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JavaSoft supports Net standard

Sun's JavaSoft division will simplify development of cross-platform Java applications by adopting a standard industry communications protocol.

Sun Microsystems' (SUNW) JavaSoft division said today it will simplify development of cross-platform Java applications by adopting a standard industry communications protocol.

JavaSoft will integrate IIOP (Internet Inter-ORB Protocol), part of the Object Management Group's CORBA (Common Object Request Broker Architecture) specification, with its existing RMI (Remote Method Invocation) protocol.

The decision is seen as a victory for IIOP proponents, who reportedly have pressured JavaSoft to adopt the protocol. "This is really important because is shows that Sun has some flexibility," said Stan Dolberg, an analyst with Forrester Research.

"We've seen a real need to clarify and gain consensus in the industry," said Jim Mitchell, vice president of technology and architecture at JavaSoft.

RMI and IIOP perform equivalent tasks, letting objects communicate with each other. But RMI was designed for Java only, and is difficult to work with, said analysts. IIOP, on the other hand, has been adopted by a number of software makers, including Netscape Communications, Oracle, and IBM as a way to combine Java and CORBA-compliant applications.

Analysts said JavaSoft was pressured by industry heavyweights to add support for IIOP, so that Java developers would be able to build applications that span multiple platforms and software products from multiple vendors.

Mitchell said Sun will add support for IIOP to RMI as a network transport, enabling interoperability with CORBA-based applications and service. The company will also continue to support and evolve RMI for Java developers using the protocol. Mitchell added that Sun will work with the Object Management Group to extend IIOP to better work with Java.

Of greater importance is the implication that Sun has now defined a base level for cross-platform Java communications, said Dolberg. That means developers will have a common foundation to work with, even if software vendors deviate on how best to build Java applications.

Naturally, IIOP backers said the decision by Sun was a big victory for them and their installed base of users. "Prior to this development [merging of IIOP and RMI], our customers had to choose between two different worlds. By making this change, JavaSoft is unifying these two worlds," said Dave Stryker, a vice president at Netscape.

The decision is an important milestone for developers combining software from multiple vendors, said Dolberg. "This is really important because it means that Sun agrees that they have to get all of their boats off of the mud and they have to agree on a baseline standard for cross-platform services.

"IIOP is a solid platform. RMI is probably higher performance, but it's not at the level that developers should be programming to. It's too low level," said Dolberg.