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Is SAA dead?


Is SAA dead of alive?

Even as the first wave of SAA-compliant software reaches the market, users are asking whether the IS community is getting a comprehesive architecture of a marketing tool.

Systems Application Architecture--SAA--is a set of specs written by IBM to describe how users should interface with applications and communications programs.

Common Feel

The idea is to give all software a common feel so that training is less burdensome, and to make it possible for everyone in an organization to access information regardless of its location.

All software written to SAA specifications provides similar screen layouts, menus, and terminology.

"SAA is a meaningful contribution to the industry. it has heightened our awareness of architectural issues--even if we have to go another way in the future," Bill Rosser, vice president and director of industry service at Gartner Group, recently said in an address during the Emerging Technology series of Teleforum, an international audioteleconference roudtable hosted by NDMA Inc., Ridgefield, Conn.

The session was attended by 70 information-systems (IS) executives in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

User concerns and the need for other approaches come from two major disappointments> dilution and delivery.

"The SAA model is getting so extended and watered down that it is of questionable value. It no longer represents a sound array of architectural principles," Rosser said.

Evolving Market

The additions and extensions result from a market whose needs are evolving.

"Is the target moving faster than IBM?" asked Dean Meyer, host of the roundtable.

"Absolutely," said Rosser. "With SAA, you're jumping onto a train that's picking up more freight cars and moving slower and slower."

Disappoinments in getting SAA products to market are best illustrated by looking at Office Vision, a major announced application.

Office Vision is coming out slowly, piece by piece, over many years.

"It sounds good and may have a nice payoff "when you get there--but it's years off," said Rosser.

SAA is a set of principles, guidelines, and components that can be used to create complex systems.

It has the potential to satisfy some demands for greater system interconnectivity.

It offers the possibility of saving money through more efficient use of resources.

"Its goals have evolved," said Rosser. "Fundamentally, what we're getting into is middle-ware, a set of services provided across different operating systems and platforms."

Acceptance demands a sufficient richness of services. Otherwise it won't be utilized.

"Part of the problem for IBM is to include a significant array of existing IBM environments and bring commonality to them," said Rosser.

IBM has counted on the adoption of OS/2, defined as the SAA platform for PCs.

Yet the cost of adoption, as well as competition from Windows, has pushed wide acceptance of OS/2 further into the future.

Does this mean Windows could be brought into SAA?

"It could be," said Rosser, "but it further dilutes the architectural value of SAA."

Why pick SAA, rather than open standards?

Until now, open standards focused primarily on UNIX.

There is concern about limited breadth and maturity.

Rosser recommended IS executives first specify architectural principles that make sense for their companies.

Next, he suggests, look at how well SAA and other architectures meet these needs.

"Fundamentally," he said, "architecture means nothing without an understanding of your environment."
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Systems Application Architecture
Publication:Communications News
Date:Aug 1, 1990
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