Solid JRun Serves Up Java on a Budget

SAN MATEO (06/12/2000) - Although the Java jury is still out on the usefulness of client-side implementations, server-side Java is firmly entrenched as a standard language for delivering network services that drive thin-client, Web-based applications to corporate America. Consequently, Java application servers have emerged as a cost-effective platform for hosting custom Java applications and linking them to back-end systems, allowing organizations to leverage legacy systems and provide end-users with browser-based access to corporate data stores.

Allaire Corp. recently unveiled JRun 3.0, an ambitious upgrade to its Java application server. Current JRun shops will find several developments in this release, thanks in part to Allaire's acquisition of Burlington, Massachusetts-based Valto Systems and subsequent integration of its Ejipt Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) server technology.

Although careful to work within Sun's latest Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) specification, JRun 3.0 manages to offer bells and whistles that differentiate it from competitors. For example, JRun 3.0 includes a broad JavaServer Pages (JSP) custom tag library with built-in tags that can be used to make common requests, such as connecting to a back-end database, significantly easier. JRun 3.0 compares favorably to higher-priced offerings, including those from BEA Systems, iPlanet, and Inprise.

Previously, JRun hosted server-side Java applications by incorporating Java Servlets into a Web site plus support for dynamic Web pages using JSP. In this version, Allaire incorporates major upgrades, including the addition of server support for EJB 1.1, Java Messaging Services 1.0, and the Java Transaction API.

Also, JSP 1.1, Servlet 2.2, and full clustering capabilities.

These additions bring JRun up to speed with J2EE specifications, allowing your IT staff to choose the most appropriate technology required to build and deploy Java-based enterprise applications. For instance, they could use JRun's support for EJB to deploy an ERP (enterprise resource planning) application while establishing a JSP-based extranet for providing sales agents with current information.

JRun 3.0 ships in three different forms with different prices. At the high end, the $4,995 per seat Enterprise Edition, which I reviewed, removes all connection restraints and includes component clustering and HTTP-based load balancing via ClusterCATS for JRun. This is true clustering technology that lets your staff group servers to provide improved performance and reliability and handle heavy traffic by increasing the number of servers.

I've come to anticipate problems when installing a new application server, especially a prerelease version, but I was pleasantly surprised with how smoothly the JRun 3.0 installation went on a Dell PowerEdge 2200 running Windows NT Server 4.0, Service Pack 4. In addition to NT, JRun runs on Windows 2000, Solaris, HP/UX, and Red Hat Linux.

I was pleased to see an improved administration console. Instead of the Swing-based utility used in JRun 2.3.x, Version 3.0 provides a browser-based utility for configuring the product, making it manageable from any computer.

Using the new JRun Management Console, I was able to configure EJBs, deploy J2EE application .ear files, and create and configure Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) data sources. Because the JMC is JSP-based, you need Versions 4.0 or later of Netscape Communicator or Internet Explorer to use it.

JRun 3.0 is equipped with a built-in HTTP server, but it also supports any NSAPI (Netscape Server API)-based Web server such as iPlanet's. It supports Microsoft Internet Information Server and Apache's server and proxy capabilities. To facilitate intercommunication, Version 3.0 provides a connector wizard to walk through integrating JRun into your server farm. A Connection Module handles the traffic flowing between the two servers.

The JRun Server does not have a development environment, but not surprisingly, it integrates very well with JRun Studio 3.0, which is priced at $495.

Unfortunately, such tight integration is not available to users of other development environments, such as Microsoft's Visual J++.

All in all, JRun 3.0 represents a successful melding of technologies that Allaire has obtained through recent acquisitions and those it has developed over the years. Support for the latest JSP specification coupled with full EJB support should help Allaire further penetrate the application server market.

Version 3.0 is a comprehensive Java application server package that can help any organization build Java-based applications that are fully compliant with Sun's latest enterprise Java specifications for less cost than the competition.

If you think your company can benefit from Java-based server-side applications, then JRun 3.0 should be on your short list.

Technology Analyst Todd Coopee (todd_coopee@infoworld.com) covers a variety of Internet topics, including Internet-based groupware, Web site analysis tools, streaming multimedia, and application development tools.

THE BOTTOM LINE: BETA

JRun 3.0, Release Candidate 1

Business Case: This Java-based application server lets you offer enterprise-class applications via the Web to customers, partners, and employees with a browser. At $4,995 per CPU for the Enterprise Edition, JRun 3.0 is a bargain compared to alternatives.

Technology Case: Its capability of interoperating with a variety of Web servers across multiple platforms boosts JRun 3.0's appeal. The Web-based administrative interface eases deployment; new clustering capabilities make it an attractive option for high-traffic sites.

Pros:

+ Runs on a wide variety of platforms and Web servers+ Easy installation+ Clustering support in Enterprise EditionCons:

- Lacks integration with development tools other than JRun Studio 3.0Cost: Free, Developer Edition; $795 per CPU, Professional Edition; $4,995 per CPU, Enterprise EditionPlatform(s): Windows NT, Windows 2000, Solaris, HP/UX, Red Hat Linux, IBM AIX, SGI IRIX, Compaq Tru64 UnixShipping: June 2000; summer 2000 for Enterprise EditionAllaire Corp., Cambridge, Massachusetts; (888) 939-2545; www.allaire.com.

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