Sun to offer enterprise developer tool for free

Focusing on the familiar theme of developer productivity, Sun Microsystems on Wednesday is unveiling its Sun Java Studio Enterprise 8 development tool, featuring a visual UML modeling interface. The tool will be provided free to Sun Developer Network subscribers.

With Version 8, developers can drag interfaces and class diagrams and drop them into the tool's design center. UML tools provide markerless development, meaning there are no markers within the Java source code, said Dan Roberts, Sun director of marketing for developer tools.

"It improves the readability and maintainability of the code that's developed," Roberts said. "Developers don't have to wade through a bunch of muck inside their source code."

Sun believes the markerless code feature gives Sun an advantage over rival tools from Borland and IBM.

UML 2.0 is supported in the new tool, as it had been in release 7 of the product. "We shipped UML tools previously, but the new tool, Enterprise 8, has a completely new design palette and a look and feel and a ton of features" to improve productivity, Roberts said.

UML sequence diagrams enable checking on the sequence of events that occurs in the business logic of an application.

New mobility functionality in Version 8 lets developers build mobile clients for cell phones and PDAs. The product also features a Java Application Verification Kit to check whether an application is compatible with the Java standard and to ensure portability to any standard Java application server, Roberts said.

Version 8 also complies with the NetBeans 4.1 open source tools platform. "This provides significant ease-of-use improvements across the IDE," such as improved code re-factoring and improvements in editing, look and feel, and windowing, Roberts said.

Application profiling and developer collaboration also have been improved. Profiling with integrated load testing is included, as is support for Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition 1.4.

Available on Wednesday, Java Studio Enterprise 8 is free to Sun Developer Network subscribers. The basic subscription service itself is free; optional training, support, and premium content are sold as add-ons to the service.

The tool also is available as part of Sun Java Enterprise System server middleware stack, which costs US$1,895 or US$140 per employee per year. Additionally, the tool is being offered as part of Java System Suites, which includes Sun tools and some of the middleware servers. These are available for US$50 per user per year.

"What we're doing is lowering the barrier for developers to build complete Java enterprise applications," Roberts said.

In providing the tool for free, Sun hopes to leverage it to boost sales of other products. Developers can build applications to Sun's software stack, which would then provide Sun an opportunity to sell production support, services, and hardware, according to Roberts.

Sun has made progress with its Java tools but might want to consider addressing the growing market for tools to work with languages such as AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) and PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor), said Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

"I think that they've come a long way with their Java tools. They're also facing a change in the market," with an emphasis on technologies such as PHP and AJAX and open source frameworks such as Spring and Hibernate, Gardner said.

"It would make sense for them now that they've gotten Studio out the door to try to diversify their portfolio of tools," he said.

The tool is being announced at the JavaOne Tokyo developer conference.

Gardner said NetBeans is enjoying a resurgence.

"I think it's a positive response to the popularity of Eclipse and people recognize that having competition and diversity is a good thing," Gardner said.

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