AS/400 Java a Big Hit for XCaret

XCaret Research began this decade as a developer of custom Unix applications. The Sausalito, Calif.-based contract application development house will end the decade as a developer of custom AS/400 applications in Java.

XCaret (pronounced sca-ruh) develops Web-based Java enterprise applications for the AS/400, including front-end order entry systems – both Internet and extranet – and an intranet based special order tracking system.

“Almost everything we do revolves around some form of e-commerce,” says Ralph Barhydt, president of XCaret Research. “We do some HTML and JavaScript, but our primary focus is on Java.”

Since its inception in 1991, XCaret has developed in such languages as Objective C (which Barhydt says became Next), Smalltalk and C++, mostly on Sun workstations. The company moved to developing in Java using Sun’s JVM, then tried a beta of the AS/400’s JVM in April last year. It was hooked. The official release of the AS/400 JVM in V4R2 in February reinforced XCaret’s faith in Java on the AS/400.

“We like the Java story and we like the architecture of Java on the AS/400,” says Barhydt. “It’s the best architecture for Java. It takes IBM longer to deliver some of the things we’re looking for, but though they may be behind time wise, they deliver good software and good products.

“Plus the AS/400 customer base needs to move to object-oriented programming and Java, so we see this as a good opportunity.”

“They’re doing a significant part of their development in Java on the AS/400 and they’re very excited about it,” says Jim Anderson, Java manager at IBM AS/400 Partners in Development. “They’re very good at helping us facilitate the adoption of Java in the market.”

Barhydt says he sees Java as bringing the enterprise closer together, uniting disparate databases and applications. XCaret develops its Java applications with both IBM’s VisualAge for Java and Inprise JBuilder/400.

“They both have different strengths and weaknesses. VisualAge has some really strong organizational skills with its libraries and configuration management. It’s an easy way for someone to get started in Java. JBuilder gives you more direct Java access to write real Java code,” Barhydt says.

In addition to its Java application development, XCaret also offers training and education in Java on the AS/400.