We are using Visual Basic to develop our new applications and will be converting our old applications from COBOL to Visual Basic in the near future. We want to put our applications on a corporate intranet and allow customers access to them through the Internet. Should we continue to use VB to produce our applications? What technology or tools do you recommend we utilize? The powers that be have chosen Netscape as our extranet. How should we develop our applications so that everyone can access them?
Yes! You can absolutely continue to use Visual Basic in your Internet development. In fact, I highly recommend it. One of the beauties of Visual Basic is that it lets you create “component-ized” software. You can use VB to create software components (COM DLLs) that will perform the real work of the application. The purpose that the application exists at all should be represented by the code that runs in the VB-created DLLs. Activities like data access and calculations should occur in these COM DLLs. This will form the middle tier of what is called the n-tier application model. The bottom tier is represented by your database and the top tier is represented by your user interface (the browser in this case). The only difference will be that that you will not use VB to create the user interface as you may have done in the past. HTML and a browser will be the user interface.
An excellent complement to COM components is Internet Information Server (IIS) and Active Server Pages(ASP). ASP allows you to write VBScript (you already know it if you know VB) to generate HTML at run time. Code in your VBScript, running in ASP will instantiate COM DLLs that will perform work for your application and return results to ASP/VBScript where those result are formatted in HTML. It works very well.
You can use many different tools for creating your VBScript. Visual InterDev is a good tool to use, although it is not strictly required. By the way, all of this still holds true even though your company is using Navigator as the default browser. All of the Microsoft-specific technologies will be running on the Web server. The browsers will receive pure HTML!