IBM to Ship Nine New JVMs

In a sweeping Java announcement that's being called symbolic as much as it is significant to AS/400 shops, IBM stated recently its intention to deliver nine Java Virtual Machines (JVM) that support Java 2 StandardEdition 1.3, including one for the AS/400. The company's new JVMsthe software technology which sits between Java applications and a platform's underlying operating systemsupport the latest release of Java, available since May. In addition to supporting OS/400 V4R5 with a new JVM due in July, the JVMs will be available for OS/390, AIX, Windows and Linux, all scheduled for June introductions, and later this year, three JVMs for Intel's Itanium processor.

While the far-reaching announcement highlights IBM's strong support for Java, whether it will change the way the AS/400 is used in an e-commerce environment, where it has been typically placed in back-end processing role, remains to be seen.

But for front line Web server duty, IBM typically markets other platforms, such as Netfinity, says Lee Croon, senior industry analyst at D.H. Andrews in Stamford, Conn. "IBM's Enterprise Systems Division is still lukewarm about Java on the AS/400. They really aren't pushing the AS/400 as an excellent Java application server. On one hand, IBM has demonstrated a commitment to put the version 1.3 JVM on all platforms at an early date. On another hand, if you look at the way they position their Web servers, you don't see the AS/400. Instead, they call RS/6000s, the Netfinity platform and NUMA their Web servers. But they are offering great Java technology, which could attract young Java programmers to the AS/400 platform."

When Sun announced Java 2 1.3, the company emphasized increases in Java performance on the client, but because the AS/400 is currently used as a back-end server, or "commerce server," in an e-commerce infrastructure, faster client-side Java isn't very significant, says Croon. As the back-end server, the AS/400 is responsible for handling database transactions when it fields queries sent over the Web from a separate Web server or portal server, the front-end server accessed by the end user. "The AS/400 plays a key role in e-business by Web- or Internet-enabling existing applications, but the front end is usually an RS/6000 or other platform, and the front end is where blazing Java performance is most important."

For at least one AS/400 user, the existence of the latest IBM JVMs on a multitude of platforms isn't as important as the company's close attention to Java as a whole. For one thing, by maintaining currency with the Java specification and offering a comprehensive set of Java development tools, IBM can assure its customers of a smooth transition when they upgrade their operating systems.

"We have 3,500 Java objects deployed, and IBM's latest announcement is about giving us the confidence that we will have the necessary tools to upgrade to OS/400 V4R5, which includes Java version 1.3," says Deepak Mohapatra, manager of operations and networks, Welch Foods Inc., in Concord, Mass. "Every time a new version of OS/400 comes out, we have to integrate the new Java code with our EDI system, J.D. Edwards, and other mission-critical applications, and IBM provides the Java development tools to do that."

By including the AS/400 as a recipient of the new JVM, IBM, for its part, underscores its commitment to Java, ensuring that the AS/400 platform will continue to be integral to many e-commerce infrastructures. According to IBM officials, AS/400 users will benefit from increased performance of the company's server-based JVM implementations; the tight integration of Java and OS/400; the strength of its Java development tools, including WebSphere Developer and VisualAge for Java; and the speed with which the company was able to ship the new JVMs on such a broad range of platforms.

"With this announcement, we are clearly committed to deliver Java on the broadest range of platforms in the industry," says Scott Hebner, director of e-business technology at IBM. "We offer compelling Java innovations and our JVM implementation continues to be the highest performing and most scalable by industry benchmarks like VolanoMark and SpecJVM98. The performance aspect is very important on both the client and server, and the bottom line is that we're now delivering Java 2 v. 1.3 in a real-world production environment."

Related Editorial:

  • Java: Transforming the AS/400?

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