Tensions slow component compatibility

All users are saying is give interoperability a chance. At the Software Development West conference here last week, the standard-bearers of Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) and the Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) both reiterated their pledge to cooperate -- but also openly needled each other.

Users said they need the two component models to interoperate, but they are sceptical that true compatibility will happen soon.

The CORBA standards organisation, the Object Management Group (OMG), has delayed final comments on the CORBA Component Model until August to accommodate upcoming developments in the EJB specification. A new version of EJB is expected to be announced next month at the JavaOne conference here.

But the desire of OMG and Java creator Sun Microsystems to cooperate is hindered by their rivalry. Neither group wants the competing model to become the dominant one. At a conference session, CORBA vendors described EJB as sketchy, while Sun's representative retorted that users can build applications with EJB while CORBA's component model is still being developed.

Users are caught in the middle.

T. Rowe Price Investment Services, in Baltimore, wants to adopt an application architecture based on Java and CORBA, said Dion Hinchcliffe, manager of technology development. The company finds EJBs are relatively easy to work with. But with a current architecture based on C++, the company needs the multilanguage support of CORBA. "It's essential," Hinchcliffe said. "We can't go to EJB without it."

Hinchcliffe said he doesn't expect Sun to provide interoperability. Instead, he said, that may come from application server vendors that have included support for Java and CORBA. Still, Hinchcliffe said he will attend JavaOne to find out more about Sun's plans.

Java's ease of use has revived interest in the CORBA standard, which had been regarded by many users as too difficult to use, said Larry Perlstein, an analyst at Dataquest. Although Java is driving interest, he said, one vendor or technology shouldn't dominate distributed component development. But vendors won't provide compatibility unless users push them, he said. At Pacific Bell's directory unit, developers must use CORBA to integrate third-party applications that aren't written in Java into the company's infrastructure, said system architect Bob Wargowski. Interoperability between EJB and CORBA is important, he said, but, "I'm not 100 per cent confident that will happen."

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