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Sun aims to simplify Java

The Java creator seeks to gain ground on rivals with a bundle of new tools and a plan to simplify software development.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
4 min read
Sun Microsystems, hoping to build support for its Java software, on Wednesday announced new tools and a plan to simplify software development.

The company launched Sun ONE Web Services Platform, a suite of applications that includes the Sun ONE development tool and Sun's Java server software components.

By combining Sun's Java server software, including its portal and integration software, with its development tools, programmers will have an easier time writing Java applications, Sun executives said.

The company is hoping to make Java development a more attractive option for companies that are evaluating tools for building Web services applications. Web services, a programming method for building software that can more easily communicate over the Internet and corporate networks, is quickly gaining popularity.

Sun, along with IBM, Oracle, BEA Systems and other software makers, sells products that are based on Java and the Java 2 Enterprise Edition specification, whereas rival Microsoft promotes its .Net tools and software. Development tools don't typically generate huge profits for software makers. But building a large base of loyal developers is a key step in promoting adoption of other, more profitable products, such as portal software and management tools.

Sun on Wednesday also said that it plans to update its Sun ONE Studio development tool.

At the company's JavaOne developer conference this summer, Sun will show off a souped-up version of Sun ONE Studio that is intended to simplify Java programming, said Drew Engstrom, senior market strategist for Web services at Sun.

Sun executives said the new tool will be targeted at developers that have a Visual Basic skill level. Microsoft's Visual Basic is easier to work with than most other programming languages.

"One of the big imperatives is (figuring out) how to make Java easier," said Mark Herring, Sun's senior director of marketing for Java Web services and tools.

The revamped Java tool that Sun will show off at JavaOne will likely still be a testing, rather than final, version, Herring said. Sun may ship a separate version of Sun One Studio or include it with its current tools, he said.

Java is a very popular language for building custom business applications. But finding and employing skilled Java programmers can be difficult and expensive for companies, notably for developers proficient in the latest Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) specifications, analysts note.

Microsoft, in contrast, has been successful in capturing the loyalty of corporate developers with tools that are designed to simplify the application-development process.

With that in mind--and new tools--both Sun and BEA are taking steps to try to make Java development vastly more facile.

The enhancements of Sun ONE Studio, as much as possible, will seek to eliminate the need to write code, Engstrom said.

"The complexity (of J2EE) is the fault of poor implementations of tools that have been too complex," he said. "It's the evolution of the tools that has to occur."

The Sun ONE Web Services Platform is also a step in the direction of simplifying application development because it eliminates the need for the developer to cobble together and test the interoperability of various components, Engstrom said.

The new bundle includes the Sun ONE Studio Java programming tool, as well as a development license for Sun's corporate portal, integration software, directory and Java application server.

The directory, or identity, server allows companies to add security checks to corporate applications.

Sun ONE Web Services Platform, which will be available later this week, is the developer equivalent of Sun's Orion project for software management, which is targeted at system administrators.

With Orion and the Sun ONE Web Services Platform, Sun will release regular updates of its software applications and product tests to ensure that they work well together, Sun said. The price of the Sun ONE Web Services Platform is about $1,000.

Sun's software bundling program for developers mirrors a strategy from other Java software companies, such as BEA. BEA's WebLogic Workshop allows a Java programmer to build applications that can run on its integration server software, portal or application server.

Like its competitors, Sun is expanding its developer relations programs. The company this week is launching a revamped developer portal that contains technical content, training and technical support for Java, Solaris and Linux programmers.

Access to the site is free.

Sun will syndicate content on its site from other companies, such as Nokia and Macromedia, in an effort to create a single place to get technical information. Developers will also be able to sign in to the Sun developer portal and get to other companies' Web developer Web sites without having to sign in again.

The developer portal is an effort to combine some of Sun's different developer information sites into a single Web destination, according to Sun executives. At the company's JavaOne conference, the company is expected to extend that consolidation to its set of open-source developer sites, including NetBeans and Jxta, according to executives.

Separately, Sun is spearheading an effort to standardize Java-based integration software. The company is sponsoring a submission to the Java Community Process to create a common way to build and implement integration applications.

Typically, submissions take about a year before they are final. Once completed and implemented in products, companies will be able to run a Java application on integration software from standards-compliant companies.