Programming Basics

DreamFactory tool lets people with little computer knowledge develop programs
As VP of product marketing at Astoria Software Inc., Chip Gettinger has no desire to write code on a regular basis. Still, Gettinger is close to realizing a plan to customize the one-size-fits-all customer-relationship-management application his company uses.

Gettinger wants to make the application provided by Inc.'s online CRM service retrieve information about sales prospects from Hoover's Online business-information service. That means when an Astoria salesperson is calling on a prospect, he or she could quickly access online information about the potential customer's financial performance.

Gettinger will soon get an opportunity to try to pull off this feat--without the help of programmers--as a beta user of SBuilder, a new user-interface tool designed for Salesforce that's based on DreamFactory Software Inc.'s rich-client toolset. "If it would let someone like me develop the program, that would be pretty ideal," Gettinger says.

Salesforce is one of the first software vendors to partner with DreamFactory for its user-interface technology. SBuilder is based on DreamFactory's drag-and-drop, component-based environment, which works inside a Web browser. It supplies a library of user-interface components, such as a menu or a button to activate database access, from the Salesforce server. Users write a query that can be activated by one of those components and use drag-and-drop features to create a connection between the query and the outside source. Because it's all interface work, users need only a fundamental knowledge of how programming works.

With that kind of customization, the DreamFactory technology can let customers of companies like Salesforce use a hosted application almost like an in-house app, says Ron Schmelzer, an analyst at ZapThink. By invoking Web-services standards such as the Simple Object Access Protocol and Web Services Definition Language, DreamFactory's technology combines user-interface elements with basic programming logic, such as a database access command, and ties the logic to resources available over the Internet.

Another early user of DreamFactory's technology is hosted service provider Grand Central Communications Inc., which makes available hubs on networks that let its customers provide their partners with access to internal systems for conducting E-business. Using the Process Express integration tool, which utilizes the DreamFactory development window inside the browser much like SBuilder does, users can construct interfaces and connect them to resources either on the Web or inside the company.

Although DreamFactory's technology seems to be getting the most notice in the vendor community--another customer is IBM--it's also available in an enterprise edition for building browser-based, rich-client interfaces on in-house applications.

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