Open Box developers have the good fortune of being exposed to a wide range of methodologies and technologies; this is largely attributed to the many applications developed over the years, for very different clients with very different requirements.
Most of our applications are ASP.NET solutions for internal use by our clients, ranging from .NET 1.1 projects written in Visual Basic to .NET 3.5 projects written in C#. We’ve also developed a number of public facing websites, some of which required custom content management systems to be delivered alongside. In addition, we work with Windows Forms, an example of which is a Point of Sale application implemented on touch screen teller machines.
Our latest projects make use of Microsoft’s ADO.NET Entity Framework for object relational mapping and leverage LINQ to Entities for querying our entity models. Our pre-LINQ projects make use of a proprietary, in-house ORM tool affectionately known as Code Monkey. If you look carefully around the office you might even notice little red plastic monkeys dangling from plants and monitors – our Code Monkey mascots.
Developers are also exposed to Microsoft Web Services in the form of WCF (Windows Communication Foundation; .NET 3.5 and .NET 4) and ASMX (.NET 2.0).
Mobile development brought with it quite a lot of excitement when Open Box first started looking into it. An initial investigation looking into both mobile web-app development and native iOS app development was conducted. The outcome being that mobile web-apps developed using jQuery Mobile and HTML5 were cross device compatible, with one of the only shortfalls being offline application access. This said, there has been a project or two where iOS app was a requirement and our developers were eager to see what Objective C was all about.
Open Box has moved away from using Source Safe as the major source code repository and has upgraded to Microsoft's newest solution for source code storage - Team Foundation Server 2010. TFS 2010 also provides new ways to integrate into our well-established Sharepoint 2010 implementation.
Our in-house infrastructure team leverages the latest technologies, hardware and software, to provide secure "private cloud" virtualisation infrastructure on which our production and project server environment needs are met. The dynamic work environment the team operates in means the need to deliver business critical solutions quickly and consistently is very high.
When it comes to data warehousing we are right on the forefront, using the latest Microsoft Business intelligence stack. This includes technologies such as Analysis Services 2008, Integration Services 2008, SQL Server 2008R2 and Reporting Services 2008.
Developers at Open Box can expect to work with most of these technologies during their time at the company. We like to move people between projects every now and then, to provide exposure to new and different technologies, and to other developers with different skill sets. Not unlike a familiar petroleum company, we like to keep you moving!
We are continually investigating current and upcoming technologies to ensure we remain on the cutting edge. As our existing applications evolve over time, and as new projects kick off, we constantly look to implement newer technologies and the latest approaches wherever they make sense.
In particular, we follow new developments on the Microsoft front with keen interest.
Amongst the technologies we are currently investigating is Microsoft’s new Visual Studio 2011 Development Environment, along with its host of new technologies and features, including the core .NET Framework 4.5.
In terms of operating systems, we have been investigating Windows 8 and all it offers, including the Metro-style apps. (Some trivia for the next pub quiz: the Metro UI is supposedly inspired by public transport signage.)
More recently, we've looked into Microsoft's Office Project Server 2010, which uses Sharepoint as its foundation. This will provide greater access to project plans and a greater understanding of the health of projects.
We are also looking forward to implementing virtualised desktop infrastructure across the company. This means moving our end users' workload into the server room, allowing their needs to be more easily met.
SQL 2012 brings with it quite a number of interesting concepts, including AlwaysOn - a function that brings mirroring and clustering together under one single feature. An enhancement to the SQL Report Viewer, which allows for report file integration with VS2010, is also expected.
Along with the current initiates around web-app development in HTML 5, we are also spending time looking into the non-mobile benefits of the technology with the hope of employing it in some of our current and up-and-coming projects.
There have been a number of internal innovation competitions, with staff putting in considerable effort in their free time to develop proof of concept applications using new technologies and tools. We like to believe that it was all for the love of discovery, and that the prizes had nothing to do with it!