What is it?
Analyst firm Gartner Group describes Silverstream as "primarily a supplier of J2EE-compliant frameworks for e-business portals and application construction and integration".
The company prefers to explain what it does in e-business terms, as prototyping, developing, assembling, deploying and hosting the Web Services that enable business functions. "Silverstream's complete environment for building services-oriented applications lets companies provide ubiquitous access to information and electronic processes - no matter where it resides - across the enterprise and trading network," it says.
Once a supplier of integrated application environments, Silverstream has recently moved into e-business construction frameworks, where it faces competition from the likes of Vignette and Broadvision.
Where did it originate?
Silverstream was founded in 1996 by a group of luminaries including senior technical staff from Lotus, Sybase and Citrix, and CEO David Litwack, co-founder of Powersoft.
What is it for?
There are two key elements to the latest release. The first is ePortal, which provides features for content creation; storage and caching; personalisation and user profiling; and workflow, using components that can be extended with Java.
The other is xCommerce, which provides an integrated environment for XML-based, Web-services-oriented applications development.
They come with various tools and adapters, such as those for 3270 terminal protocol and Cics/Cobol, message queuing, Java objects and RDBMS tables. The runtime environment runs on any J2EE-compliant application server.
What makes it special?
While Broadvision and Vignette are moving away from proprietary frameworks and development languages, Silverstream has already done so.
Silverstream offers its own application server, but will also support any other J2EE platform, including IBM's Websphere and BEA's Weblogic. The same goes for integrated development environments: Silverstream has its own, but supports others such as JBuilder or WebGain's Visual Cafe.
How difficult is it?
Java, Javabeans, EJB, and JSP developers can all work in their native mode, or use the Java integrated development environments (IDEs) mentioned above. But Gartner warns, "These IDEs are for Java professionals, not casual developers."
Where is it used?
Partners include Sybase, Sun, Netscape and Microsoft. Customers include Deutsche Bank, Siemens IT Services, Chubb Insurance, Johnson and Johnson, Glaxo Smithkline, MCIWorldCom and Wincanton Logistics.
What does it run on?
Silverstream says its service-oriented architecture can integrate "whatever services you like: Web Services, Cics, MQ Series, 3270 Screens, EJBs, relational databases, HTML Web pages, etc".
Despite its hefty European presence, Silverstream relegates European training and events to hard-to-find pages on its
US-centric Web site. Try www.silverstream.com for UK training partners. There are also informal seminars in the UK and around Europe. Alternatively, call the UK office on 01442-860500.
Rates of pay
Demand for Silverstream is growing. Experienced developers get £35,000 to £40,000. There are few opportunities for the inexperienced, despite the relative newness of the skill. "Architects" and consultants can expect £75,000 to £85,000.