J2EE servers reach Planet Apple

[ADT's PROGRAMMERS REPORT, January 14, 2003] -- Java was initially touted as a cross-platform computing solution. In fact, the Java Virtual Machine has appeared on a large number of enterprise platforms. But, perhaps due to general server-side issues with the Apple OS, a commercial J2EE application server has been slow to appear on the vaunted Apple platform.

That changed this week as Macromedia Inc. announced the immediate availability of Macromedia JRun 4 for Mac OS X. JRun 4, which became part of the Macromedia arsenal with its 2001 purchase of Allaire Corp., is a J2EE-compatible application server. The announcement occurred as part of the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco.

This is of course good news for developers committed to the Apple platform. They have been, for the most part, on the bench as server-centric middleware methods have flowered. Moreover, some players say, JRun 4 for Mac OS X could provide a low-cost alternative to some pricey Java servers now running on Unix or Windows. The product should come in at well under $1,000. Still, it is early in Apple's server-side marketing and partnering effort.

For its part, Apple has offered its WebObjects Java app server, gained through the purchase of NeXT Computer, for a number of years. That has proved to be something of a specialist's game, and its future is threatened by moves like Macromedia's.

''We're seeing requests come in from various types of organizations,'' noted Dan Murphy senior product marketing manager for Macromedia's JRun. He pointed to developers in education and government as potential early adopters.

Much of this is made possible by Apple's long-brewing operating system update. ''It opens up a new opportunity for us to move into a space primed for growth. OS X is based on BSD Unix. It has stability and ease of use,'' said Murphy.

''Clearly, JRun will help Apple with its push into the server market,'' said Simson Garfinkel, a software industry expert and founder of Sandstorm Enterprises. ''Unfortunately,'' he added, ''Apple's rack-mount systems are still too expensive to be seriously considered by most customers. Customers need both industry-standard applications and hardware that's price-competitive.''

The Macromedia move is endorsed by user Geof Corb, VP of systems development at New York City-based Web application house Synergenic. ''I think it is an idea whose time has come,'' said Corb, who added that he sees Apple's 1U rack-mount server offering, which may be the first home for many JRun 4 for Mac deployments, as ''impressive.''

''We are a Java shop,'' said Corb, ''So we need an app server to deliver our wares.'' He said the JRun 4 for Mac option will be apprised when clients have not already ''dictated their architecture.''

Synergenic's decision to provide JRun involves issues of support, Corb said. The solution may not be as inexpensive as a combination of Linux and Java-oriented open-source solutions, he noted, but having a commercial product supported by ''someone you can call'' is important.

At the same time as the JRun 4 for Mac OS X announcement, Macromedia announced that the developer edition of Macromedia ColdFusion MX for J2EE Application Servers now supports Mac OS X. ColdFusion MX for J2EE Application Servers supports Macromedia's (formerly Allaire's) ColdFusion scripting for J2EE application servers, including JRun 4 for Mac OS X.

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About the Author

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.

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