If you're building Internet-enabled applications, I feel sorry for you. All of a sudden you're in a new world of "Internet time" projects. And at the same time there's an explosion of new Internet-related technologies and Internet-affected business requirements.
My briefcase used to contain just the remnants of last week's forgotten lunch; now it's full enormous books with titles like "Building XML applications" or "XSL" - all loaded with information I needed to know yesterday.
Narrowing down your options is a tricky process. Do you purchase an off-the shelf system such as Vignette's Story Server or Art Technology Group's Dynamo? Do you build on top of a framework such as those provided by vendors such as Allaire (with Cold Fusion or Spectra) or others? Or do you build it from scratch? And if you build from scratch do you use Microsoft technologies such as Active Server Pages (ASPS) or go the Java route with Java Servlets, Beans, Enterprise Java Beans (EJB's) and Java Server Pages (JSPs)?
The key, as always, is to define your key requirements, and to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of each of the options. But of course this is harder than it sounds.
At no time in the history of information technology have business requirements been so prone to change quickly and with little warning. The Internet and its associated technology is having the disturbing effect of rendering three-year plans redundant in the space of weeks or months, by suddenly introducing a new and unexpected form of competition or opportunity.
And technology is changing at a greater pace than ever before, making it harder to keep up with the new developments. Now predicting new technology trends is becoming an integral part of maintaining your organisation's competitiveness, or gaining an edge over the competition.
So here's a prediction for you. I'm picking that Java Server Pages and Java servlets are going to be the next wave of Internet development. Why? Because the technology is becoming mature, it has industry backing, it is platform-neutral and there is a huge groundswell of support from open source communities as well.
So the question now is how do you get to grips with yet another new area of technology without jamming your briefcase with yet more books?
I'm usually sceptical of vendor seminars. Often they're just a thinly disguised marketing session. But I have recently attended some seminars run by Borland from a series entitled "Distributed Computing Essentials" that I found to be an exception to the rule. Borland's Richard Vowles gave a concise and product-neutral overview of the world of JSPs and EJBs, with unbiased recommendations for non-Borland products and open source technologies where appropriate.
If you think that the world of JSPs, EJBs and Java servlets just might be an important part of your future plans, some of the seminars in this series might be worth a look.
Evans is IDG Communications' Asia-Pacific global Web support centre director. For seminar details, go to www.borland.co.nz/events/essentials.