Web Services Heat Up

Oracle9i Release 2 and Microsoft's 'Indigo' take separate paths to openness.

SAN FRANCISCO--With Release 2 of its 9i Application Server, unveiled last week, Oracle Corp. continues to push into a lucrative market dominated by BEA Systems Inc. and IBM.

But as the Redwood Shores, Calif., company used its OpenWorld conference here to promote the new release, Microsoft Corp., also trying to make a mark in the application server space, briefed key partners on its future application server vision. Code-named Indigo, the Microsoft software will feature an alternative to the J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) development and run-time environment.

Indigo excludes Java and builds on Microsofts C#, a Java-like competitor. Microsoft does not offer a stand-alone application server; it includes application server functionality in Windows as part of Internet Information Services. The Redmond, Wash., company has been telling developers it is incorporating Indigo in a future release of Windows, most likely the version code-named Longhorn, which is due out in the spring of 2003. Microsoft declined to comment on Indigo last week.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said in a speech that while Oracles application server is "late to the game," the company is "getting a lot of growth out of the app server business."

Ellison also criticized Microsoft for abandoning Java. "Microsofts definition is that all standards are owned by Microsoft," he said. "So C# by definition is a standard. Who other than Microsoft thinks C# is a standard?"

On the contrary, he said, Oracle9i Application Server improves support for J2EE and Web services standards such as Simple Object Access Protocol.

Developers here said the Microsoft lock-in strategy wont hold water with organizations that need to deploy their applications across platforms other than Windows.

"In my mind, it becomes an issue of independence," said Mark Johnson, Web development manager at Acco Brands Inc., in Lincolnshire, Ill. "In the company Im in now, we have a broad spectrum of boxes to support. If Im going to be respected by my employer, Im not going to tie myself to a single vendor—not Microsoft, Oracle or IBM."

Johnson uses Oracles JDeveloper Java tool but runs applications on Macromedia Inc.s JRun application server. He said he is considering migrating to Oracle9i Application Server Release 2, which will be available in the first quarter.

Condon Brown, founder and principal consultant of Requirements Engineering Associates Inc., a San Francisco software development shop, said he is interested in what Microsoft is doing with .Net and Indigo, "but we really need to be truly interoperable. And its clear the world is going Java." Brown said Microsoft is too important a player to ignore.

"Indigo will probably fly with the Microsoft die-hards," said one Java developer, who asked not to be identified. "I like to think the masses are shrinking, but the Microsoft marketing bucks are big, so it probably isnt."

Meanwhile, Steve Siu, CEO of CargoSmart Ltd., of San Jose, Calif., which provides a portal for the container transportation industry, said Oracle9i Application Servers J2EE support and integration features have helped reduce development time for CargoSmarts portal applications.

Evan Quinn, an analyst at Hurwitz Group Inc., of Framingham, Mass., said, "J2EE has set the tone, and if Microsoft does not get included, their mind share is bound to be lower, and there will be a lot of bids theyre not going to get invited to."