Sun and BEA Push To Make Java Easy

Developers at last week’s JavaOne conference got a chance to check theprogress that tools vendors have made in their long quest to ease Javaprogramming so they can better compete against Microsoft.

For starters, conference sponsor Sun Microsystems tried to reassertitself as a major player with the release of Java Studio Creator. Thevisually oriented tool aims to “make it as easy to develop for the Javaplatform as Visual Basic makes it for Windows,” according to Joe Keller,the company’s vice president of Java Web services developer toolsmarketing.

But some developers may cast an eye toward a joint venture between BEASystems, Instantiations and the Eclipse Foundation, the nonprofitspin-off overseeing the open-source development framework that IBMcreated.

Open-Source Incubator Project

The vendors announced plans for an open-source incubator project, calledPollinate, to create Eclipse-based development tools that integrate withApache Beehive, an application runtime framework BEA turned over to theopen-source community.

“The big theme is bringing Java to the masses,” said Mark Driver, ananalyst at Gartner. “Studio Creator and what BEA is doing with Beehiveare targeted at bringing Java to the mortal man, making it moreattractive to the corporate IT programmer versus the highly skilledsystems programmers.”

A beta version of Pollinate is due this fall under the Eclipse PublicLicense. When it arrives, Eclipse users will get a chance to try BEA’sJava Control architecture, a light-weight server-side component modelthat reduces the low-level plumbing code developers need to write.

‘Sounds Like a Great Idea’

“That sounds like a great idea,” said Michael Reagin, the Portland,Ore.-based director of research and development at Providence HealthSystem, which uses BEA’s application server and Eclipse. “It certainlywould support the vision of open-source, and I think it’s going to be apositive for BEA and Java in general.”

Reagin said the nonprofit organization looked at commercial offeringsthat required expensive, high-powered developer workstations and “didn’tsee a whole lot of value compared to Eclipse.” Only 30 percent ofProvidence Health System’s development work is done in Java, and itgravitated toward the freely available Eclipse integrated developmentenvironment, he said.

Dave Cotter, director of developer marketing at BEA, said that if avendor creates a control today, it works only on BEA’s WebLogic. Butwith Beehive, vendors could create controls for the Tomcat open-sourceapplication server or any J2EE-based application server that supportsBeehive.

De Facto Framework?

“Developers want to know that they can use the framework and not belocked into BEA’s tools,” said Driver. “The potential is that Beehivecould become the de facto framework for high-productivity products –what we’re calling the ‘J2EZ space,’ where time to market, low cost andproductivity are driving factors.”

Sun’s J2EZ offering, Java Studio Creator, will be available only to SunDeveloper Network subscribers. The $99 price includes a perpetuallicense to Java Studio Creator and one year of product updates, upgradesand access to premium content.

Last week, Sun released an early-access copy of its Java StudioEnterprise tool, which adds support for the Unified Modeling Languageand application profiling.

Sun also unveiled the 4.0 release of its NetBeans application framework,which adds support for the creation of Enterprise JavaBeans and Webservices and a project management system based on The Apache SoftwareFoundation’s Ant. Keller said NetBeans 4.0 could be out in late summeror early fall.

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