Internet Tool Survey

Table of Contents



Structure of the Survey

Tool Categories


The Internet Tool Survey is part of a larger project, Scaling Object Services Architectures to the Internet, whose overall goal is to enable the rapid construction of Internet-enabled applications for electronic commerce, command and control, and virtual enterprises. Our thesis is that an extensible architecture is needed that combines the representational power of today's object technology with the scalability and openness of today's Internet tools, including World Wide Web. We are working to extend a class of architectures called object services architectures to be scaleable and Internet-enabled. Visions: Application and Technology Drivers sketches a number of end-user-oriented visions of the future that will be enabled by the type of Internet/Web/Object/Middleware/DBMS integration toward which we are working.

Today, object services architectures (OSAs) are frameworks which consist of a messaging backplane and a collection of orthogonal plug-in object services. The messaging backplane, called an Object Request Broker by the Object Management Group (OMG) and Component Object Model (COM)/Network OLE by Microsoft, supports an object model and distributed message passing communication between the various services. Benefits include a principled architecture and a rich services toolkit which, if adopted widely, would extend the kinds of benefits provided by today's standard GUI components, common look-and-feel, to a much broader domain, that of common semantics, as provided by a common object services toolkit. End-users would benefit from ease of understanding applications built from a common set of services. Developers would benefit from the availability of a library of common, tested parts and could customize only some parts or include some services instead of starting from scratch when building custom systems. Limitations of OSAs at present include lack of maturity, modest adoption rates, and limited architectural provision for federation of services though there is good progress on federation of backplanes.

At the same time, today, a number of widely-used tools are available in the Internet environment. One of them, the World Wide Web (WWW or The Web), is an increasingly pervasive addition on top of basic Internet protocols that makes is possible for people world wide to access and publish globally accessible hypermedia documents. Beyond the clear benefit of providing a platform-independent way to share information, there is still the challenge of extending the reach of the web beyond unstructured and semi-structured to structured information, which object technology handles well.

Today, corporations, as well as the Government, are moving from proprietary internal networks to intranets, using Internet technologies within a corporate firewall or other protection perimeter. And they are adopting object technology. What is needed is a way to improve both web and object technology frameworks and to grow these architectures together so that the advantages of both can be available to next generation application builders.

Steps in our three year project are:

Our approach is open. We are working towards this end not only in our project but also through standards groups like OMG (chairing the OMG Internet Special Interest Group), helping to create forums like the Joint W3C-OMG Workshop on Distributed Objects and Mobile Code (June 24-25 1996 in Boston), and working with like-minded industry groups including the National Industrial Information Infrastructure Protocols (NIIIP) consortium (a DARPA Electronics Technology Office Technology Reinvestment Project) and other members of the DARPA Information Technology Office Defense Technology Integration and Infrastructure (see also DTII Workshop Proceedings '96) community and the DARPA Information Systems Office Intelligent Integration of Information Technology for the Dynamic Database (I3) (see also I3 Workshop Proceedings '96) community.


In the above context, this Internet Tool Survey has several goals:

Structure of the Survey

The Tool Survey groups Internet tools into broad categories according to the characteristics of existing tools and the functionalities we believe are needed in order to support a broad class of distributed applications over the Internet. Additional categories and tools will be surveyed throughout the course of this project and some of the current categories will be updated.

Categorizations of this sort are always somewhat arbitrary because a typical tool performs several functions. We tried to categorize tools based on their primary functionality and were influenced by our eventual need to create orthogonal services that can be composed to easily construct virtual enterprises. The categories thus represent a mix of the real and the ideal (from our perspective). Other categorizations are certainly possible.

When selecting tools to survey in each category, we tried to include a representative mix of popular and leading edge systems from both the commercial and research communities. The survey is by no means comprehensive, either in depth or breadth. Given the scope of the Internet and the rapid rate of introduction of new systems, this will necessarily be true of any such survey. Some categories are intentionally shallower than others. This reflects that the purpose of the survey is to support our architectural and prototyping tasks rather than to attempt to create a comprehensive "parts list". This does not imply any judgment about the value or quality of the tools or the category.

If readers spot an inaccuracy, know of a system they think should be included, or want to contribute a section, please let us know at

Tool Categories

Virtual Office

Managing and Using Information


Objects and the Internet

This research is sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and managed by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory under contract DAAL01-95-C-0112. The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the official policies, either expressed or implied of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, U.S. Army Research Laboratory, or the United States Government.

© Copyright 1996 Object Services and Consulting, Inc. Permission is granted to copy this document provided this copyright statement is retained in all copies. Disclaimer: OBJS does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of the information in this survey.

The Internet Tool Survey was written by (in alphabetical order) Steve Ford, Gil Hansen, Shaun Joseph, Ansu Kurien, Dave Langworthy, Frank Manola, Paul Pazandak, Craig Thompson, Venu Vasudevan, David Wells, and Nancy Wells. Send questions and comments about it to

Last updated: 5/15/97 sjf

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