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Java Holds The Web-Services Edge

C# has further to go to match Java's popularity among developers
When it comes to building enterprise Web services, the entrenched Java language is maintaining a healthy lead over top contender C#, Microsoft's best-suited language for the job from its .Net toolbox, according to a new survey.

The Evans Data survey of 398 programmers shows Java winning handily in five out of six categories important to Web-services developers. For example, when developers were asked what they preferred for syntax, 36% said Java and 23% said C#; 40% preferred Java for memory management while 30% preferred C#.

Microsoft is "very skeptical" of the Evans Data results and doesn't view the sample as scientific, it says through a spokesman. The survey's results don't match up with Microsoft's own research on programmer preferences, the spokesman says.

Thomas Murphy, an analyst for development strategies at Meta Group, says the "acceleration has been huge" for C# and its accompanying .Net languages, Visual Basic .Net and Visual C++ .Net. But, he adds, "the problem for Microsoft is that Java is already there."

That's the crux of the issue for Paul Higday, director of E-commerce, architecture, and external systems at Owens & Minor Inc., a medical-supplies company. "We have seven to eight years' experience in using Java. That's a pretty good reason not to switch," he says.

"About one-quarter of the companies have .Net deployed, and about half have Java deployed," says Meta Group's Murphy. Over the next two years, he predicts, there will be more overlap, with C# and other .Net technologies used at 50% of companies, and Java at 75%.

Java Beats .Net

One reason for .Net's anticipated growth is that Microsoft, as an originator of the Simple Object Access Protocol (Soap), the standard for exchanging XML messages, is a big promoter of Web services, Murphy says.

But Higday doesn't believe C# or any of the .Net languages will surpass Java. Java's early prevalence means "it has an inherent advantage in the number of people thinking every day about building Web services using Java tools," he says.

Web services represent the next generation of applications, he says. Owens & Minor tracks 3 million messages a day on the status of individual orders as a Web service to customers, and the application is written entirely in Java.

The Owens & Minor application points to one of Java's strengths in Web services, Murphy says. It integrates well with back-end legacy systems. The .Net languages integrate well with existing Windows environments and offer greater ease of use in building user interfaces, he adds.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is dealing with other issues that could take its focus off C#. "Microsoft is under tremendous pressure to show that its security will improve," Murphy says. "Security is a way bigger issue than Java."

Late last month, Sun Microsystems made even more of a Web-services play with the upgrade to its Java 2 Enterprise Edition, Release 1.4, which includes additions for Web services. With the upgrade, Enterprise JavaBeans and Java Servlets now understand Web Services Description Language and can invoke the Soap standard.