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Sun pushes Java further out in the open

Jun 09, 20034 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsWeb Development

Network managers wrestling with Web services deployments or looking at projects to extend applications to wireless devices might want to keep an eye on this week’s JavaOne conference in San Francisco.

Network managers wrestling with Web services deployments or looking at projects to extend applications to wireless devices might want to keep an eye on this week’s JavaOne conference in San Francisco.

The event, which brings together Java developers from around the world, will center on improving the versatility of the Java platform – designed to run on all kinds of hardware – to support a variety of enterprise applications. Several vendors, including BEA Systems, Borland and Oracle, also are expected to release new tools aimed at making it easier to develop and manage Java-based applications.

The use of Java is steadily increasing, according to IDC, which predicts the North American market for Java development tools will grow from $116.3 million in 2002 to more than $220 million in 2006. The interest in Java is spurred by its support for Web services, as well as its use as a platform for mobile and wireless applications, the research firm says.

The event also will focus on the consumer side of Java, from making it easier to write Java-based gaming programs to unveiling a new branding campaign to raise the profile of Java and make it a household name. In addition, Sun is pushing Java further into the open source community, creating a new Web site to support open collaboration on Java source code and application development in an effort to spur innovation in the Java community.

For network executives, however, the most interesting activities at the developer conference likely will be discussions regarding Java’s position as a Web services platform, as well as a means to push enterprise applications out to mobile workforces.

“From a network perspective the big things coming in Java are [improvements to] the [Java Management eXtensions] management interfaces and the consistency in how applications are deployed to application servers. These are two key features in J2EE [Java 2 Enterprise Platform Edition] Version 1.4,” says Tom Murphy, senior program director at Meta Group.

Murphy says he doesn’t expect to see implementation of J2EE 1.4 until probably year-end or early next year. A big reason for the delay, he says, is the need to sync J2EE with Web services specifications, including those from the Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) Organization. WS-I is an industry group that offers application development guidance.

Ingrid Van Den Hoogen, senior director of Java and strategic marketing for software at Sun, says J2EE Version 1.4 is, “blessed and approved by the WS-I,” and should ship by the end of the summer.

She says the release is aimed at improving Java’s support for Web services and will include WS-I’s Basic Profile specification, which defines how Web services should interoperate. A beta version of J2EE 1.4 will be made available to developers at JavaOne this week, Van Den Hoogen says.

“We’re aggressively working on liability and security for Web services,” she says.

In addition, Van Den Hoogen says enterprise customers can expect to hear announcements about how Java will support mobile applications so that workers can access corporate information from handheld devices. Java has an edge in this area because of its ability to run basically anywhere, she adds.

“You don’t want one architecture on the back end, one architecture on the front end. You want a consistent architecture, and that’s where Java comes in,” she says. “With Java Enterprise Edition on the back end and Java Mobile Edition on the front end, you’ll be able to tie together the various pieces. You’ll have the technology platform to provide a mobile enterprise solution.”

A challenge for Java, however, is to provide the robustness that programmers find in other languages such as C++.

Sabre Airline Solutions uses Java for the front end of its applications, but still uses C++ for back-end programming.

“Whether we use Java on the back end really depends on cost benefits,” says David Endicott, a vice president at airline technology provider Sabre Airline Solutions in Southlake, Texas. “Our applications use heavy amounts of business logic. So for us Java makes a lot of sense on the front end, but as you get into the back-end pieces you need code that is high-performance, high-speed. We use C++ on the back end.”