The final version of the Netscape Application Server (NAS) will arrive in mid-August, months before the product line morphs into the newly named iPlanet Application Server next year.
NAS 4.0 includes broader Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) 1.0 support, Java Server Pages technology, and the Java Servlet API, as well as tight integration with IBM TXSeries and Encina transaction technologies, according to Sun-Netscape Alliance officials. The server will also offer support for Entity Beans in addition to its current distributed-state and session-management capabilities, they said.
NAS will play a central role as the Sun-Netscape Alliance moves forward with its strategy to create an Internet-commerce platform under the new iPlanet moniker that will have the NAS code base and its application server engine as the centrepiece.
NAS 4.0 and the Sun-owned NetDynamics 5.0.1, which is due for release in early September, will be combined to become the iPlanet Application Server 6.0 in beta release form in early 2000. The full Java 2 Enterprise Edition-based iPlanet Application Server is slated to ship by the fourth quarter of 2000.
While the NetDynamics run time will be phased out, the NetDynamics tools will be leveraged in the new NAS and iPlanet offerings. Commitments to the NetDynamics installed base will be honoured, officials said.
But some analysts question how easily older applications written to NetDynamics servers will be converted to, and scaled on, an NAS run time.
"[The transition to iPlanet] is going to be easier for users of NAS than for NetDynamics [users]," said David Smith, an analyst at the GartnerGroup. "It was a tough decision, and I think they did the right thing. Technically it's feasible [to jibe the servers], but it will take some time."
NAS 4.0 will arrive within a few weeks of IBM's WebSphere Application Server, Enterprise Edition 3.0, and will be priced the same.
But the similarity between the two servers ends there.
The NAS server is moving toward full adoption of Sun's Java specifications, while WebSphere will arrive with a more inclusive Java architecture, Smith said.
"To some extent [WebSphere 3.0 and NAS 4.0] are apples and oranges. WebSphere is a pure Java server and a new product. All the apps written to it are written in Java. Whereas virtually all applications on NAS have been written in C, or through a different set of Java APIs," said Smith. "For high-end, mission-critical Web applications, NAS is a more proven solution. But for those who want to get out with EJB quicker, then WebSphere is probably a better solution."
Other features in NAS 4.0 include an improved server run time, with enhanced performance and scalability, and a "self-tuning load balance" option, said Roseanna Marchetti, senior product marketing manager of application server products at the Sun-Netscape Alliance.
Multiple system-management options are now available, thanks to support by the SNMP standard, she said. The Netscape Console and Netscape Application Server Administrator can also be used to manage the server.
NAS 4.0 will include Netscape Application Builder 4.0, a development environment for building applications for NAS 4.0.
Bundled with NAS 4.0 will be the Netscape Enterprise Server, a Web server, and Netscape Directory Server.
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The iPlanet product range: