A Comparison of Client/Server Development Tools; Powerbuilder vs. Delphi

By: Borland Staff

Abstract: Delphi offers performance vastly superior to PowerBuilder. And only Delphi offersintegrated coding, debugging, testing, and deployment of client/serverapplications to increase developer productivity and applicationstability.
A Comparison of Client/Server Development Tools; Powerbuilder vs. Delphi
By Michael Lant
Sphere Data Systems Inc.
NOTE: The views and information expressed in this document represent those of its author(s) who are solely responsible for its content. Borland does not make or give any representation or warranty with respect such content.


Summary: Delphi offers performance vastly superior to PowerBuilder. And only Delphi offers integrated coding, debugging, testing, and deployment of client/server applications to increase developer productivity and application stability.

Native code executables allow users to get at information more quickly and allows for faster decision making.
Native code executables are 15-50 times faster than PowerBuilder's interpreted P-Code.
Native code compilers, unlike PowerBuilder 5.0's two stage "code generators", deliver faster application development without compromising maintenance or robustness.
Delphi has the worlds fastest integrated native code compiler increasing developer productivity.

A. Native Optimized Code Compilers vs. Interpreted P-Code
Developers commonly use higher level languages which are either interpreted at run time or compiled into machine code. Native code compilers run 15-50 time faster than interpreted P-Code resulting in faster performance for end users of the application. This affects their ability to interact with the application and to make timely decisions crucial to the business.

Delphi applications are directly compiled to optimized machine code before the application is delivered to end users. No run time interpretations occurs and no external files or DLLs are required for runtime interpretation. This decreases memory requirements and significantly improves performance over applications created with PowerBuilder.

New to Delphi 2.0 is an improved optimizing native code compiler that shares common technologies with the award winning Borland C++ compiler. This technology yields executables that are 20-25% smaller and 300-400% faster than Delphi 1.0.

" Delphi's execution speed is faster than Microsoft Visual C++ and Symantec C++.", March 18, 1996, PCWeek
Before a PowerBuilder developer provides an application to users, the application code goes through a partial translation to pseudo-code or P-Code. At run time, interpretation occurs before the code is executed. This additional interpretation has a significant effect on performance.

"Delphi has one of the better application distribution capabilities in the business, using a true native compiler. This frees the developer from the bonds of slower, less efficient p-code interpreters.", Linthicum, David, The Success and Failure of Application Development Tools, DBMS, May 1996
PowerBuilder's runtime environment is comprised of Dynamic Link Libraries (DLLs). These extra DLLs must be distributed with any PowerBuilder application requiring additional disk space and memory. The memory is for the DLL's as well as additional memory for buffering the interpretation process. On machines with limited memory, further performance degradation occurs as a result of the operating system having to swap data and portions of the application out of memory or onto the hard drive.

When PowerBuilder released version 4.0, PowerBuilder developers reported that their 4.0 applications ran 20% to 70% slower than the same applications created with PowerBuilder 3.0 on machines with 8M of RAM. This problem of decreased performance is exacerbated by the fact that most Windows users will have more than one application open at a time. Each one of these applications must compete for valuable memory leaving less memory available for the data and code of the PowerBuilder application and further degrading application performance. Developers also report that the size of the PowerBuilder application file has increased from 20% to 70% when building their applications under 4.0.

Conclusion: Delphi produces native high speed machine code executables that are 15-50 times faster than PowerBuilder and, at times, 815 times faster. PowerBuilder's Interpreted P­Code applications run slowly and require disk space intensive run-time environments that are difficult to maintain.

1. The Advantage of Integrated Native Code Compilers
Delphi always compiles to optimized native machine code, unlike PowerBuilder 5.0 which forces you to process code through a p-code toC code generator which can then be compiled with a separate C code compiler. Although this sounds like an attractive way of correcting the major performance deficiencies of PowerBuilder, it has major drawbacks including efficiency, code generation problems, and debugging to name a few. PowerBuilder 5.0's two stage code generator approach will only have minor impact on the slow performance characteristics of loops and integer math and, will not address the slow speed of the DataWindow. Delphi applications will run 10-35 times faster than compiled PB5 code.

Delphi has shown that there's a more efficient and reliable way to develop applications by always directly generating optimized native machine code. Because Delphi always produces optimized native machine code, it offers a number of advantages over PowerBuilder 5.0's two stage "code generator" approach. These advantages include:

Faster turnaround -
having the world's fastest native code compiler, Delphi increases productivity and encourages Rapid Application Development. Unlike two stage "C code generators", you never have to wait for the code generator or go through a separate generate / compile / link cycle.
"It'll [PowerBuilder 5.0] take 15-20 minutes to actually compile an [executable program]," saysBrian McCarty for MDM Advanced Systems/Lockheed Martin, Information Week, May 6, 1996.
Easier testing -
the code you work with in the Delphi development environment is the same compiled code you will deploy in your production application. PowerBuilder applications on the other hand require more testing to make sure that code that works with the interpreter will behave the same as the code created by the compiler.
High level debugging -
since the Delphi code that you write is compiled directly into optimized machine code, you debug the code from within the environment. Compiled PowerBuilder 5.0 applications are first translated from PowerScript into C which is then compiled into machine code. This additional step prevents the use of the debugger in the compiled application. Thus in PowerBuilder you won't know whether a bug was introduced in the PowerScript or the PowerScirpt to C-Code translation. The PowerBuilder developer will also have to use separate tools to debug C code at additional expense.
Easiest maintenance -
With Delphi, you only have to maintain code in a single high-level language, object Pascal, rather than having to maintain code in both PowerScript and in low-level C.
Easier deployment -
you can distribute your Delphi applications without runtime interpreter DLLs making it easy to deploy in the field. PowerBuilder 5.0 applications require in excess of 5Mb of run-time DLLs.
Historically P-Code systems and code generators have proven to be merely stop gap measures. However, since that time, many developers have been reluctant to use P-Code systems due to their inherently slower performance. As seen with very early C++ implementations, the disadvantages of a slow turnaround time due to the two-stage compile process and the difficulty of debugging the generated C code, caused most C++ developers to seek integrated "native code" C++ compilers instead.

2. Benchmark Results
The following benchmark tests indicate the performance advantage Delphi 2.0 applications have over PowerBuilder applications. All benchmark tests were performed on a Gateway 2000 V66 (66Mhz 486 processor) with 16 megabytes of memory. The 16 bit benchmarks were performed using on Windows 3.1.

Larger numbers indicate faster performance
PowerBuilder 4.0 Visual Basic Delphi 16 bit Delphi 2.0
Sieve 0.22 11.95 52.77 179.37
Whetstone 0.04 1.41 4.70 15.53
File write 0.05 0.42 0.74 2.89
File read 0.05 0.33 1.75 5.28

Benchmark tests show that code compiled with Delphi 2.0 applications can run from approximately 300% to nearly 400% faster than 16 bit Delphi applications. This means that Delphi continues to expand it's performance advantage of over 15-50 times faster than P-Code interpreters. For example, Delphi 2.0 Sieve benchmark results are 15 times faster than VB and 815 times faster than PowerBuilder. In addition, because of the new optimizing linker, .EXEs are 20-25% smaller than before and still require no runtime interpreter DLLs.

Independently, National Software Testing Labs had this to say about Delphi performance with respect to other Client/Server development tools including PowerBuilder.

"Delphi is the fastest, most versatile, and easiest to use of the evaluated products. It offers performance superiority across the board...", NSTL, Software Digest, March 1996
Rating Product Performance Versatility Ease of Use
* * * * Delphi 9.6 9.2 7.3
* * PowerBuilder 5.4 7.8 6.8

Additionally, PCWeek Labs had this to say about Delphi's performance against C++ compilers let alone interpreted P-code:
"Delphi 2.0's integer TAK speed is faster than that of Microsoft's Visual C++ and Symantec Corp.'s C++." March 18, 1996.

3. 32-Bit Compiler Optimizations
Delphi's 32-bit native code compiler achieves its performance increase by using a number of new code optimization techniques. In the past, optimizing compilers often required experimentation with complex compiler directives to achieve the fastest performance. In addition, they often depended on performing additional "passes" over the code which slows down the compiler and discourages rapid application development. Delphi 2.0 uses many new optimization techniques automatically, without guesswork.

Delphi's new 32-bit native code compiler includes a number of automatic optimizations including register optimizations, call stack overhead elimination, common sub-expression elimination, loop induction variables which results in faster performance. All of the optimizations performed in the 32-bit compiler are guaranteed correct and in no way change the meaning of the algorithm. The optimizations can also be disabled for benchmark comparisons. Delphi 2.0 also includes the capability of generating "Pentium-safe FDIV" code to guarantee that Delphi applications which use floating point division run correctly even on the so-called "flawed Pentium" processors.

When compiling on a machine with a Pentium processor, Delphi applications may compile at a rate in excess of 350,000 lines per minute making it the world's fastest native code compiler. Large Delphi applications can completely recompile in well under a minute. On the other hand, large PowerBuilder applications may take several hours to completely recompile.

Conclusion: Delphi has the worlds fastest compiler, and creates the fastest executables. High speed native code executables means that end-users will increase their productivity and make faster decisions. Developers will experience significant productivity gains which results in the reduction of back logged applications and increased ability to meet the changes of the business.

B. Database Performance
Client/Server database performance is derived from high speed native drivers and a scaleable engine architecture. Developers should not have to concern themselves, for example, with the changing volumes of data which out grow their applications, data caching, cursor management, etc. A flexible and powerful database architecture will reduce the amount of code needed to ensure scalability and speed. It will also reduce the amount of maintenance for a given application.

1. Scaleable Database Engines
Scaleability: As the core engine, the Borland Database Engine provides unparalleled compatibility and efficiency in accessing data stored in ORACLE, Sybase, Informix, InterBase, DB2, and MS SQL Server using high speed SQL Links native drivers; from dBASE and Paradox data formats using a native engine; or from other formats using the ODBC standard interface. The Borland Database Engine is designed from the ground up to be fast for client/ server development and protects your current investments by accessing data where ever it exists. On the other hand, PowerBuilder performance cannot effectively scale from desktop databases through to workgroup and enterprise databases. This makes it difficult to evolve with the changing demands on the application.

Cursor Management: The application development tool and database engines, not the developer, should be responsible for efficiently manipulating data through cursor management. The default mechanism of Delphi's Borland Database Engine is to return result sets on an as-needed basis to the client application. This offers the quickest mechanism for interacting with large or small quantities of data. PowerBuilder applications can only function in this way if the developer writes extensive code and is willing to negate DataWindow features such as sorting and summarization.

"PowerBuilder offers an option to retrieve only as many records into a form as are immediately needed, but the full result set must be retrieved in order for browsing and searching to work properly. This results in PowerBuilder taking three times as long as its next slowest competitor to access the first record. It is also several times slower than the other products at applying a filter and updating a record." Software Digest March 1996, NSTL Client-Server Development Tools
PowerBuilder defaults to downloading an entire result set and places the onus on the developer to manage memory, data caching and performance. This requires extensive coding that requires extraordinary maintenance and defocuses the developer from meeting the business objectives. Delphi also has the ability to work with entire result sets but the developer is not held responsible for maintaining the data.

Data Analysis: Typically, data from the server is processed by compute-intensive operations, for example sorting, graphing, or analysis by a user-defined function. Again, the advantages of high speed native code compiled applications, such as those created with Delphi, are demonstrable when dealing with large result sets for analysis. Customers such as Standard & Poors' Platts division, have ported from interpreted P-Code applications to Delphi native code executables and have had their data analysis intensive systems execution time reduced from 16 hours to 1 hour.

Conclusion: Delphi Client/Server Suite 2.0 offers the only high speed, scaleable database architecture. Regardless of where your data resides or the volume of your data, your application can quickly and easily get to it. Developers do not have to write and maintain a large amount of data access code, they only concern themselves with the business problem at hand.

2. Flexible Update Models
Whether you have a large number of transactions, typically characterized as OLTP (On-line Transaction Processing) or a small number of transactions on your database server, only Delphi Client/Server Suite 2.0, has the flexibility to meet these different application needs. Delphi developers have a choice of using the new Cached Update for more control, less network traffic, and less server locking or the existing Navigational Update transactional model for tighter Client / Server coordination.

Delphi's implementation of cached updates is quite different from PowerBuilder's. Delphi allows Cached Updates on local and remote tables for scaleable solutions. Cached Updates is implemented with just one line of code and offer superior flexibility to manage database transactions and transaction recovery.

Only Delphi Client / Server Suite 2.0 allows developers to use a navigational model. Navigational Updates are a mechanism by which each local transaction is sent individually to a database server within the context of a SQL Transaction. Navigational Updates complement Cached Updates and have two key benefits.

Navigational Updates
ensure that the result set of a SQL query on a client is kept in tight synchronization with the underlying tables on a database server by making transactions atomic. It maintains the highest level of integrity between the server and the client.
Navigational Updates
with Optimistic Locking reduces the amount of time a record, table, index page or record page is in a lock state by maintaining a copy of the record on the client and updating a user request in a SQL transaction with a single record change.
Conclusion: Business applications are varied and require different methodologies to address their unique problems. Delphi offers the flexibility of both navigational and OLTP transaction update models to best map to the desired performance and usability characteristics of all your applications. PowerBuilder on the other hand does not have the breadth of functionality to adequately address all your client / server application types.

Published on: 1/15/1997 12:00:00 AM

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