Oracle Revamps JDeveloper for Grids, Ease-of-Use

Company says its new JDeveloper 10g IDE delivers a J2EE development environment that simplifies J2EE coding non-Java programmers and facilitates development for computational grids.

When it comes to winning J2EE application server market share, the IDE may just be the thing.

That’s why J2EE application server specialists BEA Systems Inc., IBM Corp., and Oracle Corp., among others, have rushed to deliver powerful, easy-to-use IDEs, BEA in the form of its WebLogic Studio and IBM with WebSphere Studio (which is based in part on the open source Eclipse IDE).

With its new JDeveloper 10g IDE, Oracle hopes to leapfrog over application server leaders IBM and BEA by delivering a J2EE development environment that it claims can simplify J2EE coding for COBOL, RPG, and other non-Java programmers, facilitate development for computational grids, and support service-oriented architectures (SOA).

According to Rob Cheng, product marketing director of application server end-user tools with Oracle, the database giant hopes that JDeveloper 10g will appeal to the vast majority of developers who do not currently program in Java. “The focus of this release has really been to expand the Java community and to make Java and J2EE more accessible to developers,” he comments. Java has been growing significantly over the last couple of years, he observes, but currently only about one-fifth of developers are programming in Java or working with J2EE. “We want to bring [these developers] into the Java community as Java programmers by giving them tools that help to basically give them a layer between the complexity of some of the Java and J2EE applications and code and let them concentrate on core concepts, like application flow and logic.”

The key to doing this, Cheng suggests, is Oracle’s Application Development Framework (ADF), which describes a set of runtime libraries and classes that are installed on the Oracle Application Server. “That implements some of the underlying plumbing, but visual and declarative tools and methods are provided in the tool itself. This means that those enterprise developers who may not be so fluent in Java can still define their application flow. With [ADF], you can actually drag the visual representation [of an application flow], a graphical representation on your screen of, say, a table in your database, and draw a link through a particular object in your field, such as a link between your Java class and the database table in the back end.”

In this respect, Cheng claims, non-traditional Java developers can use JDeveloper 10g and learn J2EE programming skills over time. “Even if you’re a traditional COBOL programmer, you can use something that calls Java functionality, and as you create these objects on the screen, you can look at the code that’s being distributed, and over time, you can start to move into looking at and understanding more about the server side of the code."

Elsewhere, programmers can use JDeveloper 10g to write grid-aware applications with no additional programming changes, Cheng says. The revamped IDE also features enhanced support for Web services and a SOA, which he says are essential for many grid services, such as distributed authentication. “Instead of having to have a user authentication or identity management application built into 10 or 12 applications, … you can have a single service that does authentication across your entire enterprise. And the nice thing about doing this on top of the grid is it takes greater advantage of the grid’s ability to efficiently allocate resources.”

On the interoperability front, JDeveloper 10g boasts compliance with the Web Services Interoperability Organization’s Basic Profile 1.0 specification, which describes a standard for ensuring interoperability between Web services. In fact, Cheng claims, applications created with JDeveloper 10g and written for ADF should run unmodified on any J2EE application server.

“This is the most open framework, ,,, that’s the most consistent with open standards and … actually will run with any J2EE server,” he notes, stressing that some of the technologies which underlie ADF—such as Oracle’s Business Components for Java—have been available for awhile. “Although this is the first release, it’s based on a lot of tried-and-true technology,” he concludes.

Unlike the .NET world, which mostly begins and ends with Microsoft’s Visual Studio .NET IDE, The J2EE tools space is a comparative Babel, populated by about a dozen large vendors, including BEA, IBM, Oracle, Borland Software Corp., and Sun Microsystems Inc. While most leading Java IDEs are seen as powerful and customizable, some industry watchers say that they still lack the ease-of-use and developer-friendly features of Microsoft’s Visual Studio.NET.

Oracle plans to attack this disparity with JDeveloper 10g, says Cheng, who argues that the new IDE “makes Java more acceptable for people like [Visual Basic] developers.” There’s an opportunity to lure many one-time VB developers to Java, Cheng says, because Microsoft is asking them to transition to the more complex Visual Basic.NET language. If Oracle can provide them with a tool that approximates the ease of use features of Visual Studio, Cheng reasons, these developers could be up for grabs. “We’re actually finding that some customers who are familiar with Visual Basic are looking at things like J2EE because of the complexity of learning a whole new architecture [such as .NET],” he concludes.

A more user-friendly and powerful IDE could also give Oracle a competitive leg-up against IBM—which research firm METAGroup says leads the J2EE application server race—and BEA, which METAGroup says is currently the second leading J2EE application server vendor. Oracle’s Cheng claims that his company may actually have surpassed BEA in terms of total customer deployments. “In terms of actual live customers, we may have surpassed them at this point. It depends on some of the metrics people are using whether it’s revenue-based or deployment-based."

Another advantage Oracle believes it has going for it is the prestige and ubiquity of its database, which—depending on whose market research data you’re looking at—is either the No. 1 or No. 2 player in the RDBMS market. “Typically, [customers] are well-interested in going to Oracle, particularly if their current database is Oracle, so that definitely is part of our strategy to dislodge some of the existing [IBM and BEA] users,” Cheng concludes.

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About the Author

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