IBM's updated VisualAge for Java tool, released this week in beta form, promises to boost performance, ease legacy connectivity and give developers more options for building enterprise-scale applications.
Long a nagging concern, performance is expected to improve, thanks to a new compiler that will optimise the Java code to run on specific server platforms, including Windows NT and IBM's AIX, OS/2, OS/400 and OS/390.
"This sort of takes Java into the realm of C and C++ and other compiled languages, where it can really compete on a level playing field," said Jonathan Clay, chief technologist at Nevo Technologies, which has been using IBM's tool in developing a major Java application for Harvard University.
The new tool features Enterprise Access Builders, designed to help developers connect World Wide Web clients to legacy data using various middleware options, including IBM's CICS and TXSeries and SAP AG's R/3. While developers wait for Enterprise JavaBeans implementations, the Enterprise Access Builders provide an "elegant architectural construct" as an alternative, said Steve Hendrick, an analyst at International Data Corp.
"If you want to connect with legacy environments, many tools require you to write middleware and code sockets," Hendrick said. "That is not a good use of a programmer's time."
One of the key features that encouraged Home Depot to check out the new tool is its ability to let developers debug an object from a remote machine, said Mike Anderson, vice president of technology at Home Depot in Atlanta. "That's a great productivity tool," Anderson noted.
Other new features in the second version of IBM's VisualAge for Java include the following:
- Data Access JavaBeans that help developers build applications to access Java Database Connectivity-enabled relational databases.
- Team programming support for managing large projects.
- An Open Tool Integrator application programming interface that will let developers integrate third-party tools.
Because Nevo Technologies takes a distributed object approach, the new tool's improved support for the Common Object Request Broker Architecture is also a big plus, Clay said.
A beta version of VisualAge for Java, Professional Edition, can be downloaded from IBM's Web site. The final release for the Windows and OS/2 platforms is expected later this quarter, with the AIX and OS/390 releases to follow in the fourth quarter. Pricing hasn't been announced.