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Sun, IBM aim app servers at hot markets

Sun hopes to capitalize on the Net craze with a spruced-up NetDynamics application server, while IBM plans to exploit the growing Linux movement with a new application server release.

    Sun Microsystems and IBM plan to strike while the iron is hot.

    Sun hopes to capitalize on the Internet craze with a spruced-up NetDynamics application server, while IBM plans to exploit the growing Linux movement with a new application server release that supports the operating system.

    Sun next week will unveil its updated NetDynamics server--the centerpiece of the company's new strategy to offer a complete package of products to help businesses build, deploy, and manage e-commerce, intranet, and extranet sites, said Steve Zocchi, NetDynamics vice president of business development.

    NetDynamics 5 supports Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB), Microsoft's Component Object Model (COM) and XML, but analyst Anne Thomas, of the Patricia Seybold Group, believes the application server's best new feature is its ability to handle large amounts of Web traffic.

    Sun claims that the application server can handle 2,600 Web interactions a second, which translates to 225 million interactions per day. In comparison, Zocchi said receives 20 million interactions a day and Yahoo receives 167 million.

    "They've sped it up with performance improvements. It might be the fastest one on the market," Thomas said.

    The only negative with NetDynamic's EJB support, Thomas said, is that the application server supports "session beans," but not "entity beans." Session beans handle all the transactions, while entity beans handle database access. Entity beans support is important because about 40 percent of all the code in a client/server application is often for accessing databases, she said.

    NetDynamics' argument is that adding entity beans support would hurt the application server's overall speed and performance, Thomas said. Sun and Oracle are the two biggest application server vendors who do not support entity beans, she added.

    Zocchi said NetDynamics 5 integrates with popular development tools, including Inprise's JBuilder, Symantec's Visual Caf?, and Microsoft's Visual Basic. It also includes new connectors to legacy systems, including IBM's AS/400; Customer Information Control System (CICS), a software package used for processing transactions; and MQSeries, IBM's middleware messaging software.

    Zocchi added that Sun is developing a new Web site--the NetDynamics Developer Connection--to offer developers support and training.

    Meanwhile, IBM yesterday announced plans to support the Linux operating system for its WebSphere Application Server.

    "A large part of the Web runs on Linux. There's a large customer demand and we're trying to meet that," said James Barry, IBM's product manager for HTTP Servers and WebSphere.

    Thomas believes IBM is one of the first application server makers to support Linux and agrees it's a smart strategy. "Linux is a very hot contender for market. Lots of people use [Linux] for Web servers now and it makes sense for application servers," she said.

    IBM is supporting four versions of Linux: Caldera Systems, Pacific HiTech, Red Hat Software, and SuSE.

    IBM is working on two application servers for Linux. The low-end WebSphere Standard Edition--targeted at Web site producers--will be available in the summer, while the midrange WebSphere Advanced Edition--featuring Corba and EJB support--is expected to ship by the end of the year, said Nigel Beck, IBM's program director for WebSphere.

    By the end of the year, the company plans to ship a Linux-version of WebSphere Performance Pack, which offers load-balancing, caching, and replication features.

    IBM currently has no plans to build a Linux version for the WebSphere Enterprise Edition, which features support for its middleware tool Component Broker and transaction processing software TXSeries, Beck said.

    Sun will announce the new application server at a press conference next Wednesday in San Francisco. NetDynamics 5 for Solaris and Windows NT will ship by month's end. Prices start at $25,000.