Product review: Java 2 finds the midtier

Many organisations are grappling with the decision of whether to build and maintain distributed applications in-house or as an outsourced service. Sites choosing the former path will want to keep SilverStream Software's SilverStream 3.0 on the radar, as they can leverage the product's flexible deployment options and broad platform support.

With this release, SilverStream applies pressure to its rival application-server vendors, such as IBM and BEA.My beta copy of SilverStream 3.0 revealed a product that is well-prepared for its market, due to added support for Java 2, Enterprise JavaBeans, and more flexible development options. SilverStream has also expanded its server-platform support in this release to include AIX. The server already supports Windows NT, Solaris, and HP-UX. However, I was disappointed to find that SilverStream is not yet available for Linux. By contrast, IBM, Enhydra and others are already supporting the Linux platform.

I found my copy of the SilverStream beta easy to set up, although I did receive some strange messages during initial installation and subsequent testing. The company will need to flush out these minor issues before releasing this version.

The SilverStream application server is especially strong when it comes to development-tool support. The built-in tools are straightforward, well-documented, and suited to new and experienced developers alike.

With this release, the company has added a new tool called SilverCommand. This utility enables developers to access SilverStream development functions from other Java-integrated development environments. I also tried SilverCommand using Symantec's Visual Cafe and the results were very pleasing.

Thanks to SilverCommand, developers will have the choice of using either the built-in tools or third-party products they may already have standardized on. This makes SilverStream a good fit with existing development environments.

SilverStream is including Object-Era's jBroker Object Request Broker (ORB) in this release. The ORB supports the latest CORBA 2.3 standards. SilverStream also includes a tool for creating Java classes that can access Component Object Model objects.

During my tests, I did find that SilverStream's newly added support for distributed debugging made my test machines hang repeatedly. The company needs to troubleshoot the debugging functionality before release.

Certainly, SilverStream has some work to do before this 3.0 release is viable for use in enterprise settings. However, if completed as expected, this release will have plenty to offer application-server seekers.

Maggie Biggs is the InfoWorld Test Centre technical director and acting section editor for the Enterprise Computing section. She can be reached at maggie_biggs@infoworld.comTHE BOTTOM LINE: BETASilverStream 3.0, betaSummary: SilverStream adds a bevy of enterprise features to its application server, though some beta wrinkles need attention.

Business Case: Sites that want to build distributed Web applications can use SilverStream to deploy more complex applications affordably.

Pros:

+ Java 2-and Enterprise JavaBeans 1.1-capable+ Flexible tool options+ Distributed, remote debuggingCons:

- Strange beta-related error messages

- Some hang conditions

- Some features, platforms not fully implementedCost: Development: $US500 per developer; Deployment: $15,000 per processor with unlimited usersPlatform(s): Development: Windows NT 4.0 or later; Deployment: Windows NT, Solaris, AIX, HP-UXShipping: Early 2000SilverStream Software Inc., Burlington, Massachusetts; +1-888-823-9700 (toll-free); http://www.silverstream.com

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