Enterprise Objects Framework

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The Enterprise Objects Framework (or more commonly, EOF) was introduced by NeXT in 1994 as a pioneering object-relational mapping product for its NeXTSTEP and OpenStep development platforms. The EOF abstracts the process of interacting with a relational database, mapping database rows to Java or Objective-C objects. This largely relieves developers from writing low-level SQL code. EOF enjoyed some niche success in the mid-1990s among financial institutions who were attracted to the rapid application development advantages of NeXT's object-oriented platform. Since Apple Computer's merger with NeXT in 1996, EOF has evolved into a fully-integrated part of WebObjects, an application server also originally from NeXT.



In the early 1990s NeXT Computer recognized that connecting to databases was essential to most businesses and yet also potentially complex. Every data source has a different data-access language (or API), driving up the costs to learn and use each vendor's product. The NeXT engineers wanted to apply the advantages of object-oriented programming, by getting objects to "talk" to relational databases. As the two technologies are very different, the solution was to create an abstraction layer, insulating developers from writing the low-level procedural code (SQL) specific to each data source.

The first attempt came in 1992 with the release of Database Kit (DBKit), which wrapped an object-oriented framework around any database. Unfortunately, NEXTSTEP at the time was not powerful enough and DBKit had serious design flaws.

NeXT's second attempt came in 1994 with the Enterprise Objects Framework (EOF) version 1, a complete rewrite that was far more modular and OpenStep compatible. EOF 1.0 was the first product released by NeXT using the Foundation Kit and introduced autoreleased objects to the developer community. The development team at the time was only four people: Jack Greenfield, Rich Williamson, Linus Upson and Dan Willhite. EOF 2.0, released in late 1995, further refined the architecture, introducing the editing context. At that point, the development team consisted of Dan Willhite, Craig Federighi, Eric Noyau and Charly Kleissner.

EOF achieved a modest level of popularity in the financial programming community in the mid-1990s, but it would come into its own with the emergence of the World Wide Web and the concept of web applications. It was clear that EOF could help companies plug their legacy databases into the Web without any rewriting of that data. With the addition of frameworks to do state management, load balancing and dynamic HTML generation, NeXT was able to launch the first object-oriented Web application server, WebObjects, in 1996, with EOF at its core.

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