Which development platform—.Net or J2EE—will you adopt?
Microsofts .Net Framework provides all the tools, tips and tactics you need—something possible only from a company with billions of dollars in its pockets and a real desire to woo developers—whereas J2EE is widely used among non-Microsoft developers and has support from some major vendors.
Choosing between the two—or being the programmer in the middle tying everything together—has been a big focus in the technology community. But there are other platforms that might provide more immediate benefit, more choice and, in these days of outsourcing anxiety, more employment.
While I was in New York recently at the LinuxWorld show (and, no, this is not a Linux versus Windows column), I spoke with Tom Killalea, vice president of infrastructure at Amazon.com. (When I think of Amazon, I tend to think of a big e-commerce engine with lots of personalized logic tied into an inventory and management system second to none. I search for a book, get a bunch of suggestions prompting me to part with more of my money, and in a few days the brown box arrives with my impulse purchases.)
As part of his infrastructure projects, Killalea is deeply involved in building out the Amazon development platform. A description of the platform can be found here; that description provides information for prospective developers that want to integrate Amazon.com functions and content into their Web sites.
Amazon is not alone in trying to attract developers to use its online environment as a development platform; eBay, Yahoo and many other online commerce sites are vying for ways to tie developers deeper into their sites.
These development platforms are more sophisticated than early online sites, which had rudimentary and static links to e-commerce partners.
Now, instead of simple links, third parties can perform business analysis and produce pricing models that allow them to create dynamic, competitive sites for their own, Amazon-affiliated operations.
So far, there have been 50,000 downloads of Amazons software development kit.
For one idea of the type of development possible, go to www.pmbrowser. info/amazon.html. The page brings up an applet, developed by TouchGraph. The applet is described as a "tool for browsing the mass of literature, music and film in the Amazon database, by exploring links between related items." As Killalea said, "Deeper integration to our site is something that is tremendously beneficial to our associates and to us."
There is a strong argument that the operating system just doesnt matter that much in the emerging world of Web services. The mark of a good operating system will be how easily and securely it can connect to Web services. If the operating system is not the central core any longer, it then makes sense to develop on the commerce platforms that are leading the way in developing Web services partnerships.
Maybe the software vendors are correct. Maybe the right choice is to become a Web services developer, but those vendors might have missed the mark regarding the target platform. Amazon and eBay are great examples of the marriage of advanced technology and business process. Neither can continue to grow unless it has the technology base to expand and the addition of new business processes to spur the growth cycle once again.
Do you want to be just another .Net or J2EE developer? Or do you want to be known as someone who can create affiliate sites that provide a new entree for online business, provide customers with a new way to engage in e-commerce, and attract the attention of the Amazon and eBay honchos? If you are looking for a technologist position that develops strong ties to your local business community and would be extremely difficult to outsource as a result of the ties, the Web services platforms for the new online giants provide a secure foothold in the current technology economy.
Editor in Chief Eric Lundquists e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.