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Firms boost app server features

Three small software companies are hoping to stand out in the crowded application server market by adding Java, security, and other features.

Three small software firms are hoping to stand out in the crowded application server market by adding a pile of new features to their products.

The application server market is expected to explode in the coming years as businesses use the software to build Web sites for e-commerce and corporate intranets. The software acts like a traffic cop between a Web browser and back-end databases.

GemStone Systems has tacked on more security and more Java support, including Enterprise JavaBeans (EJBs) for building applications.

Persistence Software has made it easier to develop software by adding a new feature that allows EJBs to work with another programming model called Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA). It is also offering new development tools and a new caching feature that makes it easy to replicate and synchronize important data across multiple application servers in the network.

Vision Software has struck several partnerships and is integrating Macromedia's Dreamweaver Web site development software and IBM's CICS transaction processing software, MQSeries messaging software, and database connectivity software called DB2 Connect.

Analyst Martin Marshall, of Zona Research, said GemStone's increased Java support is important because businesses are starting to deploy EJBs. GemStone is also adding support for Java Server Pages, allowing developers to add dynamic content to Web pages; and Servlets, small Java programs that run on the server-side, like the Java applets that run on browsers.

"We're actually seeing some first deployments of the real stuff as opposed to the toys, the pilot projects," he said.

Marshall believes Persistence is the first company to offer support for RMI over IIOP, a standard that allows Java to be compatible with CORBA. "Java has now eaten CORBA. The master/slave relationship has been set up," he said. "You can wrap a CORBA object into a container of a JavaBean, but you can't do the reverse."

Marshall said the Persistence's new caching feature is important because it allows businesses to quickly duplicate and update information across the network. "Everything has to be updated quickly. When you make a [stock] trade, you want to make sure nobody tries to buy that piece of stock after you have already bought it."

The new caching feature keeps important data on the application server, making it faster to duplicate information because it eliminates having to go to the database to retrieve the data, Persistence executives said.

GemStone's new application server, called GemStone/J 3.0, will ship in late May. Pricing has not been announced. Persistence's PowerTier 5 will ship in June. Cost is $5,000 for developers and $10,000 for each server. Vision Software's JADE is available now. Pricing starts at $25,000.