Sun to unveil new tool for rapid app development

Sun Microsystems Inc. this week will announce a new tool, code-named Project Rave, that is targeted at corporate developers who need to rapidly build database-centric, Web-based applications, according to Rich Green, the company's vice president of developer platforms.

Reducing the complexity of developing Java applications has been a major theme among leading tools vendors for more than a year, as they confront the threat posed by Microsoft Corp.'s .Net development environment. Project Rave, which will be demonstrated at next week's JavaOne conference in San Francisco, represents Sun's attempt to ease Java development for corporate developers.

But Green said, unlike leading competitive offerings from vendors such as Microsoft and BEA Systems Inc., the Project Rave tool will enable developers to build applications that can be deployed on an any standards-based Java application server.

Green said another differentiator for Project Rave is that the Web-based applications produced with the tool can be enhanced into an enterprise-class application at any time by using other tools.

But "there's nothing unique" in the tool, said Thomas Murphy, an analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Meta Group Inc. He said database-oriented Web applications that can run on any standards-based Java application server can be built with tools from Borland Software Corp., Oracle Corp. and Macromedia Inc.

Murphy also said the Sun tool is running "a little behind." An early access version of the tool is expected to be made available in the fall, with the tool to ship by the middle of next year, according to Green.

"It won't be available until next year, and by that time, it's already awfully late," Murphy said. "If they would have had it a year ago when .Net first came out, I think it would have been more interesting. But by time they're able to put it in production, Microsoft will be almost on the third release of .Net."

Green said key technologies that paved the way for the creation of Project Rave were the Java XML technologies, known as JAX, that are used to build Web services, Java Database Connectivity row sets that allow higher level interactions with SQL databases, and JavaServer Faces technology that developers can use to build user-interface components. Using JavaServer Faces, developers can connect the user-interface components to an application data source and wire client-generated events to server-side event handlers, according to Sun.

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