US Report: Who's calling the Java shots?

If you thought there was one Java, think again. Sun Microsystems and its key licensees are scrambling to synchronise their Java server efforts, hoping to avoid the incompatibilities that have beset CORBA and Java on the client.

If you thought there was one Java, think again. Sun Microsystems and its key licensees are scrambling to synchronise their Java server efforts, hoping to avoid the incompatibilities that have beset CORBA and Java on the client.

Sun, IBM, Novell Oracle and several other companies are defining a common framework for Java servers that would ensure the interoperability of objects across all platforms. But behind the curtains, IBM and Novell may be drawing up additional Java plans of their own.

Sun's common framework guidelines, dubbed the Enterprise Profile, will be part of the Enterprise Java-Bean (EJB) 2.0 specification, according to Alan Baratz, president of Sun's Java software division. While Baratz did not say when EJB 2.0 will be released, sources close to the effort expect it by the end of this year or early 1999.

Meanwhile, IBM and Novell are engaged in talks that could go beyond the guidelines proposed by Sun. Novell CEO Eric Schmidt and IBM's general manager of software services Steve Mills both confirm the cross-company discussions. Mills says the talks centre on open standards, such as Java and XML, and that Novell is considering licensing key IBM technologies. One possible area of co-operation is IBM's San Francisco project, which was run by John Slitz before he left IBM last year to take over Novell's corporate marketing. Other areas include IBM's CICS transaction-processing environment and Component Broker server.

IBM also is working with Oracle to ensure that their respective databases, Oracle8 and DB2, will use the same Java DataBase Connectivity structure for accessing data. That would allow an Enterprise JavaBean to call data from either database without rewriting it.

Such independent work is motivated in part by Sun's delay in shipping the JDK 1.2 and its acquisition of NetDynamics, which makes its partners nervous. NetDynamics archrival WebLogic Inc. -- whose app server is built into Novell NetWare 5.0_ -- will soon publish a paper with IBM arguing for a uniform definition of the application-server space. "One issue today is that nobody is shipping all the Java server APIs," says Scott Dietzen, vice president of marketing at WebLogic in San Francisco. "You can't just market these things a la carte. The Java industry needs to market them together and to say collectively what it takes to make an application server."

Novell senior vice president Chris Stone says Novell can't wait for Sun. "If anyone is going to drive Java on the server, it's IBM." Sun partners also are frustrated waiting for Sun's server-side Java Developers Kit and the much-hyped HotSpot, which has been delayed more than a year and is now due by early 1999.

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