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More Java components from IBM

Big Blue adds accounts receivable and account payable components and multiple currency tracking to its lineup of business applications.

    Big Blue is expanding the menu at its SanFrancisco Java café.

    IBM today announced a new release of its Java components and framework initiative, code-named SanFrancisco.

    With version 1.3, IBM adds accounts receivable and account payable components and multiple currency tracking components to the year-old lineup of business applications. The Armonk, New York-based firm also added more platforms and enhanced performance of the product line.

    SanFrancisco is a collection of Java-based blocks of prewritten code that let developers build business applications in Java by simply assembling the building blocks into applications. Each block of code is written for a specific business function.

    "With the delivery of Release 3, SanFrancisco offers developers roughly 750,000 lines of Java code to give them a significant head start in building lines of business server applications," IBM executives said in a statement. "This code is comprised of over 800 components that provide the structure, interrelationships, and default business logic for developers to use to accelerate application development."

    But analysts are keeping a wary eye on IBM's efforts. Eric Brown, analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said that while IBM "is embarking on a noble endeavor," those that have tried to establish frameworks in the past have had a tough time of it, especially when trying to target a general market.

    "I don't think the world can wait around for SanFrancisco," Brown said. "IBM has embarked on something that, if they succeed, the IT industry will enjoy the fruits of for years to come. There is a lot of value to it but it is also a lot of work. People before spent many years creating business frameworks but then abandoned them."

    Brown suggested IBM's initiative might be better served if it concentrated on developing components for specific industries such as a healthcare framework or an insurance industry framework. That is the tactic Microsoft is taking and it the direction most firms are going since most industries need products that speak their specific business language.

    But with today's announcement, IBM's SanFrancisco frameworks will include the foundations for building mainly generic applications. Its list includes frameworks for distributed applications, common business objects, general ledger, graphic user interfaces, warehouse management, order management, and now accounts payable and receivable. The additional currency support spans across most of the frameworks.

    IBM also is now supporting the Unix platforms of Sun Solaris, Hewlett-Packard's HP-UX, and Seimens Reliant using the Oracle database as the transaction support. Platforms for AIX, Windows NT, and the OS/400 already existed.

    IBM latched on to Sun Microsystems' development language soon after it hit. For IBM, the attraction of Java makes sense, analysts said. Java's main selling point is that it can run on multiple platforms, and IBM is the king of platforms with mainframes, its AS/400 system, client-server, and its new e-business initiative aimed at Internet-based, thin-client network architectures.

    "If anyone had a strong argument for Java as a strategic platform, IBM has coopted the ownership of this product," Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Giga Information Group, said recently. "Sun does not need Java because they are a single-platform company. IBM needs Java...Of the two companies, they are the ones more likely to make Java successful," he said.

    For now, most of the firms latching on to IBM's Java world are small, independent software vendors looking for a quick way to build applications that fit niche needs in corporate computing environments.

    One such firm is ActionWare, an Emeryville, California-based maker of front office management applications such as customer service, sales force, and marketing management software for the AS/400 platform.

    ActionWare's participation in IBM's Java efforts is helping the firm move its applications from the AS/400 proprietary procedural code to the open object-oriented world. Without IBM's prebuilt components, ActionWare chief executive Robin Retallick lamented that his company would have to spend valuable resources and money "writing the code ourselves."

    Reuters contributed to this report.