META Group Report: Java Keeps Brewing, But .Net Looms

Jul 27, 2001

CIO Update Staff

Damian V. Rinaldi

META Group research suggests that while Java will continue to evolve as part of the standard infrastructure for e-business applications, it will face increased competition from Microsoft's .Net online operating platform. We expect Java and .Net to battle for supremacy in the Web services space.

Java is reaching stability and maturity, to the point where it has become part of the fabric of corporate development, with use rapidly moving toward large-scale corporate applications. Three market shifts indicate Java market maturity: First, an increase in deployment tools such as server management, performance tuning, and debugging; second, "the reality of Java" as a standard for mobile device applications; and third, increasing options for thin-client deployment (that is, in devices without hard disk drives).

META Group estimates that during the next year the number of Enterprise JavaBean (EJB) deployments (which specify how Java-coded objects interact with each other) will increase. This will pressure operations teams to manage and tune Java-based applications and components, as well as Java's foundation for Web services.

By 2003 these services will become a common paradigm for internal integration of business functionality. Web services will emerge by 2004 that will create the interactive Internet. By 2005, there will be numerous enhanced-display mobile devices capable of running Java that will provide increased consumer -- and then corporate -- value as platforms for content and application delivery.

Development environments are gaining tools, such as modeling, unit testing, and collaboration, that are focused on application deployment and testing. Improvement in tools and competition will increase productivity and put pricing pressure on vendors.

Prices To Fall
While enterprise development tool pricing is rising (from a range of $500-$1,500 to $1,500-$4,500), this trend should reverse during this year and the next. Economic conditions and customer pressure will drive vendors to offer more competitive pricing. In addition, as Microsoft .Net becomes a viable platform by the end of the year, its lower cost per development seat will likely pressure the Java platform.

Many vendors, including Mercury Interactive, Rational, and Borland, are releasing products supporting the "end-of-life cycle" to complement their support of Java development initiatives. Other vendors are joining the Java party. These include tools to manage deployment of EJBs, such as Dirig Software's Fenway, which provides control over application and Web servers to monitor run-time behavior. This is all done without instrumenting the code. Still others, such as OC System's Rootcause, have systems that use instrumentation but then provide full trace-and-patch facilities for application crashes. Critical for the long-term success of any of these companies will be strong partnerships with application server and tool vendors.

During the next three years, integrated environments will continue to add functions and become more tightly integrated with the deployment platform and process. Sitraka Software, which offers JProbe and DeployDirector, has tools to locate performance bottlenecks and manage component distribution in an n-tier Java application. Tools like these should play an increasingly important role as organizations deploy EJB technologies.

A Wireless Standard
Mobile computing continues to attract vendor interest, and numerous vendors including RIM, Nokia, and Motorola are supporting the Java 2 Platform Standard Edition on small devices. Examples: ATG's Mobile Application Provisioner extends its personalization platform, using Java 2 Platform Micro Edition to access common services provisioned from the ATG portal suite. Insignia Solutions' Jeode is a new Java virtual machine (JVM) for mobile platforms that is being used by Compaq for its iPAQ device. Kada Systems also offers a small footprint JVM ($155,000-$300,000) for thin clients (e.g., PalmPilot, Pocket PC) that supports the standard Java technology stack.

META Group expects these products to pressure Microsoft to have a cohesive development solution for its .Net technologies across various platforms. Because mobile computing often means disconnected computing, the ability to create common applications that can run on devices, as well as on desktops, is important.

Options for Java client delivery are also expanding, as Sun has officially launched its Java Web Start, which provides support for managing the run-time environment for applications delivered over the Web and caching for applets to speed start-up time. In cases where full rich-client behavior (e.g., drag and drop, graphical manipulation of data and views, or the ability to work disconnected from the network) is not important, but where it is desirable to deploy applications with more robust interfaces than traditional HTML, developers can now use richer server-side components, such as Sitraka's JClass ServerChart.

In addition, FourBit Group componentizes existing applications with its Fablet product to provide a rich-looking graphical user interface running in FourBit's client-side runtime. Rather than shipping executable code as Java applets or Curl applications do, Fablet ships XML-based descriptions to the client. This enables a rich client with a much thinner movement of information between the client and server.

Enhanced Java tools are simplifying the creation and deployment of these applications. But META Group expects Microsoft to meet this challenge with the release of VisualStudio .Net and thinks many of the small, private Java vendors will not exist next year.

Sun and the members of the Java Community Process must continue to work together closely to define the Java application programming interfaces that support Web services, as well as to ensure that Java's promises of portability are maintained.

Damian V. Rinaldi is an analyst for META Group, an IT consulting firm based in Stamford, Conn.


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