Build vs buy and thick clients

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On Wednesday I will be speaking at the Sitecore Trendspot event, specifically to discuss the Cadbury Spots V Stripes project.

At Endava we tend to use best of breed, off the shelf components as opposed to building components in a bespoke manner.

This philosophy is cyclical – the industry prefers bespoke software, then off the shelf, bespoke, off the shelf – and with each cycle the term is obfuscated. It’s the same with mainframes versus PCs.

At my first job I worked on a huge IBM mainframe at Coats Viyella (clothing manufacturer and retailer, now known as ‘Coats’). At my second job we developed a client-server application – where the program that ran on people’s computers was constantly asking for data – a bit like the mainframe, only it looked really nice and graphical because all the graphing was done on the users’ computers, similar to Microsoft Excel.

We then moved the architecture to a ‘thick client’. No, that’s not an offensive term to our customers, it’s an IT term to describe that all the data and the processing ran on users’ computers. Think of it like running Adobe Photoshop – all the processing and the data is done ‘locally’.

A friend of mine at the time worked for a huge estate agent and they bought into Sun’s ‘thin-client’ computers. Basically these were more like a mainframe – the computer didn’t even have a hard drive – it got all the information and how to format it from a central computer. At one point thin clients were marketed as the next big thing, which people in IT found hilarious because it was back to Mainframes.

Around this time, the Web really took off. The architecture of the Web was similar to mainframes – a huge central computer, sending a screenful of information at a time back to users (inside a browser). We really had gone full circle.

In the last 3-4 years technologies such as Ajax, JQuery, Flash (Flex and AIR included) and Silverlight have all appeared – moving the processing and nicer looking user interfaces back to the users’ computers.

So – can you see the trend? The same has happened with software, but for very different reasons.

In general we don’t produce bespoke software at Endava in the Digital Media space, because if we did, we’d end up building a competitive product today and have to invest at the same rate as competitors for the long term. And supporting the different product releases and all that difficult (and expensive stuff) that goes along with real software.

Also, with off the shelf software it’s possible to replace products and vendors as the industry changes, or client requirements change. Most of our clients have a Content Management System (actually they all have one of these), a social media platform, a media asset platform, database, web analytics package, and the list goes on. To produce bespoke versions of these (which let’s be honest, we’ve all tried doing at one point during the cycles or another), would have cost a fortune and the chances are the product would be well behind the curve in levels of features and performance. vsSo that brings me back to the Sitecore event. We use Sitecore on several of our clients’ websites, so if you are interested in going to the event, please register at . You can also follow the event on Twitter via #SitecoreDT10.

 

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