In mid-June I had a conversation with Jan Aleman, CEO of Servoy, about his IDE. For background, Servoy is a Java-based IDE that can produce desktop and Web interfaces from a single code base; it also provides extensive support for common platforms, all the major SQL databases, and quite a bit of common application functionality. Servoy's customers are primarily ISVs building applications for sale or for SaaS licensing, although there are also some corporate users of Servoy.
Our discussion was framed primarily as a response to my discussion with Iron Speed Chairman Alan Fisher, in which Fisher said that his Designer tool aims to generate 90 percent of the code for an ASP.Net database application. Iron Speed is aimed primarily at people building custom in-house Web applications, although Iron Speed does have a few ISVs.
IW: Why don't you like code generation, Jan?
JA: The simple answer is that 90 percent is not enough for us. Our experience is that code generation gets you into trouble long-term, so we keep all the design information inside our engine. At the same time, we give you a way to add code in any language.
Our background was at Baan Research. We built the frameworks that other groups at Baan used to build high-end, scalable, mission-critical ERP and manufacturing systems. That gives us a different perspective than people who only have built Web sites.
IW: You've been going after Microsoft .Net recently. How is Servoy better?
JA: There are a number of reasons. For one thing, Microsoft has recently realized that it has deployment problems, and problems with the development of big projects, and scalability issues. So Microsoft has been bringing some of the Enterprise capabilities developed for Java into .Net. An example is Hibernate, a powerful, high-performance object/relational persistence and query service, which is now available for .Net as NHibernate. All of that stuff has been in Servoy from Day 1.
Think about SaaS: If you have a live service with multiple tenants, you can't afford to bring the server down for an upgrade, but that's exactly what Microsoft makes you do, and it can be for hours if it's a complex upgrade. Servoy does automatic live upgrades without ever taking the server down.