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Sun, Oracle Partner Against .NET

Sun Microsystems Inc. and Oracle Corp. fired a collective shot across Microsoft Corp.'s bow when the two companies took the wraps off of a new development services toolkit - dubbed Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) - that they hope will lure developers away from the software giant's competing .NET initiative.

Not coincidentally, Microsoft Tuesday also unveiled its most significant .NET offerings to date. Redmond announced a Beta 2 release of the forthcoming Visual Studio .NET development environment - which will bundle the company's much anticipated .NET framework, as well as a raft of programming tools, including its new C# programming language.

Sun and Oracle are both betting that many of Microsoft's existing customers will balk at the prospect of completely re-writing their existing application infrastructures to take advantage of the software giant's new .NET framework. In the same way, representatives from both vendors maintain, potential Microsoft customers could also be turned off by uncertainly surrounding the new and as-yet-unproven .NET framework.

A programming architect with a professional services firm based in the Northeast suggests that all three vendors could be miscalculating, however.

"If you don't have anything yet and you're deciding what technology to use, yeah, it could be a legitimate strategy," he comments. "But I'm not going to ditch something that works to move to either platform, just because Microsoft, Sun or Oracle say I should. What's my incentive for doing it?"

As a result, analysts say, Sun and Oracle are trying to sell IT organizations on the idea that the .NET framework - which is heavily dependent upon the C# programming language - actually handicaps them by locking them even further into Microsoft's "proprietary grip." In this respect, the two companies are positioning J2EE - which is based upon the (relatively open) Java standard - as a "white knight" development platform that can help IT organizations preserve their existing infrastructure investments and gear up for the next-generation applications and services of the future.

To this end, Oracle Tuesday announced the Oracle Migration Kit for Active Server Pages (ASP), a J2EE toolkit that the company says offers a phased migration strategy which enables customers to move at their own pace from a platform based on Microsoft technologies (ASP, IIS, Windows NT 4.0/2000, SQL Server) to a Java-based infrastructure that leverages JavaServer Pages (JSP).

Not surprisingly, the solution proposed by the two vendors also heavily leverage's Sun's Solaris 8 operating system and Oracle's Oracle 9i database and application server.

For years, the learning curve associated with Sun's Java programming language has widely been viewed as involved - a conception that Redmond has done much to promote, for obvious reasons. This time around, however, Microsoft itself is asking developers to embrace a new and more sophisticated programming language - C# - that Sun and Oracle both claim is hobbled by a not insignificant learning curve of its own.

But because the.NET framework provides support for what Microsoft calls a "Common Language Runtime" environment, prospective .NET developers can actually write their applications in any of several different programming languages and still successfully run their code in VisualStudio.NET. Conversely, J2EE restricts developers to using the Java programming language. -- Stephen Swoyer

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.