Last November, IT research group Ovum released a report which revealed that vendor hype surrounding Java had fuelled both realistic and unrealistic hopes, leaving users ?full of expectation, but confused about the opportunity?s reality?.
According to Phil Carnelly, lead author of Java: Hype, Hope, and Opportunity, Java is fast becoming all things to all people: ?Many vendors see it as a way out of Microsoft?s shadow, while developers see it as a better alternative to present technologies, especially for Web applications development.?
Carnelly says Java offers IT managers a way to regain control of the corporate computing infrastructure by way of the network computer (NC), a task made more practical by Java technology.
Ovum?s report pinpoints four key areas in which Java represents an important catalyst for change:
- Java will be a key technology that will get distributed-object computing to cross the chasm between pioneers and ad-vanced mainstream users. In doing so, the report notes, it will shift from its original client focus to encompass both client and server.
- Java is a key element of the network computer reference architecture, and may tempt many client/ server sceptics to migrate to distributed-object computing platforms.
- The Microsoft/Intel axis? ability to direct the industry will be weakened, possibly forever.
- Java will help componentware grow into a mature market, so creating a virtuous circle ? Java sales will boost sales of distributed objects computing technology and promote a market for Java components and vice versa. According to the report, this in turn will help the industry shift from a software purchase to a software rental paradigm as software and content distribution merge.
But Carnelly warns that adopting Java is not without a risk or two. ?Java is an immature technology peddled by an industry in flux. There are still many unknowns in the equation,? he says.
The report maintains the success of Java relies on the technology becoming mature to a point where it is possible to prove the robustness of Java implementations, the consistency of virtual machine implementations to ensure 100 per cent portability, the scalability of Java components, and to allow open access to legacy data sources.
Ovum?s report on Java predicts that it must be considered equally as a general purpose programming language, an internet application enabler, and a components development framework. In each case, the report contrasts Java with competitive technologies.
Java is a lot more than just hype. In July of last year, Gradient Technologies and Spider Technologies, two leading lights in the channel, announced a joint development and marketing agreement, whereby both companies will integrate the security and distributed computing techno-logy behind Gradient?s Web Crusader intranet suite and Spider?s Net Dynamics rapid application development software for Java-based products.
David Fowler, vice president of sales and marketing at Gradient, believes the resulting products will allow both companies to deploy large-scale, mission-critical network applications with high degrees of security and reliability.
?The technology offers extraordinary potential for corporate intranets, but lacks the mature technologies needed to run mission-critical applications and secure ?confidential critical? data that many corporations want from their intranet,? Fowler says.
According to Fowler, with Java rapidly becoming the chosen architecture for intranet application development, Web Crusader and Netdynamics Web development utilities will provide Java developers with ?an infrastructure for rapid application development and deployment, high performance and reliability, and the proven security technology needed from corporate intranets?.
Plans now call for Netdynamics to be bundled with Gradient?s Web Crusader intranet suite. The bottom line, the company claims, is lower development and administrative costs, higher reliability, higher levels of security and faster applications deployment.
It was just before Christmas, however, that Apple Computer and Oracle announced they were teaming with Netscape and Sun to create the 100 per cent pure Java initiative, a programme that is being supported by more than 100 other companies in the IT industry. What is the goal of the programme? Simple ? to achieve interoperability between multi-vendor products.
According to Alan Bataz, president of Javasoft, the goal is going to be a lot easier to achieve than interoperability between other software/hardware computing platforms, not least because of Microsoft?s continued dominance of the PC platform.
The new initiative will use approaches ranging from a comprehensive test suite to a Java logo to make sure that all implementations of the ?Java virtual machine? are compatible at the application layer. For resellers, this logo will assure clients that the software or hardware is an open standards Java product.
Other parts of the Java plan include industry education, assistance to developers, technical marketing updates, hotlines, and Web site exposure.
The plan is not limited to the Intel processor platform, resellers will be pleased to hear. At Macworld in San Francisco in January, Apple Computer announced it is now shipping more than 30 Java products, and unveiled a Java-enabled edition of Open Doc.
To eliminate the fat client syndrome, meanwhile, Oracle is using Java across its entire product range from the database server to application servers and tools.
In early December, Sun really got the Java ball rolling with the second release of the Java Developers Kit (JDK) plus a new Electronic Commerce Toolkit with features such as Java ?wallets and cassettes?.
According to John Kannegaard, Sun VP of technology, JDK 1.1 celebrated the first anniversary of Java and represented a major step forward in the development of the internet programming language.
The key to the success of Java in its second year is the fact that the four key players ? Apple, IBM, Microsoft and Netscape ? have now agreed to settle their differences and work together to promote Java as a true interoperable standard.
At the Comdex computer show in Las Vegas last November, rumours were circulating that Microsoft was planning to go it alone with its own Java implementations. According to Kannegaard, these rumours were totally unfounded, and Microsoft remains as committed as ever to Java as an open standard.
JDK 1.1 is now available to resellers and developers as a free beta download from Sun?s site at http://www.sun.com and provides a higher level of performance than JDK 1, as well as several new features such as Unicode 2, which has been licensed from IBM and Java Database Connectivity for cross-platform database access.
Other useful features of JDK 1.1 include Abstract Windowing Toolkit, for a consistent look and feel across multiple computing platforms and operating systems, plus RMI, a technology that supports seamless connection between software applets.
According to Kannegaard, with the arrival of JDK 1.1, Java has become a complete programming environment, with several vendors now building complete suites of applications based on the internet programming language.
Nor is Java just limited to the Net. Already, Novell has teamed up with Sun to create a strategic alliance to broaden the reach and capabilities of Sun?s Java technologies to developers creating Java applications for business intranets.
Plans call for Novell to license Sun?s Java Workshop development environment, other Java technologies and Web NFS for use with its Intranetware platform. Full support for Java is expected in an update of Intranetware set for release later this quarter.
Sun?s responsibilities in the alliance include licensing Novell Directory Services (NDS) as well as making it available on its Solaris operating environment.
According to Denice Gibson, Novell?s senior VP in the US, the alliance will answer two main queries from users and developers: how to write and develop applications quickly, and how to manage a network through a single interface.
?Over 38 per cent of all [software] companies in the world already have some form of Java development going on,? she says, adding that the alliance with Sun will make that growth even faster.
Gibson claims the alliance between Novell and Sun will enable software developers to build the next wave of network applications based on an infrastructure of distributed network services such as directory, naming, security, and high-performance communication.
These network services, she says, will include everything from database, workgroup productivity and collaboration, to electronic commerce and information retrieval.
According to Gibson, the alliance should also allow businesses to implement a distributed directory infrastructure for intranet/internet applications that run across all computer/operating system platforms and reduce the overall costs of network administration and management.
Gibson?s enthusiasm is mirrored by Novell president Joe Marengi who claims the company is dedicating significant resources to Java development and deployment through its business intranet alliance with Sun.
?Our goals are to make development of network applications easier, to provide users with the top-performing platform in its class for executing Java applications, and to empower Java developers with access to Novell and Sun networking services,? he said.
Sun will license NDS and make it available to the reseller channel on its Solaris operating environment. Novell will license Sun?s Just-In-Time compiler for quickly executing Java applications and incorporate it in its Intranetware Software Development Kit (SDK) for the Java platform.
Novell will also deliver the compiler in a forthcoming release of Intranetware. Resellers should note that the Novell Java SDK, including a complete Java execution environment for Intranetware, is now available in beta for download from http://developer.novell.com.
At Networld & Interop in London last October, UB Networks announced that it too was committing to the development of Java. At the show, the networking giant unveiled the industry?s first real-time Web-based network management system for intranets. Called Netdirector Web, the package is billed as reflecting the importance UB is attaching to the role of Java within the networking environment.
Officials with UB Networks describe Netdirector Web as ?a comprehensive framework and suite of applications designed to manage enterprise networks from a Web browser?.
UB Networks says the package makes intranet management ?as intuitive as surfing the Net?, with a familiar Web browser graphical user interface, applications for real-time network management and network trend monitoring, planning, and analysis.
Steve Brigden, UB Networks? product marketing manager, claims that Netdirector Web goes beyond static HTML Web pages offered by other vendors. ?The Java applets will reflect changes in the network status as they occur, without requiring the user to reload Web pages,? he says. ?In addition, Netdirector Web provides built-in security mechanisms through Java and Empower, which is ideal for effective intranet management.?
Brigden says UB Network?s strategy is to embed a high degree of intelligence into network devices that dynamically detect and correct problems in the network without human intervention.
Using this approach, he claims, allows the network administrator to specify policies regarding what the network should do when a problem occurs. When the administrator does get involved, he explains, the tools should be as familiar as browsing the Web.
Thanks to this approach, it is claimed that users are able to securely manage their networks based on UB Networks? Geolan family of products via Netdirector Web from anywhere in the world using standard Web browsers ? provided they have Internet access. The browser will also, company officials claim, provide an integration point for multivendor network management as other vendors begin to use Web technologies.
As if all this wasn?t enough, Hewlett Packard is about to enter the fray with Java on its PDAs. Sources suggest that the company will announce at the Cebit Computer Faire this coming March that PCMCIA devices will be capable of running small Java applications, so opening up the possibility of running Java applications on the smallest of PDAs, regardless of the graphic limitations.
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