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Expansion of the J2EE Universe (Continued)

Handicapping the Race
Sun's strategy is to divide and conquer, using aggressive licensing models to undercut WebSphere, and open source accommodations with JBoss and Apache to undermine IBM Global Services revenue. JBoss adoption rates of its open source reference implementation accelerate the commoditization of the app server layer, and allow the JCP to move up the stack and absorb Java Message Service (JMS) and the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) momentum into J2EE.

Meanwhile, BEA hopes to take 50 cents out of integration costs with its Quicksilver project, shifting the savings up to the business process layer where lower-cost analysts can shrinkwrap their vertical domain expertise. Other elements of its Liquid Computing such as Alchemy might seem irrelevant to BEA's core server business, but an intelligent communications fabric combined with low-cost deployment, updating, management, and training provide an opening to a next-generation realtime, events-based Net platform and its attendant opportunities.

It was only a few years ago that most of the Java players used Microsoft as a rallying point for working together. But post-Sun/Microsoft détente, strange bedfellows populate the landscape. Sun, Borland, and JBoss see interoperability with Microsoft's platform as a core part of their otherwise divergent business plans. Eclipse has even invited Microsoft to join.

The jury is out on open source and its impact on J2EE's evolution. Sun's Schwartz is more interested in having the debate about open sourcing Java than actually doing it. With Java standardized on most cell phones and embedded in 60 percent of new PCs, Sun has a powerful auto-update channel for pushing not just data but application code down the pipe. The more endpoints, the more opportunities for selling services. It might not be a General Public License platform, but it certainly takes advantage of the innovate-upgrade-train virtuous cycle JBoss swears by.

For some of the J2EE incumbents, Sun's disruptive licensing and commoditization strategies are hard to handle. As more and more inexpensive business developers join the J2EE ranks, Borland's pay-as-you-go model is under increasing pressure from bundling of Sun's Java Studio Creator, BEA's Workshop, and Oracle's JDeveloper. If the Java Tools Community finds a way to get IBM to join, switching costs for IDEs will drop like a stone.

J2EE's greatest vulnerability might be its own success. As vendors push up the stack in search of safe haven, enterprise customers are taking advantage of growing reuse of swappable components and Web services. With the customers firmly in charge, weaker players might not be able to survive, leading the way to the kind of consolidation in the media business that reduces choice. But for now, it's steady as she goes. If it ain't broke, agree Fleury and Schwartz, don't fix it.

About the Author
Steve Gillmor is eWeek's OpEd columnist and contributing editor, and editor of eWeek.com's Messaging and Collaboration Center.

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