Sun Aims New Java Tool, Services at Developers

Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer's "Developers, developers, developers, developers!" sales chant seems to have finally caught on at Sun Microsystems Inc.

Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmers "Developers, developers, developers, developers!" sales chant that was caught on video last year and then screamed across the Web seems to have finally caught on at Sun Microsystems Inc.

The Santa Clara, Calif., company put on a major display of Java unity and innovation at its annual JavaOne conference here last week, making announcements to advance the Java platform, community and ubiquity.

Sun introduced two online resources, and Java. net, and announced a new tool called Project Rave thats aimed squarely at Microsoft Visual Basic developers. Sun has set its sights on growing the Java developer base from 3 million currently to 10 million.

Jonathan Schwartz, Suns executive vice president of software, said the 10 million number is "realistic," given that many of the new developers would come from the ranks of business analysts and domain experts in various fields.

And while he did not say Project Rave is a Visual Basic knockoff, Schwartz praised Microsoft for its affinity with developers. "Microsoft did a beautiful job," he said of the software companys tools strategy in an interview with eWEEK. "They know tools, they know developers; we know system administrators."

The Rave tool will address a much broader audience of developers than Sun is accustomed to. For instance, "Canon [Inc.] probably sells 10 million [digital] cameras, and every one of the people using them has produced content in some form. They are developers" of sorts, said Schwartz.

New technology to support scripting languages in Java will bring a multitude of developers to the platform. "For Java to succeed, we have to grow the community," said Rich Green, vice president of developer platforms at Sun.

Chris Wadas, a product manager with Affiliated Computer Services Inc., a Dallas-based company, said he is interested in seeing more of Suns Project Rave, due later this year, as his organization is looking to do more work with fewer developers.

"With [Rave], it looks like some of the things being done by a programmer can be done by a business analyst, so it is very similar to a direction we were already going in," Wadas said.

Not all developers seem convinced the Rave tool can live up to its marketing. "With rapid application development, the fundamental problem is the complexity of the problem almost always overcomes the capabilities of the tool," said Damon Rolfs, a senior solutions architect in the Global Architecture and Core Technology group at Accenture Inc., in New York.

Michael Stoeckart, CIO of EPL Inc., in Birmingham, Ala., said, "In the short term, enterprise development total cost of ownership will go up with people using RAD."

While pushing "Java Everywhere," the company needs to bolster some of its software stack, according to a senior executive.

"We have a couple places where we really need to shore things up. From a technology standpoint, there are some areas in the Sun ONE stack that I think were missing," said Larry Singer, vice president of Suns global IS strategy office, in Menlo Park, Calif. Singer, who has been in his role at Sun for 90 days, was last employed as the CIO for the state of Georgia, where he was a major Sun customer.

"And I think weve had a weakness around multidevice support, although were the big champion of Java on the card and Java on the device," Singer said. "I think in our middleware stack, its been something thats missing. But I have seen beta releases of products that are to address that, and Im a lot more comfortable about whats coming."