Candidate: Benchiao Jai
Advisor: Alan Siegel

Automating Software Deployment

12:00 noon, Tuesday, April 20, 1999
101 WWH, 251 Mercer Street


The work users do with an application can be divided into actual work accomplished using the application and overhead performed in order to use the application. The latter can be further partitioned based on the time at which the work is performed: before (application location and delivery), during (installation) and after (upgrade) the installation of the application. This category can be characterized as the software deployment overhead. This thesis presents a component architecture RADIUS (Rapid Application location, Delivery, Installation and Upgrade System) in which applications can be built with no software deployment overhead to the users. An application is deployed automatically by simply giving the user a document produced by the application. Furthermore, the facilities in RADIUS make the applications self-upgrading. In the end, the users perform no deployment overhead work at all.

The conventional way of using an application is to install the application first, then start using documents of the application. The object-oriented programming (OOP) paradigm suggests that this order should be reversed: the data should lead to the code. However, almost all software fails to meet this model of design at the persistence level. While modern software often use OOP at the program level, the underlying operating systems do not support OOP at the document/file level. OOP languages use pointers to methods to indicate what operations can be performed on the objects. We extend the idea to include "pointers to applications". Each document has an attached application pointer, which is read by RADIUS when the document is opened. This application pointer is then used to locate and deliver the application module necessary for the document.

RADIUS is designed to be compatible with existing technologies and requires no extensions to either programming languages or operating systems. It is orthogonal to programming tools, is language-independent and compatible among operating systems, and consequently does not impose limitations on which environments the developers can use. We illustrate the implementations for the two most popular platforms today - C++ on Windows, and Java. RADIUS is also orthogonal to other component systems such as CORBA or COM and is easy to integrate with them.