Among the archrivals who put aside their swords for a day were BEA Systems Inc. and IBM, who are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the hotly contested application server market. Application server vendors are particularly important in driving adoption because they provide the J2EE-based infrastructure for running Java applications. Other attendees included Sybase, Borland Software, Computer Associates, SilverStream Software, and Sun software unit, iPlanet. BEA was among the companies demonstrating applications running on J2EE 1.3.
Among the important advances in the specifications is support for Web services, a stack of emerging technology standards, based on extensible markup language, or XML, for integrating business applications over the Internet. In this arena, Java vendors are competing against their universal enemy: Microsoft. The software maker has made Web services an underpinning of its Microsoft.Net strategy for driving sales within the enterprise.
The latest version of J2EE reflects Sun and its partners' focus on ensuring that the platform is in line with the latest Web-services specifications, as well as XML standards, under consideration by the Worldwide Web Consortium. Java specifications are developed through a Sun-organized industry group called the Java Community Process. "They really want to make sure J2EE is a very viable platform for Web services and for XML processing," says Evan Quinn, analyst for the Hurwitz Group. "And I think they've been right on top of it. I don't think they've missed a beat."
While Microsoft has had the upper hand in marketing its .Net strategy, both sides are equal in terms of their penetration within the enterprise. "If you ask enterprises, what are you going to use as an execution platform for Web services, from what we can tell right now it is split right down the heart," Quinn says. "It's almost dead on, 50-50."
The stakes could be high if Web services proponents are successful in convincing companies to adopt the technologies as the next generation of Web application development. In the meantime, both sides will need to address security, performance, and quality assurance--all inadequate in current Web-services standards--to win over the enterprise. Says Quinn, "Until then you won't see it used in mission-critical applications."