IDENTIFICATION OF THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PROBLEM OR OPPORTUNITY
The Web Technologies
A Web Browser, such as Netscape, Microsoft Explorer, or Mosaic is an application that is installed on the hard drive of a computer that has functions for displaying text and graphics, resizing, cutting and pasting, printing, and playing sound. The power in the browser is that it allows a developer to focus on what to put in the window without needing to worry about differences in different operating systems or platforms. Any choice that the user selects has hypertext links to information that provide the Web Server the information it needs to locate a particular file or produce information by querying or processing data. These links are invisible to the user, they are commands that start little applications that do the hunting and gathering. So a LAB RESULTS link might trigger a background document hunt that spans 3 mainframes, does security checking, gathers the results, analyzes the results, and triggers a protocol rule with out the user ever knowing any of this happened. The browser presented options, took care of the asking for and accepting the returned data, and presented the results.
Like a dedicated file server on a local area network, the Web Servers' primary function is to fill requests for files, and send the files back to whoever requested it. Unlike a local area network on which all connections between stations and the file server are maintained permanently, the Web server opens connections called sockets, only when it receives requests for information, and closes them once the information has been sent. Thus a web server can easily serve more users. Unlike a file server the Web Server also understands a scripting language which allow it to execute complex processes which can be used to produce new files. Web Servers are optimized to give rapid responses to user requests. When complex processes have multiple steps, these are run concurrently. Once a user's request is answered the server pays no more attention to that particular user until it gets another request. This environment is optimized for responsiveness and flexibility.
New scripting and application development languages like Java, CGI, and Perl as well as features such as On Line Analytical Processing (OLAP) are being rapidly adapted to the demands of this environment. CGI and Pearl allow Web Servers to initiate and complete complex processes at a speed far greater than could be achieved with standard client server software on a dedicated wide area network. Java will allow the response to a request that the Web server sends back to the browser to include an actual executable application. OLAP allows a Web server to automatically convert the results of a query into a hypertext formatted document. As these languages and features mature, the potential of this environment, which has only begun to be tapped will begin to be realized.
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