Application Development

The enterprise-scale application development tool market is in a difficult spot today.

The enterprise-scale application development tool market is in a difficult spot today. Tight economic conditions have made companies, determined to maximize their existing technology investments, cautious about investing in new technology from less-proven players, yet eager to implement new services to meet rapidly changing business requirements.

According to Gartner Inc., traditional monolithic application development has been put on the back shelf. Instead, we're seeing customizable functions that can be strung together and integrated across traditional partnerships, supply chains and affiliations. Application development is evolving into application integration, relying heavily on XML and emerging interoperability standards.


Market Movers

February 2002: Company unveils WebLogic Workshop, an integrated development framework with visual interfaces to Java and J2EE.

April 2002: Company releases WebLogic Server 7.0.

Our take: Besides Web services and J2EE 1.3 support, the significance of 7.0 is its improved security, including authentication, authorization, auditing, encryption, and the ability to plug into third-party security solutions. The WebLogic Workshop announcement is only a logical step for BEA, because the company has pushed the legacy interoperability issue since its beginnings in 1995. Only this time, the company is offering a tool that lets legacy developers build enterprise-class Java and J2EE applications using its familiar procedural-based languages.

February 2002: Company announces support for Microsoft .NET, with plans to release development products that support the .NET platform during the second half of 2002.

June 2002: Company ships JBuilder 7.

Our take: Although Borland's JBuilder Java programming environment has a leading position in the Java arena, the company can't afford to lose support in Microsoft camps. This announcement confirms the company's strategic fence- straddling position.

December 2001: Company announces that WebSphere and DB2 are the first “major” application server and database software products to be certified J2EE 1.3 compliant.

Our take: J2EE 1.3 compliance was inevitable for these products. This announcement is more intended to kick up dust in the schoolyard and give the illusion of outpacing the competition, especially BEA.

May 2002: Company releases JRun 4 application server.

Our take: The biggest news here is the addition of server clustering using Jini network technology. Macromedia wants JRun to be a leading e-business platform, and clustering is critical for this. The product is also J2EE 1.3 certified and offers Web service integration.

April 2002: Sun announces the two-millionth download of the Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) Software Developer Kit (SDK).

May 2002: Sun announces plans to embed a Sun Open Network Environment J2EE application server, at no additional charge, in the new Sun Solaris 9 OS.

Our take: Sun wants to prove that the open standards approach is more than a mere grassroots effort to bypass Microsoft, and at the same time keep its powerful market position secure. As of April 2002, there were only 35 J2EE compatible products available. By offering a free J2EE platform within Solaris 9, Sun will surely increase the number of smaller J2EE software projects while tightening the screws on its competition.

Extending the Legacy Lifetime

Through 2004, 80 percent of application development organizations will exercise some form of legacy extension rather than replacement.

Source: Giga Information Group

Application Development Languages

Although Visual Basic is still the predominant programming language, Java is steadily gaining a foothold. According to Gartner, there are some 2.8 million Visual Basic developers in the world today, but by 2005 there will be 2.5 million Java developers as well. Between Java and the newer C#, C++ is being inched out of the picture.

COBOL also remains one of the most prevalent programming languages, although its developer community is decreasing slowly. Earlier languages such as PowerBuilder, Pascal, Smalltalk, and Delphi have been relegated to niche status.

Java Market
The Java tools market—which includes both Java application servers and the Java IDE—continues to mature and consolidate. According to Gartner, only Oracle and Sun have the potential to join IBM (with its VisualAge for Java and WebSphere) and BEA (with its WebLogic) as leaders of the Java application server market.

Microsoft Solutions
Much industry attention has turned away from Microsoft's more mature COM, MTS and COM+ architectures and has focused instead on the company's new child, the .NET platform. Based on a more open architecture, .NET is Microsoft's answer to increased pressure from Java and other open standards groups. With .NET still in its early stages, Gartner recommends that Microsoft-based enterprises wait for .NET to develop with COM/MTS and be prepared to migrate to .NET after 2003.

Meanwhile, the W3C and other standards bodies are in the process of creating what Gartner calls the next, less-proprietary generation of open service-oriented architecture, or SOA. IBM and Microsoft are joining the open SOA effort, with Sun and Oracle expected to follow suit.

Nobody's Leaving Legacy Behind

With the exception of newer businesses, most organizations still rely on legacy systems or data for significant portions of their IT infrastructures. After initial failed attempts to promote total legacy replacement, application development vendors now offer varying degrees of legacy migration and integration functionality.

Mixing it Up CircleCode wrappers/code generators: These products let developers write in familiar languages such as Visual Basic, COBOL, and PowerBuilder, or use graphical tools to build business logic, then turn it into Java code. These tools let companies continue to work with their existing development staff rather than requiring them to re-hire or re-train at great expense. Examples include BEA's WebLogic Workshop.

Code conversion tools: Rather than simply wrapping one language inside another, these tools convert languages such as Visual Basic into Java. Although their programming scope is fairly limited, these tools are seeing strong market acceptance. An example is IBM's VisualAge Generator.

Application integration tools: These tools allow for the greatest power and flexibility within both the originating mainframe/legacy and destination environments. They rely heavily on middleware and transaction-processing systems.

In your opinion, which two of the following companies provide the best development environment tools?