Sun Application Server Reborn

Firm reinvents, re-prices flagship product to stir market interest.

At this time of year, thoughts turn to ringing out the old and ringing in the new. Thats definitely the case for Sun Microsystems Inc., which tossed the code of its Application Server 6.5 and based the new Sun ONE Application Server 7.0 on the Sun J2EE reference implementation server. The result is an application server that can compete in the midmarket space for a bargain price.

Indeed, Sun has slashed prices while keeping the full Java 2 Enterprise Edition 1.3 feature set—including message queuing and message-driven Enterprise JavaBeans—in place for all versions. Organizations looking for an inexpensive way to deploy sophisticated Java applications to large numbers of servers should investigate this option along with JBoss Group LLCs JBoss open-source application server. However, management tool limitations and an unproven record under production loads should keep Sun Open Net Environment Application Server out of the data center for now.

Two versions of Sun ONE Application Server became available late last year. Platform Edition is free and available for Solaris and Windows. Standard Edition (the version we tested) adds an SNMP agent, remote administration (Platform Edition must be administered locally) and an included Sun ONE Directory Server LDAP server to authenticate users. Standard Edition supports Solaris and Windows and costs $2,000 per CPU on all platforms.

Linux versions of the Platform and Standard editions are slated for release this month; HP-UX and AIX versions for both will follow later in the year.

An Enterprise Edition will be released this spring and will include clustering, failover and high-availability features. It will cost $10,000 per CPU.

Rip and Replace

Rip-and-replace product changes such as this are done only in extremis. "We understand the history of our product line, and we would like to move away from that," said Deborah Andrade, senior product marketing manager for Sun ONE Application Server, in Santa Clara, Calif.

The two big feature areas Sun needed to develop to turn the J2EE reference implementation into a commercial application server were clustering and administration tools.

We wont know how Sun has done on the clustering front until later this year. As far as administration tools go, eWeek Labs tests show that Sun has covered the basics—but thats it.

We could configure the server through a Web interface and deploy pre-built application archive files, but the administration tool offered no way to monitor how well a server was running other than through a log file viewer. There was no display of Java heap usage, the number of connections in a database pool used or the other engine statistics standard with competing products. IBMs WebSphere does particularly well in this respect. (See review of WebSphere 5.0.)

Sun ONE Application Servers command-line administration tool, asadmin, provides some run-time statistics, although they were cumbersome to access in eWeek Labs tests.

We could configure the application server and the bundled Sun ONE Web Server from the same Web administration tool, a nice bit of consolidation for those who choose to deploy applications using this Web server. (All the major Web servers are also supported.)

The Sun ONE Studio Java development tool is included with Sun ONE Application Server and offers great integration. For example, we could add application server settings, view server logs and deploy applications from within Studio.

Integration with Borland Software Corp.s JBuilder will be available this month. (See eWeek Labs review of JBuilder 8.)

eWeek Labs West Coast Technical Director Timothy Dyck can be reached at