Building a Database Driven Web Site Using JBuilder and InterBase
By Robert Schieck - MER Systems Inc., Borland Developers Conference 1999.
Most web sites consist of static html pages that require you to modify each web page file in order to change the page. As web sites increase in size, not only does the management of their content becomes more complex and difficult, but a change in the look and feel of the web site becomes almost impossible.
For example, Borland had approximately 14,000 static pages on their web site when they changed their name from Borland to Inprise. They did a global search and replace on Borland for Inprise on their web site. The problems created were enormous.
The purpose of this presentation is to show you how to create a database driven web site so that you can easily change the look and feel of your web site.
With all of the messages from the news groups at forums.borland.com indexed on our web site, we have more than 1,000,000 pages on line. We needed a new method of administering our web site. We used the following specifications to create our web site:
The web site had to be searchable from the search engines (no frames, ?s,.ddl, exe, asp, jsp).
We wanted the appearance of frames without the use of frames.
We wanted to be able to change any web page without requiring access to our web server.
We wanted to be able to change the look and feel of the site easily.
We wanted to be able to add new pages by adding data to a database.
Web Page Basics
If you look at the Inprise or Borland or InterBase sites, you will find that they all have basically the same layout.
If you look at most sites, there might be 10,000 pages but only 10 or so different topmenus, sidemenus, and footers. If we stored all of our web pages in a database, then we could store the topmenus, sidemenus, and footers in separate tables from the bodies, and join them when the page is sent out. This means that all of the pages could share one topmenu, sidemenu and footer. By changing these, you can quickly change the look and feel of your web site.
Why Java Servlets
Our site was originally built running IIS and Delphi ISAPI DLLs. It worked quite nicely, but did have some difficulties. The main problem was portability. The ISAPI DLLs limited us to an NT platform only. With more than 50% of the world's servers running Apache, and the big web servers running on UNIX, we needed a different environment on which to build our technology so that it would be portable between the server hardware platforms and web servers themselves.
We could have done our web site in perl, but we wanted a newer technology. We settled on Java Servlets.
As for portability, we converted our ISAPI DLL implementation to Java on the NT platform. We then moved it to Linux where we had to add one line of code to get it to work properly. The version from Linux was moved back to NT and ran unchanged, so, from a portability perspective it was great.
With 1,000,000 pages plus online on our web site and 1,500 to 2,000 users a day hitting it, InterBase is easy to install, easy to use, easy to maintain. The main reason we use InterBase is that we can automate all of the database administration function (backups) in scripts, set them up as a cron job or an "AT" scheduler on NT, and forget about the DBA functions and InterBase.
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