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Inprise taps e-commerce surge with new app server

The struggling software development toolmaker is taking a new stab at the hot, emerging market for application server technology that helps businesses create e-commerce Web sites.

Struggling software development toolmaker Inprise is taking a new stab at the hot, emerging market for application server technology that helps businesses create e-commerce Web sites.

Inprise this fall will ship a new application server that supports the latest versions of the Enterprise JavaBeans (EJBs) and Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) programming models. The firm will release a beta version at next week's Fall Internet World conference in New York.

Inprise is competing against Microsoft, IBM, the Sun-Netscape Alliance, and several dozen other application server makers who are vying for a share of a market that's expected to reach $2 billion in revenue by 2002, according to Forrester Research.

Success in the market could help revitalize the once high-flying toolmaker, which has struggled financially in recent years.

An application server is software that sits between Web browsers and back-end databases and runs transactions. For example, an application server makes sure an online buyer receives a discount if they buy a certain amount of goods.

Analyst Jeetu Patel of Doculabs said Inprise's new app server is a good product, but the main issue is whether the company can convince customers, who are wary of Inprise's financial woes, to buy it.

The company's new WebCore app server supports Java 2 Enterprise Edition, the latest Java standard for building business software, which includes EJBs; support for servlets, small Java applications that reside on the server; and Java Server Pages, which allow developers to easily add Java code on their Web pages. Inprise's previous application server did not support EJBs.

Inprise executives said the new app server is tightly integrated with its JBuilder Java development tool and is built on top of its updated Visigenic Object Request Broker (ORB), software needed to glue applications and databases together. Executives said the new Object Request Broker is faster and more reliable. Inprise is also releasing a new version of its AppCenter tool, software that lets users easily manage the software used in their application servers.

Beta versions of all three software products--WebCore app server, the Visigenic ORB, and AppCenter--are available next week. Final versions will ship this fall. Inprise executives said the company plans to announce pricing for the new products in several weeks.