New Deal Brewing for Java Development

Will Java-based enterprise applications soon be a reality? New relationships between tool and component middleware vendors may eventually mean more Java on the server end. Analysts' reactions are mixed, however, as to how quickly these developments will play in the enterprise development market.

The most recent move in this direction has been Iona Technologies' (Cambridge, Mass., agreement to bundle its OrbixWeb middleware with Symantec Corp.'s (Cupertino, Calif., Visual Cafe Java development tool. The latest release of OrbixWeb (version 3.1) includes support for Visual Cafe.

This announcement comes on the heels of a similar agreement between Symantec and BEA Systems (Sunnyvale, Calif.,, and the unveiling of a combined development and middleware environment by Inprise Corp. (Scotts Valley, Calif.,

Interest appears to be running high among developers for building Java-based applications. A survey of Windows developers by Evans Marketing Services (Santa Cruz, Calif., found the proportion using Java on a full-time basis has more than doubled over the past year, to 14 percent of respondents. More than half expects to be using Java at least part time by next year. The survey found that the growth of Java is coming at the expense of the domination of C++ in development environments.

As a result, the need is growing for more robust Java development tools. However, current tool offerings "fail to give developers the full support that they need to build dynamically-assembled Internet applications that incorporate transactions, interactivity and content," says Ted Schandler, research director at Forrester Research (Cambridge, Mass.). "To help developers build these new Internet computing applications, Java tools must become Java platforms," he says. "Tool vendors' recent embrace of COM or CORBA middleware is a sign of vendor alignments to come."

For enterprise developers, the choice of component middleware is coming down to two platforms: Microsoft's COM+ or CORBA/Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB). "Java tool vendors must find a strong repository partner," Schandler adds.

Future releases of Symantec's Visual Cafe for Java Enterprise Suite will have hooks to Iona's Orbix CORBA-enabling technology. A similarly-enabled edition of Orbix Web will begin to ship by the end of the year, says John Gaffney, manager of strategic alliances at Iona. It had not yet been determined whether the products would be shipped separately or as a single package. By linking the two environments, developers will be able to develop and debug distributed objects. Once the developer has both Visual Cafe and Orbix installed, he or she can employ Visual Cafe's rapid development environment to build applications that can be extended through Orbix.

Some analysts question the ability to bring together two distinct and separate markets, however. Typically, CORBA has been part of a "systematic" approach to long-term enterprise development, while Java has been part of a class of "opportunistic" applications, says Yefim Natis, research director at Gartner Group (Stamford, Conn.). Rarely do the twain meet, he observes. "CORBA has never focused on productivity -- it focuses on enabling distributed computing."

However, Iona sees its embrace of Visual Cafe as the first stage in eventual widespread deployment of Java. "With Orbix, Visual Cafe will work across a distributed environment, and can be managed by a team of developers working across a variety of hosts," says Gaffney. "Java is the ideal platform for building and distributing objects in a network arena."

In due time, Java will eventually become part of systematic environments, Natis predicts. However, "Java has not yet become a proven platform for systematic applications," he adds. "There are very few, if any, full-scale Java enterprise applications being developed today. But classic systematic vendors such as BEA Systems, IBM Corp., Oracle Corp. and Iona are making significant investments in Java. These vendors are going to continue to push Java into the server."

Iona's Gaffney agrees that it will be some time before large-scale Java applications begin to be implemented. Typically, when Orbix developers have been using Java, it's been limited to client front ends for Internet applications, he observes.