N-Tier -- The Future of Computing
The N-Tier model of distributed computing has emerged as the dominant architecture for building cross-platform applications at a majority of the Fortune 1000 corporations.
Network Based Computing
** For a special report from the Cutter Consortium click here.
This fundamental shift in computing models, away from the monolithic mainframe-centric systems and traditional Client/Server based applications, towards highly modular cross-platform distributed computing systems, represents just the tip of the iceberg, a mere glimpse of what is yet to come.
The future of computing is not the desktop, it's the Internet and the World Wide Web!
True Distributed Computing
The emerging Internet-standards-based architecture is "Browser/Network Computing", meaning that from now on, the focus will be on Network-Centric Computing -- Applications that only exist on Networks and that can be made available to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
N-Tier network-based computing allows lightweight thin-client devices such as Internet Browsers, Web-TV, Smart-Phones, Personal Digital Assistants (PDA's) and Networked Appliances to harness the virtually limitless power of the Internet.
Net-Centric N-Tier architectures are rapidly becoming the cornerstone for enterprise application development and companies around the world are adopting it in order to get ahead in the emerging net economy.
Today, the Network (Internet, Intranet and Extranet) is the computer and with this fundamental change in computing models comes both challenges and opportunities like never before.
N-Tier based architectures allow business components to run on a LAN, WAN, or the Internet - a truly distributed computing environment. This means that anyone with a computer and Internet access - for example: a sales person with a laptop away from the office - has all of the functionality available that in-house users have on their desktop systems.
N-Tier distributed component technology is essential for building the next generation of e-Business related applications - applications that are highly scalable and reliable, while providing high throughput and seamless integration with back-end legacy systems.
Enterprise-class N-Tier architectures are becoming the new foundation for developing mission-critical applications and offer the only workable architecture for next-generation Internet-based distributed computing solutions.
The Application Development Strategy for the 21st Century
N-Tier distributed computing systems provide an unmatched set of technological advances such as: connection pooling, connection multiplexing, dynamic load balancing and superb performance on clustered hardware.
N-Tier industrial-strength applications can help companies develop new core competencies in everything from knowledge management to electronic commerce related systems, all while implementing the scalable technology of the future.
N-Tier is not a product or a standard, but rather a strategic concept on how to logically construct and deploy an adaptable distributed computer system.
Spread IT Around
Partitioned N-Tiered systems help facilitate rapid application development and deployment advantages with incremental benefits delivered through co-ordinated parallel development efforts and smart outsourcing, resulting in greatly decreased development time and related costs.
Many e-business applications now use a simple HTML based browser as a universal "thin-client" interface.
A thin-client based architecture places the visual or presentation layer of the application on the Client's system, while the business logic and data reside on the middle and server tiers.
Designing for thin-clients greatly minimizes application deployment problems while maximizing user accessibility from a wide variety of platforms.
N-Tier application frameworks are built to take advantage of open industry standards which allow the resulting applications to operate in distributed, cross-platform environments.
Using these powerful "open standards" allows System Integrators to ensure effective and consistent Inter-Departmental and Inter-Enterprise capable, cross-application communication and messaging at all levels.
The layered N-Tier application design perspective considers the network to be a pool of distributed services, rather than simply a means for the client to access a single server.
Separation of presentation, business logic and related data management functionality are partitioned into any number of logical layers allowing each layer to be developed, enhanced, managed and deployed independently. This is the basis for the N-Tier Network Computing model and is indeed the most pervasive of recent computing trends.
N-Tier platforms function consistently across a wide range of hardware enabling you to scale your operations from the palmtop to the data center, from the simplest of computer devices to the most complex mainframes.
N-Tier distributed computing architectures are the next logical step in an evolutionary process, which is primarily based on conventional (2 & 3 tier) Client/Server computing, plus the convergence of two powerful technologies.
To Infinity and Beyond!
||Component Based Application Development - which is directly related to Object Oriented Programming (Languages and Techniques)
||The Internet - which is a prime example of a complex, adaptive N-Tier Client/Server system.
N-Tier systems use component based development techniques combined with the open industry standards of the Internet, to build powerful cross-platform applications which lower costs, are easier to maintain, provide greater efficiencies and fuel competitive advantage.
What's really new in the N-Tier model of computing is the ability to distribute independant objects over as many tiers as makes sense and then link them dynamically, as required, to provide unlimited application flexibility.
N-Tier Architecture: An Adaptive System
N-Tier is also part of an revolutionary process, now in progress, based on the application of these rapidly evolving technologies (Components and Internet related standards). These technologies are the building blocks for adaptive business software and Information Systems which help corporations integrate all existing Information Technology investments while also taking full advantage of the Internet.
Component Based Application Development
The successful companies of the future will be those that adapt best to a connected world. N-Tier related frameworks use Internet-based tools that enable clients to adopt the latest and most powerful technologies well ahead of the competition.
Organizations today - no matter where they are, what their size, or what their industry - must be able to implement the latest business practices, sales and distribution strategies, manufacturing processes, supply chain logistics, and beyond.
Adaptive N-Tier systems help rapidly changing businesses to experience unrestricted sharing of data among connected applications or data sources in the enterprise - including leading Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), custom, legacy, packaged and database applications.
The emergence of distributed component technology is a key driver behind N-Tier architectures. N-Tier distributed computing systems use a variable number of individual components which communicate with each other using predefined standards and communication frameworks such as:
Adaptable Software - Built to be Flexible
|| (Common Object Request Broker Architecture)
from the Object Management Group (OMG)
|| (Distributed interNet Architecture) from Microsoft
(includes COM/DCOM & COM+ as well as MTS, MSMQ, etc.)
|| (Enterprise Java Beans) from Sun Microsystems
|| (eXtensible Markup Language)
from The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
Further down the road we will see an emphasis on the extension of these standard protocols and the wide-spread adoption of Web based objects.
The use of protocols for communication between objects such as IIOP (Internet Inter-Orb Protocol) will likely gain momentum.
These and other rapidly evolving technologies provide the necessary infrastructure and related plumbing that allows companies to operate in a complex, cross-platform, distributed computing environment, both internally and externally as required.
N-Tier application development is an interactive process of breaking a problem or related opportunity into manageable pieces called components.
These components or "Business Objects" are "software models" typically based on a "view" of a real object, event or business process (ie: Product, contents insurance quote, Person or Sales Order). The individual software components can then evolve and adapt, both independently and/or as part of the overall system in which they exist.
A Global Transformation
N-Tier application design is ideal for building adaptive systems with each component in a position to be used and reused in new combinations to meet dynamic business requirements.
This allows developers and new applications to quickly leverage existing components and proven business logic.
In tomorrow's fast-paced, changing world, applying N-Tier based applications will empower business to become ever more agile and adaptive in providing value to their clients.
N-Tier based systems have the potential to greatly reduce both the time-to-market for new business applications and the total cost of maintaining and adapting these complex and expensive systems to meet ever-changing requirements.
In this age of instant world-wide communications, computer systems and related technologies are now much more than mere tools meant to support existing business processes. Computers and the networks they run on have become key enablers helping organizations continually transform themselves in our rapidly changing world.
Integrated Business Systems
Connectivity between computer users through local, company and global networks is changing the way organizations in all sectors operate, how workers do their work and even the types of work they perform.
N-Tier related systems enable a strategic shift to using the Internet as the "Global Computer".
This global revolution is not only changing the direction of enterprise computing it is, in fact, changing the very nature of how we do business.
By now most forward thinking companies have recognised the inevitable and have strategies to embrace the Internet.
Using the information power of the Internet you can create, improve and maintain relationships with all the various parties you depend upon for success.
One of the biggest challenges facing e-businesses today is integration with all existing software investments.
N-Tier frameworks help provide an integrated solution linking critical business processes and leveraging an organization's existing investments in information technology related resources.
N-Tier Means E-Business
An N-Tier environment can help to create dynamic links between e-business sales and marketing and the rest of the organization's established business infrastructure - a critical step in the implementation of an effective e-business strategy.
N-Tier systems provide organizations with the ability to fully integrate and automate all business processes essential to e-business. N-Tier integrated solutions can extend enterprise applications to enable cross-company business transactions and processes while delivering high-value services to customers.
It's not just about technology -- It's about using technology to build a business and about harnessing the business potential of the Internet!
Convergence and the New E-conomy
N-Tier computing is not just about the technology of deploying low cost "Thin Clients" connected to flexible, load balanced "Application Servers", and integrating "Distributed Databases" existing across multiple platforms and locations.
It's increasingly about the application of N-Tier related technology to knowledge-based business and about providing a valuable service by applying this advanced technology as a solution to evolving, real world opportunities.
To succeed in the future a company must do more than simply add electronic commerce channels.
Tomorrows succesfull corporation must continually reconfigure itself, both inside and out, as an adaptive electronic business - quickly building (or dismantling) trading relationships and maximizing the performance of an "extended enterprise".
Business information systems must become increasingly adaptive - allowing the revamping of e-business strategies and models regularly.
"We are living through a historic period of technological change, brought about by the development and the widening application of information and communication technologies.
This process is both different from, and faster than, anything we have seen before. It has a huge potential for wealth creation, higher standards of living and better services." (Alvin Toffler, 1980)
The Time Has Come
The Internet and the World Wide Web has blossomed into the biggest revolution in communication and information technology since the development of the computer and perhaps even the telephone.
The economy of the 21st Century will increasingly become an information economy based on billions of electronic transactions happening daily.
With information at the heart of the new economy, the business focus is moving from computing to computing-based communications and who can consistently present and transfer the best knowledge.
The convergance of computer and communication related technologies is having profound effects on business worldwide.
Applying N-Tier related technologies to real business needs empowers business to truly take advantage of constant change, rather than just playing a never ending carrot-and-stick game of catch-up.
The worldwide Internet user population is estimated to reach over 200 million by the year 2000 according to International Data Corporation.
Demands on and for 21st century networked applications will skyrocket as the number of users is expected to reach one billion by the end of the next decade.
How Can N-Tier Help?
As businesses get ready to step into the 21st century, application architecture and supporting infrastructure must be designed to allow for rapid development of new solutions.
In the very near future a wide variety of intelligent consumer electronic devices will become Web-Enabled, transferring massive computer power to the simplest of devices while ensuring maximum speed and simplicity for the average user.
The increasing popularity of user-friendly NetTV boxes, Internet appliances and inexpensive handheld devices such as PDAs and smart phones promises to accelerate user growth exponentially.
Adopting an N-Tier application architecture today will allow the integration, scaling, linking or re-engineering of existing systems to continually adapt to constantly changing business needs and become a much more manageable task in the future.
As a technology, N-Tier architectures provide a wide array of benefits to companies needing flexible and reliable solutions to complex, constantly changing problems.
Up the Knowledge Revolution!
As a website, N-Tier.com will provide the information and related tools businesses and IT professionals need to help solve some of those challenges and allow them to take advantage of the exciting opportunities for growth this powerful new computing model has created.
At N-Tier.com we constantly research the World Wide Web as an information resource and we'll keep you informed of developments on the N-Tier Revolution. As a Distributed Computing Vertical Industry Portal, N-Tier.com can help enable your company at all levels to be fully aware of the available technology and how it can best be used to your advantage.
We hope our articles and related links will help provide a better understanding of a wide range of Distributed Computing and Internet / Intranet related technologies including CORBA, DNA (DCOM/COM+), ISAPI, ASP, MTS, EJB, XML, MOM, OOP, CGI, JSP, LDAP, NDS, Java, Jini, TP Monitors and Application Servers.
These and other powerful N-Tier Computing and Communication related technologies will have profound effects on the future of both Business and the World as we now know it.
The knowledge revolution is a global event which we will all be attending for the foreseeable future!
As we enter the new millenium, companies, countries and individuals world-wide will increasingly develop their wealth through global communication and extensive co-operation at many levels.
The Future is Distributed !
The ascendance of science and technology combined with the emergence of the Internet - the World-Wide-Web and open global-market based economies - have all contributed to growing optimism that the "borderless economy" of the 21st century will lead to unprecedented prosperity for all mankind.
No one entitiy could ever control the Internet. It's just too distributed, in every sense.
The Internet will continue to spread it's already global reach for our foreseeable future, routinely touching every aspect of our daily lives.
As we continue our exploration of a truly unknowable future, we must try to keep in mind that in all the important ways we all help to define the future of computing!
While there are both physical and non-physical elements that make up this thing we call the Internet, it is really about the convergance of everything we are as a collective.
The Internet and the World Wide Web ignore borders and instead allow people the freedom to view the World as a continuim and to see themselves as a part of the whole picture.
We are all part of a rapidly evolving complex system, that is constantly changing and adapting, both as a whole and as individual points in a dynamic matrix of objects, processes and events.
With each point in the matrix playing an integral part, we will continue to collectively define, create and explore the fantastic future of computing.
Click here to see - Top 10 Trends in Technology for 2001.