Architect finds a way to develop in .NET and port to J2EE

Marius Roets, an integration architect at Woolworths Holdings Ltd., runs a Microsoft shop with developers used to working with Visual Studio .NET. The retail chain with 180 stores in South Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australasia, had requirements for building a data monitoring and alerting system with a Sybase enterprise portal and a J2EE application server.

So at the beginning of this year Roets faced the question of "How can I develop a J2EE application in a Microsoft environment?"

Because Roets runs a Microsoft shop, he began by talking to representatives of the Redmond software vendor but, as he recalls, they said it would be difficult to meet his requirements, which included personalization for individuals monitoring business application servers in real-time with a .NET application.

"They said it was very difficult to develop that type of application, where it refreshes itself according to the user's preference from the database in a real-time fashion," he tells Programmers Report in a phone interview from South Africa.

For his application, dubbed Data Flow Review (DFR), which is designed to monitor Woolworths' enterprise network, Java technology was his best bet. Roets began looking for alternatives to the expensive proposition of training .NET developers to be Java programmers. His research led him to a relatively new product, Mainsoft's Visual MainWin, for porting code from .NET to J2EE.

Roets doesn't say it was magic, but it worked well enough that his .NET developers built DFR 1.0 in three months this summer and are now testing it for a pre-Christmas season release.

"It was an eye-opener that you can use the IDE you're used to -- Visual Studio .NET -- and develop for a J2EE environment," he says. "You can really work as a Microsoft developer in Visual MainWin and Visual Studio .NET, and the .NET binary code gets converted to J2EE-compliant binary code -- and I can deploy that application in a J2EE application server."

With Visual MainWin cross-platform tools, Roets' team was able to use ASP.NET and Visual Studio .NET to build the J2EE Web application. A key to their success, he says, was the old advice to keep it simple.

"Visual MainWin is version one," he says. "So you cannot expect miracles from a product in version one. We stick to the basics -- what the product can support. But it does do the basics. You can develop and deploy the application."

Roets' strategy was to leverage the strengths of each product his team was working with, drawing on features such as security and personalization available in the Sybase portal and J2EE server.

In terms of ROI, he says using Visual MainWin cut development costs by 85% when compared with the time and expense if he had to develop in Java.

Since Woolworths' initial development effort, Mainsoft has announced an enhancement to its product. Visual MainWin 1.5, released this month, includes "more robust porting capabilities," according to company reps.

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.