Developers Favor Java for Web Services

Programmers say Web services really do help to simplify development

It’s far too early to crown a victor in the showdown between the Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition (J2EE) and .NET application frameworks, but if feedback from developers is any indication, J2EE is already out in front.

Last month, research firm Evans Data Corp. conducted in-depth interviews with nearly 400 programmers who are currently working on Web services development projects or who expect to be doing Web services development in 2004. When analysts from Evans Data tallied their responses, they concluded that developers believe Java to be the best language for Web services, outpacing the rival C# programming language in five out of six categories.

For the record, developers rated Java tops in categories as diverse as flow control, syntax, object/memory separation, easy access to libraries, and tight integration with XML. Java trailed C# in only one category—tight integration with SOAP.

Another surprising upshot of the Evans Data survey is that few organizations are outsourcing Web services development, or otherwise involving third-party consulting organizations in Web services development projects. Only 14 percent of developers said that their organizations are relying on third-party consultants, while 68 percent reported that they don’t plan on ever tapping third-party consultants for Web services projects.

Elsewhere, a plurality of developers—31 percent—say that adherence to Web services standards is the most important characteristic of a Web services development environment. Nearly one-quarter of programmers also cited integration with multiple architectures as another important characteristic, with an additional 23 percent saying it’s important that a Web services development environment integrates easily with Web applications servers.

When it was first introduced (prior to the advent of XML and Web services), Java was touted as a programming environment that was similar to C++, but which featured enhanced memory management and—most importantly— broad cross-platform support by virtue of its dependence on platform-specific virtual machines. Although much has changed since the mid-90s, Evans Data researchers found that developers are today drawn to Java for much the same reason: 53 percent of programmers cite the language’s demonstrable cross-platform support as a primary reason for using it. Programmers are wary of vendor lock-ins, as well: Another 17 percent favor Java because they say it does not lock them into a single vendor.

What’s driving interest in Web services among IT organizations? According to Evans Data researchers, customer demand was as a primary factor by a plurality (29 percent) of developers. An additional 23 percent cited the importance of keeping apace of technology as still another important reason, while 17 percent cited integration requirements. Another important reason for using Web services is to facilitate the creation of applications designed to bring in additional revenue, according to 14 percent of developers.

Developers are adopting Web services because of a variety of perceived benefits, economics, and a desire for greater development efficiency foremost among them, say Evans Data. For example, in a section of the survey in which developers were told that they could list as many perceived benefits of Web services adoption as they wanted, a majority—62 percent—said that Web services technologies facilitate the sharing of real-time data within an enterprise, while 56 percent pointed to the greater re-usability of code. Forty-seven percent of developers specified the potential for new revenue opportunities as a primary benefit; 44 percent the need to streamline application architectures; and 43 percent a desire to reduce costs. On the integration front, 36 percent of developers picked the ability to update legacy applications as a primary benefit.

Researchers also asked developers to contrast the promise of Web services standards—i.e., simplified development because programmers could write to a single set of standards—with the reality that they experienced after adoption. By a margin of 42 percent to 18 percent, developers report that Web services have made development easier. An additional 40 percent of programmers say Web services has not affected the ease of development at all.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.