By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2004-05-03 Print this article Print

Sun Microsystems Inc.s Java Studio Enterprise 6 combines innovative, comprehensive packaging of developer technologies and supporting services with an easy-to-swallow subscription-based model of pricing and delivery.

The Java Studio Enterprise products core technologies begin with the foundation of the open-source NetBeans 3.6 IDE (integrated development environment). Sun builds on that foundation with an ambitious effort to integrate an entire portfolio of server-side resources. eWEEK Labs tests showed that this NetBeans-based strategy has produced a package of superb capability thats easier to install and deploy than any other system of comparable complexity.

Click here to read the review of NetBeans 3.6
Sun provided eWEEK Labs with an advance look at Java Studio Creator Early Access. Click here to read the review.
During tests with the 2004Q1 release of Java Enterprise Studio, we couldnt quite pop in the CD and produce an instant IT stack. However, Java Studio Enterprise comes close enough to that target to be well worth investigation by any development team thats eyeing J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition) for major projects. (The 2004Q2 release is due in a few months, according to Sun officials.)

Sun is positioning Java Studio Enterprise as a portal into a development community—even to the extent of inviting licensees to online chats with Sun technologists. The community aspect of Java Studio Enterprise is compelling for teams that need to move to a higher level of intrinsically secure and scalable applications. "From the IDE, you have lots of pointers" to specialists at Sun, said Java Studio Enterprise Product Manager Ashwin Rao.

We did not examine all these offerings, some of which are still in development, but we did find that the Java Studio Enterprise environment is keeping pace with Microsoft Corp.s Visual Studio .Net—likewise crafted more as a service development portal than as a conventional workbench in its convenient integration of diverse resources.

Developers who remember the days of "Hello, world" sample applications will need to take a deep breath when they confront the Java Studio Enterprise introduction, a 194-page tutorial that begins with installation and proceeds through construction of an Enterprise JavaBeans-based Web service. The products focus on federated-server architectures makes this jump even bigger than for most of the other enterprise tools that weve seen. The tutorial document is worthy of review by anyone considering a package in this class and is available online.

Literally ignored in that tutorial, however, is the significance of Sun Java System Identity Server as part of the Java Studio Enterprise package. Weve yet to see another offering that comes this close to making fine-grained application security the path of least resistance rather than the road more often not taken.

Theres no question that Java Studio Enterprise is conceived and designed as a network-resident tool for Web-oriented projects. We appreciated the flexibility of configuring the product for development of core logic on a self-contained workstation, but were sure that most enterprise developers will be even more pleased by the aid that the products installation process offers in deploying and configuring tools and servers across what may be several physical hosts.

Oddly enough, our initial default installation on a Windows 2000 workstation produced an instance of the bundled Sun Java System Application Server that denied configuration privileges to even the Administrator user, but we worked our way through manual creation of a new and duly authorized instance of the server with the aid of two Sun engineers. Once this was done, we had no trouble using the normal graphical interface in Java Studio Enterprise to identify and choose the reconfigured server as the default for subsequent work. (Sun engineers are reviewing our error logs to diagnose and prevent this previously unobserved behavior.)

The services model of Java Studio Enterprise, released in late March, is more than just annual-subscription pricing of a software license. Sun is offering developers a package comprising an Opteron-based Sun Fire V20Z system—bundled with Solaris 9 and the Sun Studio C/C++/Fortran development suite—when Java Studio Enterprise is purchased as a three-year subscription, at $1,499 per year.

Organizations opting for this plan arent just renting the hardware. "At the end of the three years, you own the server," said officials. Nor is this packaging scheme just a foot in the door for additional, more expensive services. The package includes next-day, on-site support for hardware and updates for software and gives subscribers privileged access to online forums, e-mail-based technical support and Suns knowledge base. Its a cost-effective opportunity for developers and a unique way—as far as we know—to leverage the hardware base of a company that seems increasingly committed to software leadership.

Other purchase options range from an incremental charge of $5 per supported employee per year to a more conventional option of $1,895 per developer seat. Either choice is aggressively priced compared with the cost of other high-end development suites, which typically begin at $2,500 per developer seat and range far upward.

Technology Editor Peter Coffee can be reached at peter_coffee@ziffdavis.com.

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Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at salesforce.com, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developersÔÇÖ technical requirements on the companyÔÇÖs evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter companyÔÇÖs first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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