SAN MATEO (06/05/2000) - Hoping the strengthen Java's reputation as a development platform for e-businesses, Sun Microsystems will attempt to address some of Java's core performance issues at JavaOne next week in San Francisco.
Perhaps the centerpiece announcement at the show is a tool that lets administrators download and configure upgrades to Java run-time clients and significantly speed up the performance of a variety of Java 1.2 clients.
Performance has been a key issue for Java on the client side, which Sun officials say is still in demand.
The tool, Web Start, allows users to automatically bring a fresh Java run time into whatever browser a person is using.
"What is interesting about this is it is not just embedding the run time into the browser [but] is creating a separate session like it would with a real network streaming video. It sort of creates a little browser that spins off," said one source familiar with the company's plans. "And users won't lose the sandbox [security] that comes with the JVM [Java virtual machine]."
Potential drawbacks include a time-consuming initial download and the fact that the tool runs on a Web server rather than a centralized applications server, the source said.
Meanwhile, tension over Java between Sun and key ally IBM may also be gathering more steam, even as Sun this week announced plans to open up the Java Community Process (JCP) program for hashing out Java specifications.
Oracle this week signed on to license the server version of Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE), essentially leaving IBM as the only major player to not agree to Sun's licensing terms. IBM officials said that despite the industry's concession to Sun's licensing terms it will continue its adherence to industry standards by supporting Java without caving in to the licensing terms.
"Java is an enabling technology, and we're going to stick to that," said Rod Smith, vice president of Java at Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM. "But we're very standards-based; and continued integration of technology is a demand, and you need standards to do that."
Industry analysts indicate that, although IBM is the foremost implementer of Java, a serious rift may be emerging between the two companies over what is ultimately a branding and licensing issue.
"IBM says they will have everything needed for Java, they just won't have the brand on the box," said Martin Marshall, managing director at Zona Research, in Redwood City, Calif. "This is one of the most interesting issues going into JavaOne. ... We may be looking at the same kind of divergence we saw when Microsoft and IBM parted over OS/2."
Regardless of IBM's misgivings, Sun is moving forward next week with the goal of winning vendors over by addressing problems with J2EE and Java 2 Standard Edition (J2SE) at the show. Several vendors will be making product releases at the show, many of them honing in on the increasing demand for Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB).
Merant will debut Net Express, an application that converts Cobol applications into EJB, addressing a need for enterprises seeking to maintain their existing code and to run it in a Java environment.
"The fact is there is a lot of Cobol code, and not everything can be rewritten in Java," said Tracy Corbo, an analyst at Hurwitz Group, in Framingham, Mass.
"IT managers are starting to look very seriously at resources and do not want to waste time trying to rebuild stuff that took years to write."
Net Express also gives seasoned Cobol programmers a post-Y2K function that doesn't require them to learn anything new, Corbo said. The product will likely help address the shortage of Java developers, giving new life to code, she added.
Sybase will be on hand as one of a few vendors taking part in Sun's "deployathon," where they will be given the J2EE specifications and will be expected to deploy it on their servers. That will rely heavily on EJB, said Dave Wolf, principal field engineer at Emeryville, Calif.-based Sybase.
"If J2EE is the car, EJBs are the engine. Part of the promise of J2EE is interoperability, and we're pushing really hard to be a player in the EJB space," Wolf said.
SIDEBAR: Microsoft's Java Thins
by Ed Scannell
Microsoft's diminishing support of Java and its increasing emphasis on Visual Basic (VB) as part of its Next Generation Windows Services (NGWS) are expected to be topics of concern among developers at the company's Tech Ed developer conference next week in Orlando, Fla.
Some observers believe Microsoft is putting itself at risk by relying so heavily on Visual Basic to sculpt the future enterprise-class distributed applications for e-business, which figure to be central to many corporate accounts over the next few years.
Although Microsoft still includes J++ in the latest version of its Visual Studio suite of tools, some observers think it will clearly play a secondary role in Microsoft's tools strategy.
"I think you will see an emphasis shift. The J++ for Visual Studio is withering and is all but gone from their thinking. There will be a heavier emphasis on C++ for Visual Studio and maybe some services for NGWS," according to one analyst.
Microsoft officials responded, saying Microsoft has been and will remain language-agnostic, not preferring any one language over another. The only reason Java is not being prominently talked about is the court case Microsoft is embroiled in with Sun Microsystems over Java.
"We don't care what language developers use to build apps on top of our underlying platform. We love VB, Visual C++, and Java equally well. We would love [nothing] better than to help developers build these NGWS apps using Java," said Bill Dunlap, product manager for Visual Studio at Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft. "But it so happens this litigation with Sun prevents us from advancing the Java tools the way we want to," he said.
It remains to be seen how much Microsoft will discuss its proposed NGWS initiatives, while U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's decision to break up the company looms. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates will outline some of the nuts and bolts, but the initiative will not get a thorough treatment.