JAVAONE - Web-based infrastructure soaks up Java

Sun's JavaOne conference this week will highlight a growing embrace of open source and a move toward making Java-based applications link more tightly with legacy systems as the programming language plays a key role in the accelerating move toward Web services.

Attendees also will hear more about the use of Java on mobile devices as attention turns from simply supporting games and other "cool trinkets" on PDAs and smart phones to actually becoming a platform for enterprise applications, says Peder Ulander, vice president of marketing for Sun software.

Sun expects about 14,000 developers to descend on the Moscone Center in San Francisco for the event that runs Tuesday through Friday. In addition to newly appointed Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz, executives from BEA, IBM, Oracle and Motorola will be giving keynotes.

Microsoft, which returned to the event last year after a lengthy hiatus, will again be exhibiting at the show as work continues on enhancing interoperability between Java and .Net applications. Java and .Net have become the foundation for Web services and so-called service-oriented architectures.

"It's all about interoperability," says Ulander. "We buried the hatchet [with Microsoft] and we're working very closely together to make sure we create the best environment for customers."

As for Java, Sun plans several announcements at the show, including the release of Java Enterprise Edition 5, which it previewed earlier this month. The newest version of the Java specification brings streamlined, easier-to-use development tools to enterprises wanting to make larger use of Java-based applications, according to Joe Keller, vice president of marketing for service-oriented architecture (SOA) and integration platforms at Sun.

That means it will be easier to get Java-based applications up. That's good news and bad news for IT managers, industry experts say.

"For IT managers [updates to Java] mean that soon they'll have tools which will make their teams more productive and will require less highly skilled programmers to build enterprise Java programs," says Bill Roth, vice president of the Workshop Business Unit at BEA. "But the issue becomes how to manage those applications."

A growing interest in open source platforms such as Tomcat and JBoss, as well as open source Java frameworks such as Eclipse and Struts, also could add to IT managers' headaches, analysts say. That's because as open source becomes a larger part of Java deployments, there are growing questions around how to manage those open source components.

"Java is becoming more manageable through JMX [Java Management Extensions] and other hooks and consoles, especially the suites from larger middleware players [such as BEA]," says Shawn Willett, an analyst with Current Analysis. "One of the things I would want to know as an IT manager is how open source applications will be managed. Right now, the management part is somewhat weak compared to commercial applications, so that would be a concern."

"[IT managers] are going to have to get a handle on those [open source] projects and decide how much open source to let into their applications and thus into their networks," Willett says.

Vendors are addressing the issue. BEA, for example, is working on updating the management console for its WebLogic application serve to better manage other platforms such as the open source Apache Tomcat Web server.

"The real question that IT managers ask now is 'How do I get a holistic view? How do I get real visibility into what's going on out there,'" Roth says.

JJ Everett, system architect and CEO at Everett Consulting, which helps companies deploy Java applications, says for IT professionals working with Java-based applications, management should be a key concern.

"If I were an IT manager, I would go to JavaOne knowing what systems we have to support and looking for products that would help us integrate them into an SOA architecture," he says.

As for moving Java into a more open environment, Sun and several other vendors say they will announce open source projects in an effort to drive interest in Java. Sun plans "six to 10 announcements focused on technology we have in-house that we're going to be making open source."

BEA plans to follow through on its promise earlier this year to open source a portion of its Kodo persistence engine

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Jennifer Mears and John Cox

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