NetDynamics counters Sun's pure Java

Sun Microsystems might own NetDynamics, but the popular maker of application servers is resisting the siren call of going pure Java and is continuing its long-term embrace of Microsoft's Component Object Model (COM).

The NetDynamics server will not become a pure Java server for as many as two years, according to sources close to NetDynamics. The reason is that users of the NetDynamics server and tools want to build on Windows NT -- and they want to be able to standardise on CORBA, but integrate with COM, using NetDynamics' tools.

"Ours is a pragmatic approach," said Zack Rinat, vice president of the NetDynamics division at Sun, who headed NetDynamics before its was acquired by Sun in the summer of 1998. "What's important is that any transition [to pure Java] is a seamless transition."

That "best of both worlds" policy, however, might be construed as a "do what I say, not what I do" proposition by Sun before the overall Java community.

"NetDynamics is saying that Java is not ready for the enterprise, and that's bull," said John Capobianco, senior vice president of marketing at Bluestone Software, in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, maker of the pure Java Sapphire Web application server.

Sun often preaches to its licensees the virtues of pure Java development -- as a foundation for write once, run anywhere -- and the benefits of the Internet Inter-ORB Protocol and CORBA frameworks for objects and distributed applications.

NetDynamics is set to release an upgrade to its application server in the first quarter of 1999 that supports the recently released Java 2 specification and the Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) 1.0 specification. But the NetDynamics server will not become an EJB run time for years to come.

According to Sun sources, NetDynamics is moving to allow the use of one tool -- and not a pure Java tool -- to form the core of the NetDynamics Studio for building COM- and CORBA-based applications. That tool will arrive in the first quarter of 1999, the sources said.

The larger goal is to give enterprise developers a tool suite with the same graphical look and feel to stitch together objects for building client/server and Web-based applications, said a source at Sun.

"We'd like to achieve a general development environment and also gain close integration to the NetDynamics platform," said the source, who requested anonymity. "We'll use the NetDynamics class libraries and build on it."

"The notion of creating an enterprisewide object framework that can be done easily by a small group within the company is appealing. We need to convert Sun's strengths into developer tools," the source said.

Sun may gain an additional gun for its proposed tools arsenal if the America Online-Netscape merger and corallary Sun alliance go through by gaining development rights to the Visual JavaScript tool used to string together Web scripts and objects.

Rinat declined to comment on how the Netscape Application Server, formerly Kiva Application Server, and NetDynamics server may or may not be combined.

Sun and NetDynamics are also shopping around for acquisitions to bolster the overall tools strategy for Sun and its growing portfolio of enterprise software offerings, said sources close to Sun.

A dynamic road map

Sun is walking a tightrope with its NetDynamics application server.

-- Use of one tool, NetDynamics Studio, for continued support for COM and CORBA.

-- NetDynamics becomes pure Java server within the next 12 to 24 months.

-- Integration of COM through NetDynamics Platform Adapter Component.

-- Licensing Inprise's VisiBroker Integrated Transaction Service transaction monitor.

-- Continued support for Windows NT, HP-UX, and AIX, as well as tighter Solaris integration.

-- Ability for programmers to design on Windows NT, then deploy on Solaris.

-- Support for Java2 and Enterprise JavaBeans 1.0 in the first quarter of 1999.