XBoost Implementation at GoVideo

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1 XBoost Implementation at GoVideo A Business Case White Paper Jeff Stokes Du Bose Sr. GoVideo developer and analyst November 2004

2 Table of Contents Executive Summary Objectives Overview Web-based Tools Searching for Web-Development Tools Standardization Finding the Right Vendor, Ivis Technologies Evaluating Ivis XBoost Capabilities The Decision Process Getting Started with XBoost Integrating XBoost with Visual Studio.NET Developing Applications with XBoost XBoost Implementation Strategy Management Tools Observations and Conclusions Summary Contact Information

3 Executive Summary Developing one Web site is art. Developing multiple Web sites for a single company is often chaos. HTML is not so much a language as a format. As such, it provides no appropriate boundaries or toolsets to ensure that designers and developers work in a cohesive and maintainable environment. This leads to differences between Web site implementations even within the same company creating design, development, and maintenance nightmares. GoVideo, a US-based consumer electronics manufacturer and distributor, develops and hosts its own Web sites. As branding and Web development expanded, management and developers sought tools and architecture that would solve the nightmare of Web-development chaos. Among the desired benefits, GoVideo managers and designers wanted a tool that would support the following requirements: Improve Web site development and design Lighten the maintenance burden Provide additional capabilities for remote site management GoVideo selected Ivis Technologies XBoost for their ASP.NET developers to support a more consistent Web site page design, provide role-based permissions and access, enable locale-sensitive Web development and substantially decrease support and maintenance resource requirements. GoVideo met accelerated Web site development schedules, as well as an increasing project workload, with limited development resources. Each live Web site, as well as sites under construction, demanded more of the workday for maintenance and support. This white paper presents GoVideo s philosophy and needs as well as the capabilities and conclusions that led to their ultimate decision to implement Ivis XBoost technology. "At GoVideo, we were content with remaining an ASP shop, said Jeff Stokes Du Bose, Sr. GoVideo developer and analyst. Now, with XBoost, we will be moving fully to Microsoft.NET technologies. XBoost and Visual Studio.NET together make the transition a piece of cake.

4 Objectives This business case paper will: Overview List the requirements for a sample Web development project at GoVideo, a consumer electronics distribution company Show the capabilities of XBoost under the Visual Studio ASP.NET environment Present the internal GoVideo technical staff s decision process including the review of tools and approaches Offer suggestions and conclusions based on GoVideo s experiences Every new development project offers the opportunity to review past tasks as well as new innovations that might improve either process or product. Every new project offers the promise of at least incremental improvement. Managers and developers at GoVideo were dissatisfied with traditional Web site development tools and the maintenance burden that each Web site required. Clearly, incremental improvement was not enough. The uncontrolled environments and lackluster tools generally resulted in making simple things more difficult, requiring Web developers to revisit the same questions over and over. This situation proved to be a drain on company resources that could be more effectively used elsewhere.

5 Web-based Tools One of the greatest recent advances in Web site development is Microsoft s addition of ASP.NET within Visual Studio. Developers are now able to choose their development language within Visual Studio to create their ASP.NET applications. This is quite an improvement over writing HTML text inside a text editor. However, many problems that have plagued Web developers since they first typed were not solved by easy access to databases, simplified OCX imbedding or the availability of any server-side component. In fact, the addition of more complex extensions like scripting, Java applets, Macromedia Flash, and OCX components to the client-side interface only compounded development lifecycle difficulties. If any manager or developer expected these additions to improve the ease of development or management, they usually found the opposite. The very solutions that were designed to eliminate common problems often exacerbated the development and maintenance burden. Of course, these tools and embedded components do improve the user s experience and animate the creative aspects of an interface that is inherently static and visual by design. Web developers use these tools and products specifically because they help viewers separate interesting sites from dull ones. But such products can only marginally improve production lifecycles, schedules or maintainability. In fact, each additional gimmick extends the development schedule, increases required resources and requires additional maintenance after implementation. Searching for Web-Development Tools GoVideo s management and systems development teams had already produced multiple Web sites. Before they developed another site for a newly branded line of products, GoVideo decided to evaluate the latest Web-development tools that could support the following requirements: Web sites must be data driven Data must reside in MS SQL Server databases Web sites and Internet Information Servers (ISS) must be capable of being hosted by GoVideo. Visual changes to Consumer Web sites must be implemented quickly and easily to maintain visitor interest Maintenance must be automated allowing GoVideo s designers and developers to focus on a host of business, financial, communications, data warehousing, reporting and Web duties

6 Consumer product Web sites must be capable of incorporating shopping cart styled Web stores, even if none are implemented (opinions change) Web sites must be capable of remote maintenance and management Graphical and textual resources must be available to GoVideo resellers via permission-based security access None of these requirements are unusual or difficult, taken independently. However, the solutions can be implemented in dozens (if not hundreds) of ways. Since every choice delivers its own set of liabilities, the inclination during each development project is to try something new. This leads to a patchwork of Web site styles and techniques, each of which must be maintained separately and differently. Each becomes more and more burdensome as time separates the maintenance burden from the original design decisions. Standardization Therefore, standardization became the primary requirement for GoVideo s current and future Web development. GoVideo launched a search for tools that would meet the following requirements: Common menu system Data-driven visual content (styles) Permission-based security Functionality on the Windows IIS Tools for remote site management GoVideo anticipated that no one product could satisfy all needs. Managers would be satisfied by any tool, or combination of tools, that could satisfy some or all of the development requirements. Establishing standards for development tools and processes remained GoVideo s primary goal.

7 Finding the Right Vendor, Ivis Technologies GoVideo found Ivis Technologies, in Scottsdale, Arizona, not far from GoVideo s home office. Although relatively unknown until recently, Ivis has been associated with site development and design firms producing some of the world s most appealing Web and Intranet sites. In fact, it was through a design and graphic arts firm that GoVideo found Ivis. Evaluating Ivis XBoost Capabilities Ivis Technologies flagship product, XBoost, doesn t fit neatly into a manager s or developer s common-practice tool kit. During the assessment, the GoVideo team found itself shifting its analysis of how to solve the standardization challenge. GoVideo viewed XBoost as a Presentation Layer, as well as a Content and Security Director for Web Applications, rather than an attempt to bridge or replace different tools. Just as music director controls the style and substance of the music a symphony audience hears, XBoost controls the style, content and access to the Web pages users and client software that is viewed when accessing a Web application. XBoost is completely transparent to visitors that navigate a Web application. XBoost handles permission-based security and provides the ability to design Web skins that can be changed with simple, remote management tools. These tools are delivered as part of the XBoost installation. Additionally, any Webbased application (page/site) implemented through XBoost can take advantage of the sophisticated XBoost menu system. As an added benefit to GoVideo developers, XBoost also integrates into Microsoft's Visual Studio providing simplified development, easier completion and debugging, and the full benefits of the.net Framework on server-side functions. By implementing the XBoost plug-in for Visual Studio, GoVideo's developers immediately recognized the benefit of simultaneously migrating to Visual Studio ASP.NET. GoVideo developers would be able to incorporate XBoost without sacrificing.net managed data or any of the components available through the Microsoft IDE.

8 The Decision Process Ivis XBoost was selected because it offered the following capabilities to meet GoVideo s requirements: Provides full standardization using one tool Satisfies the requirement for a Windows-based development environment Integrates with Windows IIS Uses an MS SQL database as a data store Provides permission-based security Controls and supports visual content using templates and data FAST FACTS XBoost provided the incentive to make the ASP.NET leap. Implements remote management tools integrated into every XBoost site GoVideo developers were comfortable with the Visual Studio environment, but had not yet migrated to the.net Framework. Prior to the introduction of XBoost, there had been no inducement to migrate to ASP.NET. XBoost provided the incentive to make the ASP.NET leap. Getting Started with XBoost GoVideo downloaded the free XBoost Starter Kit from the Ivis Web site, which includes a fully functional, non-expiring developer license that allows two connections to a site. That limited, free license was sufficient to prove the concept and familiarize key GoVideo systems people with the software. GoVideo developers found the installation, implementation and use of XBoost is well documented, easy to follow and install. They also found Ivis support to be reliably available. During installation, initializing the first application set up all the required tables in the SQL Server database and created all necessary subdirectories under the Inetpub directory home of the local Web server. It installed samples, code and documentation, as well as the opportunity to start the XBoost management application, which is a template running within the XBoost tool itself. The templates and ASPX/HTML files that Ivis includes with XBoost provided GoVideo developers with as much education as any sample code could provide. The Ivis Web-based application is so complete it can be used as the starting point for all subsequent XBoost development.

9 Integrating XBoost with Visual Studio.NET Integrating XBoost into Visual Studio was as simple as installing it to IIS. A single-file installation resulted in the additional XBoost tools and options becoming available for use in every new Visual Studio.NET application. Developing Applications with XBoost As with applications developed using any third-party tool, the main impact of developing Web applications under XBoost occurs at the design level. Although XBoost places no restrictions on the number of templates or their complexity, Web architects agree that Web site management benefits from reduced maintenance tasks. This beneficial effect is amplified if the Web page layout is standardized and the number of different page layouts is limited. GoVideo has chosen to keep it simple because of these development and maintenance considerations. By limiting the layouts to a few templates, GoVideo anticipates the following benefits: Reduced initial design and development costs Improved content and text integration (fewer templates require fewer changes from one template to the next) Decreased maintenance resource requirements when the site design changes (as it inevitably does) Simplified management when assigning specific content to specific templates Simplified menu design using the XBoost standardized JavaScript menu system XBoost Implementation Strategy Based on satisfactory results from the initial XBoost implementation, GoVideo has since purchased enough licenses to provide simultaneous connections to its current sites so that all Web applications can be written using XBoost and run under the XBoost environment. For business and design-related reasons, GoVideo implemented an evolutionary strategy of adoption for all new XBoost-enabled Web pages and applications. After implementing XBoost, in August, 2004 GoVideo set about building up an inventory of ready-to-publish pages, utilizing the XBoost tools. That way site evolution to the new technology could be integrated smoothly into the larger GoVideo business process. As new sites are developed or new modules are added to the current Web sites, they are now built on XBoost technology, using XBoost tools, so they can be standardized prior to distribution and activation.

10 Management Tools XBoost remote management tools are easy to use and self-explanatory. The management application itself provided a great training and sample-application tutorial through its templates and pages. Using the remote management tools, templates are registered and pages are assigned to the appropriate templates. Menus are created and modified. Secure access is managed, roles and permissions are assigned, and required localization is implemented. GoVideo managers and developers have described the remote tool as quite complete and surprisingly easy of use. Of particular note, this remote management application can change templates and styles to give a site a new look and feel. All activities involved in the process of changing an entire site s look and feel can be accomplished with the XBoost remote management application. Some special nomenclature used in the XBoost remote administration application required some experience, but the new terms were easy to learn. Observations and Conclusions FAST FACTS "The learning curve and cost associated with XBoost have been minimal and the benefits abundantly evident" FAST FACTS "Based on our initial tests, XBoost could provide an eight-fold improvement in the maintenance burden for common and anticipated Web site tasks GoVideo developers became comfortable with XBoost within days. The learning curve and costs associated with XBoost have been minimal and the benefits abundantly evident. The combination of development environment migration to Visual Studio.NET and XBoost has proven very beneficial. The initial investments in time and materials for education and experimentation have been subjectively judged to be more than worthwhile. Objectively, experimentation with Web styles (templates and skins) has shown a vast improvement in performance compared with previous levels of effort necessary to change the look-and-feel of a Web site. For example, in local tests GoVideo simulated altering the look and feel of a site. In the past, the company changed the styles, graphics and layout of sites using a host of different techniques. The last experience making such changes required approximately four to five days to perform all associated manual activities. The company has projected that XBoost will compress that effort to much less than a day; perhaps even as little as four hours, given a bit more experience. XBoost could, therefore, provide an eight-fold improvement in maintenance burden for common and anticipated Web site tasks, freeing systems personnel for more strategically productive activities. Regardless of the undocumented (but tested) maintenance benefits, the Visual Studio.NET integration ability and migration to VS.NET (spurred on by the addition of XBoost tools) have accelerated GoVideo product development cycles. Development, integration, data-driven application development of active sites, and debugging are much easier and faster to complete, using the XBoost combination of tools

11 Given GoVideo s requirement for Windows-based tools, it was logical to leverage existing development and application software components. These include Windows Office Suite, business applications that rely and reside on the SQL Server databases, and the Visual Studio IDE. XBoost extends and expands the company s Windows-centric development philosophy by providing Web site development environment standardization and by integrating with the industry s best ASP development IDE. As GoVideo developers gain more experience with XBoost, they anticipate continuous benefits in terms of productivity. The initial benefits have already justified the company s initial investigation and purchase of the XBoost. GoVideo recommends XBoost for any company that would benefit from accelerated application development for Web sites with a standardized, easily maintained look and feel. Summary FAST FACTS Using VS.NET and XBoost has improved productivity, increased consistency as well as reduced maintenance costs and headaches. Web sites remain among the least structured of applications. The introduction of Web tools like XBoost and Visual Studio ASP.NET provided GoVideo developers with the first substantial architecture for standardization and design control. XBoost additionally provides an environment that offers improved management capabilities and vastly reduced Web site modification schedules and cost. GoVideo developers have determined that using VS.NET and XBoost has improved productivity, increased consistency and reduced maintenance costs and headaches. XBoost equipped GoVideo developers with tools and a reason to take the first steps toward real design and development standards on its Web site applications. Building on this foundation, GoVideo has dedicated itself to implementing more comprehensive standards, more consistent designs and common maintenance expectations for all new applications. GoVideo developers now advocate re-engineering unmanaged sites to leverage the benefits of XBoost integration.

12 Contact Information Ivis World Headquarters 3875 N. 44th Street Suite 100 Phoenix, Arizona United States Tel: (602) Fax: (602) Contact: Chris Page

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