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Looming J2EE Update Sparks Tool Debate

By Michael Singer (Send Email)
Posted Apr 29, 2004


In the realm of J2EE development, ease of use and compatibility are the goals, but the toolmakers continue to debate how best to get there. With J2EE v1.5 on the horizon, the jury's still out on whether a combination of Eclipse and NetBeans or the debut of the Java Tools Community would result in a more-unified front.

Sun Microsystems Monday said that it would preview the next generation of J2EE (version 1.5) at its JavaOne conference in June, with the full release scheduled mid-2005. The next-generation platform is expected to build on the support of Web services with a fresh round of "ease of use," annotations, persistence aspects and Enterprise Java Beans 3.0. The beta release is being timed to take advantage of Sun's Java Studio Creator tool (formerly known as Project Rave) when it debuts next month.

"Version 1.5 will also support top link and lightweight versions to address the different environments," Steve Harris, vice president of the Java Platform Group, Oracle, told internetnews.com. Harris said the JCP has already begun working on J2EE version 1.6 with the express goal of adding in more integration with Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) for Web Services.

But even with new J2EE versions in place, a meeting this week of the top Java application developer companies showed some disparity in the ranks. When it comes to the tools that developers will eventually use to build applications, choices abound.

Next month, the Java Tools Community is expected to officially debut with support from Sun, Oracle, and BEA. In the meantime, IBM and Borland have chosen a separate path with the Eclipse project.

The issue of dueling integrated development environments (IDE) recently came to a head when Sun refused to join the consortium, putting its seven-year-old NetBeans project in direct conflict with other IDEs. Industry watchers say the rankling could further polarize attempts to unite Java development efforts to combat Microsoft's .NET initiative.

Joe Keller, Sun vice president of Java Web services and tools marketing, took the time during the press event to offer an olive branch to the Eclipse project membership. Analysts have warned that continued arguments within the J2EE community would only drive a wedge further between Java developers and the alternative, Microsoft's Visual Studio .NET platform.

Michael Dortch, principal business analyst with the Robert Frances Group, suggests the Geronimo projects from the Apache Software Foundation offer great promise for providing a strong link between J2EE and Open Source technologies. Geronimo application server is about to go into J2EE testing certification and has an unofficial release date of August 6, 2004. A beta version is expected later this month.

"However, Geronimo is very much a work in progress, and not even participants in the project publicly hazard any guesses about time frames for specific deliverables," Dortch told internetnews.com. "IT executives should watch this space closely, but should not expect any developments of major import to their enterprises for at least another 12 to 18 months. By that time, Geronimo project participants should have delivered enough early elements to enable IT executives to begin asking specific questions about applicability within and potential business benefits to their enterprises."

According to the latest Netcraft numbers, the deck is very much stacked in Apache's favor. Among enterprise deployments, however, Microsoft's Internet Information Services (IIS) platform is king by a huge margin.

META Group Vice President and analyst Thomas Murphy said the companies are also mulling how to turn development projects into a profit-making machine.

"Well, everyone has a different angle, but tools generally aren't it -- unless you are Borland," Murphy told internetnews.com. "For most of them, tools are a give-away practically or a cover-the-expenses model -- which is what Microsoft uses. So, they may be like IBM looking at services, which is the same thing JBoss is really doing. But IBM is doing a larger model of service. You may really be selling other stuff on top: portal, business framework, apps, like SAP. You may be Pramatti, and you can just sell the app server for a lot less because it costs you a lot less, since your development is all in India. So, usually if someone is 'giving' you something for 'free,' there is either a hidden cost or different business model."

This article was originally published on internetnews.com.

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