Back in the heady days of Internet speculation, the giant retailer JumboStores
contracted with **Fred's** software company, TinyWeb, to develop the region's
first web-based supermarket. Customers would be able to assemble carts online
and receive their groceries the next day.
The virtual supermarket had to communicate with JumboStores's inventory system
in real-time. The former was bleeding-edge web technology, the latter a
cobweb-laden mainframe with no external point of access.
“How will we get around this?” Fred asked early in the specification process.
“We can stage an intermediate server.” Nick, a programmer from JumboStores IT,
assured him around a mouthful of doughnut. “You guys send your requests there,
we’ll write software to forward them to the mainframe and back.”
Fred was optimistic. Both companies were *nix shops; the JumboStores IT
department were his geek kindred. Equally optimistic, JumboStores management
scheduled a live media demo several months out, well after the estimated
project completion date.
Deadlines slipped, as they are wont to do. The week before the big demo, the
online supermarket still wasn’t ready. TinyWeb had implemented the website and
database back-end, but JumboStores’ relay software lagged behind. At the
urging of multiple strata of nervous managers, Fred took ...