New Language Cuts Coding

Lawson debuts domain-specific language that it says will improve software quality by slicing the amount of code needed in applications

Laurie Sullivan, Contributor

May 14, 2005

3 Min Read

Lawson Software Inc. last week unveiled a domain-specific language aimed at increasing software quality by reducing the massive amounts of code required in an application. Code-named Landmark, the technology has been under development for more than three years by founder Richard Lawson and chief architect Richard Patton. Lawson software architects will spend the next several years using Landmark to rewrite the company's product line, which was originally written in Cobol.

Unlike a general-purpose computer language, a domain-specific one is aimed at a particular kind of business need. Based on a services-oriented architecture, Landmark generates application-specific code in Java, says Jay Coughlin, Lawson Software's president and CEO. "Landmark reduces the amount of code required to build an application," he says. "It will generate thousands of lines of code, instead of a million, to develop an application. By reducing the lines of code in the application, the need for updates and patches for the software is reduced."

The domain-specific language concept will become increasingly common. Patton says. "What we did is build our own domain-specific language for business applications," he says. "It's an idea whose time has come."

To take advantage of Landmark, customers will need to upgrade versions of their Lawson applications as they're rewritten. In about a year, the software vendor plans to release the first such application, a procurement program called Strategic Sourcing.

Lawson's move lets Universal Health Services connect apps more easily, Coyne says.

"The decision to move toward a services-oriented architecture where you are building reusable objects and tying them together through Web services makes my life easier from an integration perspective," says Dave Coyne, director of information services at Universal Health Services Inc. "Web services will allow me to tie external applications into those from Lawson far more easily than if Lawson's applications remain written in Cobol."

Lawson will deliver the procurement application with out-of-the-box Simple Object Access Protocol and Web Services Description Language interfaces for Web services. The application will let companies create a request for a quote and publish it to a Web page, where suppliers can view the requests and bid on them. It will have a Windows-based user interface accessible through a portal and be tightly tied to IBM's core software, from WebSphere and DB2 to Tivoli and Rational.

In fact, Lawson is linking the future of its application sales to IBM's middleware. Lawson will standardize its financial, human-resources, and supply-chain-management software to run with IBM's WebSphere product line and optimize their performance in the IBM environment. The two companies have been partners since Lawson's 1975 founding, and Lawson's applications got their start running on the IBM AS/400 server. Lawson apps now run on a variety of application servers, such as BEA Systems Inc.'s WebLogic and Oracle's Oracle Application Server. That won't change, Lawson executive VP of development Dean Hager said at an IBM-sponsored customer symposium on services-oriented architectures in San Francisco last week, but its applications will perform best as services if they run in IBM's middleware environment.

"We can create services-oriented architecture while creating a simpler environment. ... We will offer the lowest total cost of ownership," Hager said. Lawson and IBM also will build middleware/application combinations geared for vertical industries, such as retail, health care, and financial services.

The IBM-Lawson alliance will give Lawson customers the chance to use their applications as building blocks for different business processes. "IBM doesn't stutter about what its strategy is," Hager said when asked, why partner with IBM? "Its strategy is middleware, not applications."

with Charles Babcock

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