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On to Ajax but off LAMP: A CTO's view from LinuxWorld

From the show floor, Centric CRM's CTO is a strong supporter of open source in general and Linux in particular, but cautious about Ajax and dubious about LAMP.

A strong commitment to Linux, open source and Java, mixed with a cautious approach to Ajax and LAMP, were among the messages Tom Manos, CTO and co-founder of Centric CRM, was sharing Tuesday at LinuxWorld in San Francisco.

Java is where we want to be.
Tom Manos
CTO and co-founder Centric CRM

The commitment to the open source community is a no-brainer for the founders of the CRM software provider, which is owned by Norfolk, Va.-based Dark Horse Ventures LLC.

Noting the he and the other founders are graybeards in the industry, he said he was a supporter of open source before the term was coined. But he said he doesn't have to sell the concept to his customers, which include cable television's Weather Channel, any more because business people are savvy about the benefits, including lower cost and avoidance of vendor lock-in.

For most business people, especially those running smaller companies, the attraction comes not so much from fear of vendor lock-in as from the prospect of lower cost, Manos said. That might not satisfy the more philosophical advocates of open source, but cost is the bottom line for many business people.

That is also true of Linux, which is attractive to customers because of its lower cost and the ability to avoid vendor lock-in with Microsoft, the CTO said.

There seems to be little buzz at the show for the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL and Perl/Python/PHP) and Manos said it may be the P word. Manos is a fan of Linux, Apache and MySQL. When first developing their CRM software, he said Centric CRM used PHP, but it has moved away from it and towards Java because of the latter's strength for enterprise applications.

"PHP does not have some of the characteristics that an enterprise language needs to have," he said. "It doesn't understand threading. It does not understand database pooling. There may be add-ons to PHP for some of these things, but honestly for some of them there are not. It cannot reasonably scale to the levels that Java can."

As for Perl or Python, he said his experience with Perl did not make him think it would improve on PHP.

"I think no one would write an enterprise application in Perl," Manos said. "Perl is a great systems language for writing systems administration stuff for managing systems, but I don't know of anybody who is writing Web-based applications in Perl anymore."

He has not worked with Python and did not want to offer an opinion beyond saying that for the SOA customer relationship management software his firm develops "Java is where we want to be."

Ajax, another hot technology, might fit into his software architecture as it matures, he said. There are some small Ajax-style features in Centric CRM and he appreciates the value of giving a browser user a desktop-like application. But he said his product developers pride themselves on the wide cross-browser capabilities of their software and believe that Ajax in its current state would compromise that.

For more information
Ajax Learning Guide

Ask the Expert: LAMP user concerns

"You mess around with Ajax too much and you lose your cross-browser portability," he said. There are also the security issues to consider. "We are very, very careful about what we will do with Ajax," he said, "because there are a number of security issues with Ajax, as there are with any very new technology."

He is content to let the open source process, which he champions work through the Ajax problems.

"As is true of many new open source technologies," he explained, "there's a group of people who jump on the bandwagon, who bring that technology to market – think of your Googles -- and who are on the bleeding edge of technology. We are not bleeding edge kind of guys. We're leading edge kind of guys. We will embrace more and more Ajax as it proves itself in the market place, and as it proves itself to be secure, to perform reasonably well and to not screw up our cross-browser portability."

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