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Case Study: Interior Specialists Management System

This suite of custom applications required an extremely rich user interface, a tremendous amount of business logic, interactive graphics, heavy database access, and low maintenance remote accessibility. The cost of producing the application using browser technologies would have been extremely high and the results would have been unsatisfactory in terms of efficiency of use and interface functionality. Microsoft.NET was still in beta; in any case, a browser-based solution was not acceptable, and stand-alone Microsoft.NET applications required too much client-side infrastructure. The effort involved in producing an automated active update system for client maintenance was too large relative to the size of the user base.

The obvious choice would have been between accepting the cost and limitations of a browser-based solution and the increased cost and headaches of supporting client-installed stand-alone applications. Instead, a third option was adopted: stand-alone Visual Basic applications deployed using Citrix Metaframe, which provides remote desktop technology. Microsoft Terminal Services was an alternative product, but it did not offer sufficient features at that time.

Citrix formed the basis of the architecture adopted for Interior Specialists, Inc. It enabled the team to meet all requirements by developing a suite of stand-alone database applications using Visual Basic 6, accessed by client machines through Citrix Metaframe. The application suite has been deployed successfully and is in production use at Interior Specialists and their regional design centers.

Because the complex software was developed using a very mature language and development environment (VB6), the project suffered from few technical issues. The development team was highly experienced using Visual Basic, and therefore development was very efficient and the resulting code was highly maintainable. Further, because Citrix provided all the remote accessibility, the team did not have to worry about any particular coding to support remote access.

The quality of the system is extremely high. Because it was developed in a full programming language, it is very robust and extremely feature-rich. Performance from remote clients through Citrix is virtually at stand-alone quality. The system provides a level of functionality and performance which would not have been feasible using browser-based technologies.

This architecture produced a tremendous value for the client, and over many years will yield the best possible return on investment. This success was made possible by leveraging the capabilities of remote services technology. More importantly, the requirements of this project were not exceptional, but instead are typical of most intensive business applications. Therefore, this approach should be equally beneficial to many typical major business applications.

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