It could build the applications using older technology that had already been tested on the marketplace or gamble with a newer version that had not yet been tried in the business world. It chose the latter course.The general contractor was looking for project document control and safety management centre systems, but could not find any off-the-shelf tools that met its needs.
Instead, PCL Constructors decided to build its own tools with the help of Avanade Canada Inc. using the beta versions of Microsoft SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005, which were released earlier this month.
The company would be using both programs for a number of years to come and so it wanted to use the latest technology, says Gerry Salm, manager of operations systems for the systems and technology department at PCL Constructors in Edmonton.
“This document control initiative of our company is pretty important and we’re going to have to live with it for a number of years. So we thought we’d better build it on the latest tool set rather than build it on an older system,” he says. PCL Constructors would just end up having to upgrade the older software a year after it was done, he says.
SQL Server 2005 has more to offer than older Microsoft databases, he says.
“Compared to Access, SQL Server is an enterprise-ready database and Access is a three- or four-person database in terms of horsepower.” There’s also no comparing them on reliability, he says.
And SQL Server 2005 also has advantages over SQL Server 2000, he says, pointing to the XML data field which the company is using to keep track of different versions of documents. “There would have been a way to store that in 2000 without an XML data type, but this feature has made the job a lot easier,” he says.
The company didn’t have to build a table but can store the information in one field, because it’s variable.
Visual Studio 2005 offered similar advantages over older versions, Salm says.
“From a developer’s perspective, it’s a far superior product.” The generics, for example, has helped the company save time on development, he says.
Hal Bradwell, business development executive for Avanade in Vancouver, agrees that generics is a valuable tool.
“It allows you to reuse a lot of mundanes in your code, which previously you had to rewrite over and over again.”
This in turn allows companies to reduce risk and create a better product, he says, adding that it also helps to drive down development cost.
Avanade weighed the pros and cons before deciding to develop on the beta versions of SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005, which haven’t yet had a lot of of exposure in the business world, he said. There isn’t much risk in developing on a beta version of a product, Bradwell says.
“Microsoft doesn’t release a product that hasn’t gone through extensive testing.”
In addition, features such as support for XML data types was a good fit for what PCL Constructors needed, he said.
“It would save them a lot of development time and a lot of workarounds, which would have meant a lot of risk.”
SQL Server 2005 also has a new reporting and analysis services component.
And the ability to provide some form of dashboard and metrics division reports saves a lot of development time, Bradwell says.

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