ASTA's unique properties are the result of it's unique beginnings. From the start, we decided that this technology needed to appeal to four camps; the system administrators, the application developers, the end users, and the CFO. It took the combined visions of an applications programmer, a systems professional and seasoned business veterans.
To please the end user, we delivered a native Windows application - providing a crisp and responsive graphical interface. Because it's a native Windows technology, ASTA programs can take advantage of existing operating system benefits and future benefits as well. If it can be done in Windows, it can be done in ASTA. That includes sharing data with other programs (word processors, spreadsheets, browsers). With Kylix, this applies to Linux as well.
For the applications programmer, we laboured to present the multi-tiered architecture in an easy and intuitive manner. As a result, a developer with no distributed development experience will have little trouble working with ASTA. In fact, ASTA is surprisingly well-suited to the task of migrating existing "fat client" applications to thin client, distributed client/server applications.
The systems professionals received special attention. Too many applications are dropped at their doorstep by programmers that simply don't understand the amount of effort, complexity and cost consumed by a sophisticated corporate system. They understand the programming world, but make no provisions for the applications overall impact on the system (and therefore it's unseen impact on that part of the business). What good is a $5,000 application that costs $50,000 to install and administer?
Our solution was to deliver a thin client application that can be centrally controlled; it installs from a central server, it is upgraded from a central server, and the business rules are maintained at a central server. ASTA also recognizes that the cost of bandwidth is often the highest recurring cost in the IS budget. We are miserly with bandwidth. And ASTA's ability to operate in several modes provides for unlimited flexibility when trying to preserve or provision existing bandwidth.
ASTA's chief proponent and advocate, however, might be the corporate CFO. ASTA can be connected to disparate data sources; including "legacy systems", AS/400s and mainframes - custom server interfaces can also be written. Since ASTA has such a small footprint, it will run robustly on inexpensive NetPCs. Instead of implementing resource hungry Exchange type environments, a company should consider stepping off the vicious upgrade cycle and implementing a series of lightweight ASTA applications. The graphical front end extends the life of the legacy systems and preserves the skill investments of inhouse personnel. Furthermore, the "rocket science" of writing a complex, globally capable, thin client, n-tier application is encapsulated in ASTA. Programmers with average skills and experience are able to produce sophisticated applications without needing months of training and studying new technologies.
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