Tool Allows Java to Play in ASP

"Write once, run anywhere," now applies in ASP applications, too. The mantra is a reference to Java’s ability to run on different operating systems, but Microsoft Corp.’s use of COM in ASP had created a barrier to industry-standard Java objects running on Microsoft’s Internet Information Server.

Chili!Soft Inc. (Bellevue, Wash., has partially broken down the barrier by creating a COM-to-Java bridge it calls Chili!Beans. By means of a behind-the-scenes wrapper, Chili!Beans makes the Java object appear to have the same properties as a COM object. That means pure Java objects, not just Java objects written in the Microsoft flavor, are now available to ASP run-time applications.

After wrapping, a Java object remains available to any other environment, says Mickey Friedman, Chili!Soft vice president of marketing. "We don’t taint it at all," he says. "They’re still stand-alone objects."

Chili!Soft, however, is not out to promote Java. The 4-year-old company has hitched its wagon to ASP, which previously ran only in a Microsoft IIS environment. "There’s really a great deal of momentum building in the market for ASP. It supports people who can create applications any number of different ways," Friedman says. "What our business is all about is enabling ASP on other web servers and other operating systems besides IIS and NT."

Since 1997, Chili!Soft has offered Chili!ASP, which allows ASP applications to run on Domino and Netscape web servers in a Windows NT environment or on other platforms, such as Sun Solaris.

"A disadvantage of ASP previously was the inability to take advantage of Java objects. Some people interpreted ASP as being proprietary because of that. What we’re doing with Chili!Beans is making ASP a more open environment," Friedman says.

Chili!Soft! positions Chili!Beans as a means for companies to throw more development resources at a project, namely pure Java programmers who know nothing about COM. The idea is to have a Visual Basic programmer create the ASP application that pulls together various objects, including the newly available Java objects. Currently Chili!Beans only work with Chili!ASP on non-IIS platforms. The company is considering breaking Chili!Beans out from Chili!ASP if demand warrants, Friedman says.

Analyst Tim Sloane of Aberdeen Group (Boston) says Chili!Beans will make more objects available to Microsoft developers. "They’ll not only be able to use off-the-shelf ASP and ActiveX components, but they’ll also be able to wrapper and use Java components," Sloane says. "But if you look at which market needs more applications and components, it’s the Java community."

What will be interesting is how Microsoft responds to the Chili!Soft products. In one way the companies work at cross purposes, Sloane says. The products boost Microsoft ASP, Sloane reasons, but defeat Microsoft’s cross-marketing advantage of dominating ASP development.

"Up until now, the run-time for those applications was only available on NT, so the more people that use the model, the more servers (Microsoft) sold. Chili!Soft [products] mean you can continue to use the development tools, and you can port the result of those tools over to Chili!Soft-supported platforms," Sloane says. "Microsoft should be watching this closely because the millions of Microsoft web developers can now execute their solutions on other platforms besides NT."