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Expansion of the J2EE Universe (Continued)

The Community
Ironically, JBoss' emergence as a key Sun supporter reflects new president and COO Jonathan Schwartz's view that open source is an important factor in maintaining the health of the J2EE ecosystem. He cites compatibility as Java's most valuable asset; it gives customers leverage to switch away from vendors over dissatisfaction with price and support services.

IBM and others would argue that the glacial speed of the JCP holds back innovation in the marketplace—something Big Blue, in particular, counts on to justify its WebSphere pricing model. But Schwartz counters that the JCP is there for the health of the overall community. Standards level the playing field, he acknowledges, allowing laggards to catch up while slowing down market leaders.

JBoss thrives on innovation, says Fleury, but not to prop up the server cost. Instead, innovation drives the company's services business, bringing customers back to the well for training, support, and consulting at the business process layer. Fleury calls this approach professional open source, where self-sustained entities fund their own growth, pay their bills, and put food on the table.

By contrast, IBM's open source strategy is yoked to the hardware, with Linux a tactical investment to commoditize the operating system away from Windows by reducing Microsoft's margin. Sun's Java Desktop System extends that strategy to challenge Office bundling, already under pressure in the Third World where Sun's per-citizen licensing model has forced Microsoft to come back to the negotiating table in Malaysia.

But Sun's commoditization of the middleware stack with its Java Enterprise System has forced players such as BEA to adopt hybrid open source strategies. First with Project Beehive (the open sourcing of the WebLogic Workshop application framework), and soon with Adam Bosworth's Alchemy (rich, thin-client intelligent cache framework), BEA has contributed intellectual property to seed its adoption at a faster rate than the typical 18-month Java Specification Request (JSR) route in the JCP.

The Tools
In some ways, BEA's Workshop runtime open source strategy emulates IBM's Workplace initiative, which piggybacks onto the Eclipse runtime to create a foothold for client "middleware" across Windows and Linux desktops. But beyond the open source considerations, J2EE tools vendors are taking a variety of approaches to reach desired developer audiences.

To take advantage of Microsoft's weakness in the Visual Studio transition to .NET and then Longhorn, both BEA and Sun have designed tools to appeal to the VB class of developers. Yet WebLogic Workshop and Java Studio Creator take subtly different approaches to the job of bringing Java to a new class of business users. Workshop is architected around a role-based vision, where the Integrated Development Environment (IDE) presented is tied to the type of developer logging into the system.

Front-end, Web-based developers see one set of tools, business workflow analysts another, and enterprise coders a third. Sun's Java Studio Creator, on the other hand, caters to the first two audiences, leaving the resulting apps to be moved into Java Studio Enterprise for the third. Oracle has enhanced JDeveloper with support for drag-and-drop and dev-friendly Struts, with JavaServer Faces on the horizon, but like Eclipse, the product is still targeted at the enterprise developer. Plus JDeveloper apps run without porting on WebLogic and JBoss.

Borland's JBuilder remains the market leader, but Workshop's open source play and the possibility that Sun will use its aggressive licensing strategy to build developer share with the VB-like Java Studio Creator leave Borland little room to lower price and make it up on hardware or app server sales.

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