Commentary: No harm done in JVM brouhaha

Meta Group analysts say Sun Microsystems' acknowledgement that its version of the Java Virtual Machine is not finding a place on Windows XP systems should not alarm users.

Sun Microsystems' acknowledgement that its version of the Java Virtual Machine is not finding a place on Windows XP systems should not alarm users, nor should they regard it as a reason not to use Java-based environments for Web development.

Although the confusion now developing over the bundling of JVM with Windows XP will prevent widespread distribution of Java on the desktop--where it had no presence in any case--it will not have a noticeable impact on the use of Java Web servers, particularly BEA Systems' WebLogic and IBM's WebSphere.

See news story:
Windows XP rush bypasses Sun's Java
Applications that require Java applets to run on the desktop--for instance, Oracle Forms Developer--can simply require that users first download an appropriate version of JVM from an internal server or a Web site, much as multimedia Web sites require people to download RealAudio Player before they will run.

Distributing an up-to-date version of JVM to tens of thousands of corporate desktops could be expensive and difficult. By contrast, installing it on corporate servers, which are fewer in number and reside in controlled environments that are more accessible to IT staff, is just a routine part of installing the Web application development platform that an enterprise chooses.

Although Microsoft in the last 18 months has created a strong vision of how Web services may be delivered with its .Net environment and has executed well on parts of that vision with products such as HailStorm, it does not yet have a full Web application development and delivery environment in place. Even when it does, WebLogic and WebSphere will continue to be strong competitors, and the eventual Microsoft environment will need to be compared to them. We expect that all three of these environments will be major contenders during the next five years and beyond.

While Microsoft is embedding parts of .Net into Windows server software, IBM and Sun have signaled that they plan to do the equivalent--moving basic parts of their Java-based development platforms into their operating systems. BEA, which lacks an operating system, has made an alliance directly with Intel to become the Web development platform of choice on Intel machines. This will let it surf the Intel server wave. To do this, it will have to redesign itself into a commodity vendor, but we believe that it can meet this challenge.

Users should not be concerned about the longevity of Java Web development environments. Lack of pre-bundled JVMs with Windows XP systems should not be a significant impediment to selecting WebLogic or WebSphere. Users also should watch the development of .Net as a potential competitor. They should pick the environment that best suits their needs and, if they choose one of the Java-based environments, plan to install the appropriate version of JVM on their servers as part of the overall software installation.

Organizations using client-based Java applets internally should include a JVM (downloadable from multiple sites and vendors) in their desktop image. Organizations targeting applets at consumers should provide pure HTML access as a Web site option.

Meta Group analysts David Cearley, Daniel Sholler, Dale Kutnick, David Folger, Mike Gotta, Pini Cohen, William Zachmann, Val Sribar and Jack Gold contributed to this article.

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