IBM Notches .NET-to-J2EE Integration Accord

Industry analysts say the IBM/Mainsoft accord is a Very Good Thing for users of mixed .NET and J2EE environments

.NET versus J2EE can seem like a tug of war. After all, Web services can facilitate only the most formal connections between two such disparate application architectures. Meaningful interaction requires something more—which is where veteran independent software vendor Mainsoft Corp. comes into the picture.

Mainsoft markets Mainsoft for Java EE (nee Visual MainWin for J2EE), which facilitates integration between J2EE and .NET. The company also developed a site that lets Visual Studio coders develop .NET applications that run on Linux and other Java-enabled platforms.

Mainsoft’s .NET-to-J2EE integration expertise was recently sanctioned by no less an authority than IBM Corp., which signed an agreement to resell Mainsoft’s.NET Extensions for WebSphere Portal. That product consists of a combination of Mainsoft Portal Edition and the company’s SharePoint/SQL Reporting Federator offerings. Industry watchers say the agreement—which has been a long time coming—marks the formalization of a lengthy, informal relationship. Quite aside from its value to both IBM and Mainsoft, the agreement should translate into benefits for WebSphere developers.

In most cases, says David Gootzit, an analyst with Gartner Inc., developers reconcile the twin .NET and J2EE worlds using Web services standards (such as Web Services for Remote Portlets, or WSRP). Big Blue’s deal with Mainsoft gives users an alternative integration model that provides more functionality than WSRP and other approaches, he points out.

"Mainsoft’s Portal Edition product … provides source-level interoperability between .NET portlets and Java-based WebSphere Portal by including a cross-compiler that generates Java Specification Request …168-compliant portlets from .NET source code," Gootzit notes. "Enterprises deploying WebSphere Portal could use this functionality to expose their ASP.NET applications through the portal, taking advantage of WebSphere Portal’s functionality in areas such as single sign-on and branding."

That’s not all. "C# and Visual Basic developers can integrate .NET applications into the IBM WebSphere Portal deployment or develop new applications," Gootzit says.

Admittedly, Gootzit notes, Mainsoft’s Portal Edition customer base is on the small side; at the same time, however, early adopters report that its J2EE-to-.NET integration technology helps reduce project costs and shorten integration times. As a result, Gootzit and Gartner advise existing WebSphere Portal users who have a mix of .NET and J2EE applications to "aggressively evaluate" the Mainsoft technology. On the other hand, WebSphere Portal users who are also seeking to integrate SharePoint Portal Services should investigate deploying Mainsoft’s SharePoint Federator product, which will also become available to them as a result of the IBM/Mainsoft accord.

In the latter case, Gartner stresses, customers should first conduct detailed testing and solicit customer testimonials, largely because Mainsoft’s SharePoint Federator is a new—i.e., untested—deliverable.

About the Author

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