WebSphere tools upgraded to ease Java development

IBM Corp. Tuesday announced an upgrade to its WebSphere Studio tools line that's intended to ease development in a Java environment.

The primary addition to WebSphere Studio Version 5.1.2 is support for the recently finalized JavaServer Faces standard, which simplifies the building of rich user interfaces.

WebSphere Studio also supports an early version of Service Data Objects (SDO), which provides a unified programming model for accessing data from heterogeneous systems, including XML-based data sources and Web services. SDO has yet to be finalized by the Java Community Process established by Sun Microsystems Inc. to evolve Java technology.

Site Developer and Application Developer editions of WebSphere Studio also add support for a modernized edition of IBM's Enterprise Generation Language (EGL), which IBM said it expects will be especially helpful to Cobol and Informix 4GL users. Lee Nackman, vice president of desktop development tools and chief technology officer of IBM's Rational Software division, said EGL is aimed at programmers who don't want to get involved in object-oriented programming and inheritance.

IBM's WebSphere Studio upgrade marks the latest in a series of announcements focused on the theme of easing Java development. But as with some other vendors' new releases, analysts questioned how much the improvements will really help developers who are unfamiliar with Java.

Thomas Murphy, an analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Meta Group Inc., said WebSphere Studio 5.1.2 reduces some of the barriers to developing basic Java and database Web applications. But he said he thinks it will be most appealing to those who already use Java. He said WebSphere Studio remains "packed," as opposed to the slimmed-down user interface found in Sun's upcoming Java Studio Creator.

Mark Driver, an analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc., said WebSphere Studio still doesn't approach the ease of use of tools such as BEA Systems Inc.'s WebLogic Workshop. He added that he doesn't think Visual Basic or PowerBuilder programmers will use EGL, and he predicted that they will continue to struggle with Java overall. "EGL will allow Cobol programmers to be productive in Java, but I don't see a lot of demand for it beyond that," Driver said.

WebSphere Studio Application Developer and Site Developer 5.1.2 are due in mid-May, and enterprise and integration editions will follow later.

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