Bridging the Gap Between Java, .Net

Products from Web services developers Cape Clear, Intrinsyc make it easier to use rival platforms

With Sun Microsystems Inc.s Java and Microsoft Corp.s .Net shaping up as the dominant platforms for Web services, a group of companies is trying to carve out a niche between the rival vendors.

Companies such as Cape Clear Software Inc. and Intrinsyc Software Inc. are rolling out products to make it easier for developers to use both environments. Users said that although Web services is still evolving as a concept, there is likely to be a need for those types of bridges between the platforms.

"What theyre doing is very interesting and seems to be a very good way of pulling together [disparate applications] in a wider picture," Henry Balen, director of technology for Xenotrope Inc., said of Cape Clear. Xenotrope, a New York consultancy focused on the financial services industry, has been using Cape Clears CapeConnect product to link CORBA (Common Object Request Broker Architecture) and Java 2 Enterprise Edition applications and is now looking at using it for Web services.

"Certainly the need is there," said Toufic Boubez, chief technology officer of Saffron Technology Inc., in Morrisville, N.C. "There are very definitely two clear choices [for Web services] that are almost not compatible at this point."

Boubez, whose company is working on building "smart" Web services, said the question for developers will boil down to whether they want to roll their own solution or wait for integrators to make bridging solutions available.

"It will be good to have bridges, but I dont think its firm enough on the .Net side to realize what the requirements are," Boubez said.

CapeConnect is a platform for building Web services that links EJB (Enterprise JavaBeans), CORBA and .Net applications and is compatible with Microsofts SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) Toolkit 2.0. Pricing starts at $10,000 per server.

"The interoperability between .Net and Java is essential," said Annrai OToole, executive chairman of Cape Clear, in Walnut Creek, Calif. "Thats a prerequisite of participating in this market. What customers are looking for with Web services is a simple, ubiquitous way to make lots of applications talk to one another."

Looking to carve a similar niche is Intrinsyc Software. The companys JaNet product, expected to be available in the fourth quarter, bridges .Net and J2EE using Microsofts Common Language Runtime. The company already has a product called J-Integra, which links Java with Microsofts Component Object Model.

JaNet is bidirectional between Java and .Net. A tool set generates Common Language Runtime proxies and packages them into a .Net assembly.

"Obviously, in the future, Java and .Net are going to be the major platforms," said Mark Gibbons, senior software developer with Intrinsyc, in Vancouver, British Columbia. "JaNet integrates the two and [allows] VB.Net to integrate with [EJB] or an EJB back end to talk to C# or components running on .Net."

Component vendors also are getting into the act. Infragistics Corp., of Cranbury, N.J., which will unveil .Net components at Microsofts upcoming Tech Ed conference, is offering a dual license so that its customers can access either Java or .Net components as needed.

"Were building these horizontal business components, some on the J2EE platform and some on .Net," said Dean Guida, CEO of Infragistics. "Were going to be gluing those together through XML [Extensible Markup Language] and SOAP."