Representatives from Sun, Oracle, and IBM gathered here last week to answer the question "Is Java enterprise-ready?" before a packed auditorium of Java developers.
The cryptic consensus among the panellists seemed to be that Java was ready for the enterprise, but in many instances the enterprise is not ready for Java.
Vlada Matena, lead architect for Enterprise Java Beans (EJB) in Sun Microsystems' Java software division, discussed the new features in EJB 1.1, which was released as a public draft last Monday.
Matena said one of the key new features in EJB 1.1 is that the deployment descriptor is now represented in Extensible Markup Language (XML), which provides an overview of how different JavaBeans are wired together in an application.
The final version of EJB 1.1 should be finalised by December, and that EJB 2.0 will ship in 2000, Matena said.
Matena said that EJB 1.1 is a key part of the Java 2 Enterprise Edition, which will be announced at the JavaOne developer conference in June, and will be a complete platform for delivering enterprise applications.
Java 2 Enterprise Edition will consist of EJB, Java Server Pages (JSP) and servlets, stand-alone applications, and applets.
At the JavaOne show, Sun will deliver the new platform by way of a platform specification, reference implementation, a compliance test suite, and application programming modes, Matena said.
During the question-and-answer period, Matena also said JSP 1.0 should be available before the JavaOne conference.
Oracle, represented by four of the six panellists, got the lion's share of the presentation time. The database vendor, in a shock to no one in attendance, is pushing the idea that it is impossible to deploy enterprise applications written without Java unless you are using a database.
"If you don't know how to use a database, you can't write enterprise applications," said Hal Hildebrande, Java engineer at Oracle.
Dave Rosenberg, senior director of Java technology at Oracle, indicated the company would be demonstrating the scalability of Java in the Enterprise when coupled with the Oracle 8i database.
"We're able to show scalability out to the tens of thousands of users," Rosenberg said.
Oracle technology evangelist Yong Su Kim pushed the company's JDeveloper tools for building Java applications on top of Oracle 8i. The software is available free from the company's TechNet site and contains wizards to help in the development process.
Reaching out to bring Java developers to the Oracle platform is a new focus for Oracle, according to Jay Peretz, vice president of partner services for Oracle Global Alliances.
"For Larry Ellison to say 'free software' was a big step for Oracle," Peretz said.
Peretz said traditionally the only people who learned how to develop for Oracle in the past were people who needed to provide solutions in their workplace, which had already standardised on Oracle. He said the company now has a partnering program with Java developers, which enables them to embed Oracle database services within a Java application, and potentially resell the Oracle database to his clients. There is also a venture fund set up for companies who are developing technologies for the Oracle platform.
Donald Ferguson, whose slide presentation described him as a "Chief Scapegoat and Deputy Cat Herder" for IBM, immediately won over the crowd after 40 minutes of Oracle presentations.
"I'm not going to talk about developer networks and free software, we have marketing people to do that," Ferguson said, drawing enthusiastic applause from the crowd and smirks from the Oracle panellists.
Ferguson said the major win in developing applications for Java is that Java "supports every platform that runs on electricity".
Ferguson said IBM has previously delivered custom applications in both C++ and Java for customers who weren't ready to commit to Java. He said the Java applications typically had a 10 per cent lower throughput than the C++ versions, but had other selling points that made them a better technology, such as being cross-platform.
As for the robustness of Java applications, Ferguson joked his Java applications "can stay up as long as [Windows] NT can", but did admit to setting the bar higher for deployment on more mature environments, such as Tivoli's systems management software running on the OS/390 mainframe platform.
Ferguson didn't provide many details, but did indicate IBM was working on a tool to generate business rules into EJB, and said the product would be available next year.
"I think that's going to be the next big wave in distributed programming," Ferguson said, regarding the integration of business rules. He also said WebSphere 3.0 would contain "extensive" EJB tutorials.
Hildebrande said XML would be the way business objects talk in the future.
"It will be extremely important in describing the business process," he said.
Kim said XML messaging would also be included in Oracle Applications, Version 4.0.8, which is due in a few months.
Sun Microsystems http://www.sun.com