Services Battle to Heat Up

The legal wranglings between Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. may be over, but the competitive ones are not.

The legal wranglings between Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. may be over, but the competitive ones are not. This week, as Sun executives preach the Java gospel at the JavaOne conference, they will wage a battle on a new front: Web services.

While the Sun ONE (Open Net Environment) strategy is seen as lagging behind Microsofts .Net, Sun will prop up Java 2 Enterprise Edition as the best platform for Web services, trying to leverage J2EEs success in the enterprise. Sun also will outline its road map for incorporating additional Web services standards into J2EE.

"Certainly the competition of the next year or two is going to be in Web services, and, right now, it seems Microsoft is out in front," said Peter Horan, CEO of Inc., an online resource for developers. But Horan, in Palo Alto, Calif., said there is still tremendous momentum around Java the language, adding that better tools are necessary to keep Java adoption growing. "Corporate developers and IT managers still believe the tool sets for C++ and Visual Basic are more fully developed," he said.

While Java tools have improved greatly since the languages early days, both Sun and Microsoft need to deliver tools to build Web services, developers said.

"We have the specifications, and weve all bought into the vision," said Ed Gentry, senior development architect with Level 8 Systems Inc., in Cary, N.C. "Now its going to be up to the tool vendors to make the technology meet the business needs. Otherwise, its just another technology thats neat."

Both companies have sought to enlist partners in the battle, including Bowstreet Inc., Genuity Inc. and i2 Technologies Inc. on the Sun side and eBay Inc., Fujitsu Software Corp. and ActiveState Tool Corp. for Microsoft.

Chief among Suns goals this week is to show how it is easier for developers to build Web services using Java. Among the announcements at the conference in San Francisco will be a bundle for developers of Java APIs for XML (Extensible Markup Language) parsing, packaging and routing. Sun will also unveil a new version of its Forte for Java tool, with native support for XML; SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol); Universal Description, Discovery and Integration; and Web Services Description Language.

Trying to contrast its strategy with .Net will also be a key focus for Sun at JavaOne. "Sun ONE is based on open standards and protocols and is based on things that are available today," said George Paolini, Suns vice president of software marketing, in Cupertino, Calif. "Most of Microsofts stuff is still a promise."

Paolini is leaving Sun after eight years to join his former boss on Suns Java team, Alan Baratz, at startup Zaplet Inc., in Redwood Shores, Calif.

In addition to Sun, several of its partners will be making news of their own at the show this week.

iPlanet E-Commerce Solutions, an alliance of Sun and AOL Time Warner Inc. based in Santa Clara, Calif., will release iPlanet Message Queue for Java 2.0, which guarantees reliable messaging in a Java-based environment among applications and systems.

Oracle Corp., of Redwood Shores, Calif., will unveil its Oracle9i application server, its first version to be certified J2EE- compliant, with performance upgrades, SOAP support and new caching technology.

The middleware division of Hewlett-Packard Co., in Palo Alto, Calif., will release its implementation of Java Services Framework, a specification that describes how to assemble components into Java server applications, along with a new Internet server.

WebGain Inc. plans to release upgrades to several of its Java tools, including the WebGain Studio suite. Also available will be the Santa Clara, Calif., companys Application Composer tool, which has a GUI to allow developers to assemble reusable components.