technology, without dragging you through the details of implementation.

Having declared the primary audience for the book, I should also point out that it has proven to be a good introduction for practitioners as well. One of the impediments to the effective use of object technology is that developers are often trained on object-oriented tools without first being given a proper framework for understanding what they will be doing with these tools. More than one reader of the first edition has told me that everyone seeking to become an object-oriented developer should read this book before plunging into the technology. I take that as high praise indeed, and I pass it on in case you are a technologist wondering whether this book would be of value to you.

You don't need a technical background in order to read and learn from this book. I assume that you are generally familiar with computers and how they are used in business, but I don't assume any knowledge of software development or data management technology. If you have a good grasp of these areas, you should dive right into Chapter 1. If you don't, you should start out with the software construction primer in the appendix. Even if you are already familiar with these topics, I encourage you to quickly scan this primer just to make sure that you understand what I have in mind when I contrast the object approach with conventional software construction.

How to Read the Book

I assume you are busy, so I've tried to make it easy for you to consume this book quickly. I've kept it brief; the margins contain a "fast track" summary of every paragraph; and there are illustrations to convey key concepts in graphical form. If you want rapid access to the core ideas, just read the fast track, look over the illustrations, and dip into the text only when you want more information. The fast track and graphics make it easy to return later to pick up additional information as you need it.

The book is also designed to be read selectively. If all you want is the big picture, just read Chapters 1 and 9 (the "bookends"). If you prefer to read the chapters in a different sequence, I strongly suggest that you read Chapter 1 before you strike out on your own. Here is a quick overview of how the book is structured:

  • Chapter 1 stands alone as an executive summary of what objects are and how they can help you.

  • Chapters 2–4 explore the inner workings of objects, providing enough detail so that you can better appreciate the power of this technology.

  • Chapters 5–8 explain how objects can be scaled up from simple software components to enterprisewide business systems.

  • Chapter 9 explains how you can use object technology to make your company a more adaptive, competitive organization.

To help ease the problem of jargon mentioned earlier, I have limited the use of specialized terms to those that have relevance to a business person or that are particularly useful in communicating with technical personnel. As an aid to mastering these terms, I have used boldface type to introduce them, and I have provided nontechnical definitions for them in a glossary at the back of the book.

If you are still hungry after you've digested the material in this book, turn to the suggested readings at the back of the book for ideas on where to go next. You will find some of the books that have influenced me over the years and helped to shape the present book.

What's New in This Edition

If you have already read the first edition of this book, you should read this revision to bring your knowledge up to date. So much has changed in just a few years! When I wrote the first edition, object technology was the new kid on the block struggling for recognition. Seven years later, it is a required practice in many of the world's organizations, and it appears to be the emerging standard for Internet programming. For all my optimism about objects in the first edition, even my own expectations have been exceeded!

At the same time, object technology has failed to deliver on some of its most exciting promises. The much anticipated market for pluggable business objects has yet to materialize, and most companies are still grinding out applications line by line rather than assembling software from prebuilt components.

This new edition takes a hard look at both the strengths and the weaknesses of object technology. On the whole, I think the potential for objects is greater than ever. But the industry is gradually changing the way it thinks about, packages, and promotes objects, and these changes are essential if we are to fully realize the potential of the technology. As I project our progress from the past ten years into the near-term future, I predict that the next five years will see objects as the enabling technology to a new generation of adaptive business systems. This book will show how you can achieve this goal even sooner within your own organization.

When Addison-Wesley first approached me to write a new edition, I imagined that I could get away with minor revisions. How wrong I was! Although I have retained a fair amount of the original material in the early chapters, the majority of the content is new. Here is a quick preview of the new topics covered in this edition:

  • The strategic value of objects has shifted. The theme of the first edition was increasing software productivity through the use of objects. The theme of this new book is designing adaptive business systems that allow you to quickly change your business without building new applications.

  • Java has burst onto the scene, offering us an elegant new object language and a new standard in platform independence.

  • Partly in response to Java's robust interface mechanisms, the industry is accelerating its use of message interfaces as the primary means of linking objects together. Simple in theory, message interfaces are powerful in practice and will greatly facilitate the emergence of pluggable business components.

  • Databases for objects have gone far beyond their early beginnings and now offer the scalability and robustness necessary for mission-critical applications. The relevant question now is not whether to adopt object databases but how to integrate them with your existing database technologies.

  • Object technology is finally breaking down the classic division between applications and databases. Persistent execution engines allow entire business systems to execute directly in the same environment that manages their storage, eliminating the need to "check out" objects into programs before they can execute their business logic.

  • Objects have gone distributed. No longer is it sufficient to design a good class hierarchy and then use it to develop better applications. The challenge today is to develop international business systems that are robust, fast, and flexible. Naturally, Internet-based distribution is essential for next-generation systems.

An Invitation to Interact

It has been a source of great joy to me to meet people from all over the world who have benefited from the first edition of this book. You should find the second edition even more helpful, and I welcome your feedback on both the book and your experiences in the use of object technology. If you have a quick question or comment, feel free to contact me at dtaylor@engines.com. Better yet, visit http://www.engines.com and participate in our electronic forum on the use of objects in business. As long as we are headed in the same direction, let's share what we learn and enjoy one another's company along the way!

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