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Brits hailed for component software breakthrough

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After a dozen years of false dawns, it takes a lot for us to suspend our cynicism about object-oriented software development. But a British start-up has not only got the analysts excited all over again, but attracted some big names to its commercial department.

MetaDyne has only eleven staff right now, but the sales team includes IBM's Giffin Lorimer, John Smith of Autonomy and Sun's seventh employee outside the US, Chris Brown, alongside NeXT and Apple veterans.

MetaDyne's ComponentDNA is a small piece of plumbing that enables the dynamic discovery and integration of components. And what's defined by component - MetaDyne says it's platform agnostic and can be extended to COM components or web services - can be as small as a Java class file. The software is pretty light too, with the discovery model weighing in at 12k and the core at less than 250k.

"A program sees a change, and adds the most interesting component while it stays running," is how Lorimer explains it.

The idea has been filed as a patent in the UK and won praise from Robin Bloor and Ovum's Neil Ward-Dutton.

Lorimer reckons it could be valuable for updating applications on 3G devices such as wireless PDAs and smartphones, where only small incremental additions are needed, and can be demanded from the client (rather than pushed down from the server).

Components as originally envisaged have failed to set the world on fire for a couple of reasons, we suspect. One is programmers' love of reinventing the wheel - how many string classes or libraries does the world need? The other is economic: it's easier to sell monolithic software than it is to distribute components, and it's easier to sell a hundred components than just a couple.

So while software has become more object-orientated, there isn't much more reuse than a decade ago.

Lorimer says that the ComponentDNA framework allows only a few of an authors' classes to be used, and that adding billing and auditing to ComponentDNA would be a natural next step.

ComponentDNA began life as a college project at Middlesex University by Joseph Poole and Andrew Evans, and the MetaDyne website can be found here

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