Sun plots Java comeback

With the free release of Java Application Server Platform Edition 8, Sun launches a strategy to gain ground in the Java software market it created.

Martin LaMonica
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.
2 min read
Sun Microsystems is trying to climb back into the market for Java server software with rapid standards compliance and aggressive pricing.

The company on Monday said it has released the Java Application Server Platform Edition 8, the latest version of Sun's server software product for running programs written with Java. The software is available for free download and deployment. By making its application server and Java development tools available for free, Sun hopes to seed the market for its Java software and generate sales of more complex products. In the second half of the year, Sun plans to release a more advanced Enterprise Edition of the Application Server Platform, expected to cost $10,000 per processor.

Despite having invented Java, Sun rivals BEA Systems and IBM outran Sun in the Java application server market in the late 1990s. With the new strategy and software release, however, Sun is hoping to regain some market share.

"We're a lot better off than people realize," said Dennis MacNeil, product marketing manager on J2EE and Java system products at Sun. "Sun has become price-competitive...and the combination of price pressure and interoperability is a big issue (with customers)."

One way to enhance competitiveness is to rapidly introduce products that adhere to the latest industry standards. Sun's application server meets the Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) 1.4 specification, which makes it easier to write and run Web services applications written with Java. The company has also met guidelines for adhering to the Web services specifications of the Web Services Interoperability group's Basic Profile.

Sun is one of the first companies to meet the J2EE 1.4 specification, which is a set of blueprints on how software makers should write their software. When products from different providers meet the standards, customers should be able to run Java programs on application servers from J2EE-compliant products. IBM has released a preview version of its WebSphere Java application server that complies with J2EE 1.4. Oracle last month released a technical preview of its J2EE 1.4-compliant application server.

Customers can also go with open-source application servers such as Tomcat, JBoss and Geronimo, which is still under development.

Java Application Server Platform Edition 8 supports JavaServer Faces, an enhancement to industry guidelines for building user interface software with Java.

By offering its Java application server software available via free download, Sun hopes to drive sales of Java Enterprise System, a suite of Java server products that will include the application server, portal and identity management software, MacNeil said. The company charges $100 per employee per year for the Java Enterprise System.

In the second half of the year, Sun will release the Enterprise Edition of its application server, which will be designed for customers looking for more reliable server software. It will include clustering software to ensure that a backup server can keep an application running during a failure.