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Sun's initiative designed with developers in mind

Sun Microsystems' official launch of its new software initiative at last week's SunNetwork conference saw the Santa Clara, Calif.-based network computing company eschewing point product releases in favor of a unified quarterly upgrade schedule for six systems that integrate some 225 separate products. The firm also implemented an aggressive new pricing scheme. The heart of the initiative is the Java Enterprise System (formerly code-named Project Orion), while the darling of the show was Java Desktop (formerly code-named Mad Hatter).

Sun's new software strategy includes a serious pitch to developers in the form of a set of dev tools for the Java Enterprise System (JES), dubbed Java Studio Enterprise. According to Sun officials, the new tools suite integrates "all the tools, development versions of the enterprise servers, rich documentation, samples and blueprints to enhance the developer experience -- all the tools necessary to build modern, Web-based enterprise applications."

Specifically, Studio Enterprise includes a Java IDE, Java 2 Enterprise Edition tools and wizards, Web service creation and assembly tools, a portal channel builder, an integration connector builder, and one-button deploy tools for application and Web servers. It also comes with a set of development servers that allows for simplified testing against the JES, including the latest versions of Sun's application server, Web server, integration server and portal server.

Among the developer services included with the Studio Enterprise tools are access to e-mail support, moderated forums and technical content designed to aid the developer in building large-scale applications through close, developer-to-developer interactions. Additional support is available with a Premium membership in the Sun Developer Network.

Perhaps just as interesting as the new tool suite itself is Sun's recent decision to revamp the software organization that will be supporting it. "We recognized the fragmentation inside Sun and changed it," Joe Keller, Sun's VP of Java Web services and tools marketing, told Programmers Report. "We've brought the software organization together and put all of the developer technologies under a single vice president, who also has the responsibility for how all of the development technologies go into the runtimes. [Java Studio Enterprise] reflects that organizational integration."

Rich Green is the vice president of Sun's Software Developer Platforms Group. He sees Sun entering a "new era for application platforms and developer tools," and calls the new Java Studio Enterprise toolset a "powerful combination" that "delivers on Sun's commitment to offer our customers serious software made simple."

Keller admits that Sun's tool strategy has not always hit the mark. "In some cases, we didn't get our message out as well as we should have," he said. "But I think the biggest challenge we faced was the result of putting so much into the tools that was hard to find. What users told us was that at first glance it didn't look like there was much there. We've been refining the user interface to expose a lot of the functionality. The other problem was that we hadn't really pulled it all together. We had an IDE, we had plug-ins -- you had to assemble it yourself. We've brought all the tools together, plugged in the plug-ins and made them so that they install together."

Bringing it all together is part of Sun's attempt to provide what Keller calls a developer optimized experience. "All of these components are combined here to give developers a chance to experience things quickly," he said. "You can install this thing and have your first good experience with the tools running something on the Java Enterprise System in about an hour."

Keller added that Sun's new Project Rave rapid application development (RAD) tool, which was announced at JavaOne in June and demoed at last week's conference, would be integrated with the Java Studio Enterprise tools. While the Studio Enterprise tools are targeted at the enterprise developer, he said, it's not the best tool for many, less-sophisticated developers of many corporate applications.

"Rave is all about taking a lot of choice away -- taking the configurations and reducing them to a very simple kind of corporate applications architecture and then providing tools that are very visual to get you started," Keller said. "Because Project Rave is built on standard Java, applications built with it can be scaled up without forcing a language change. You can take a corporate app developed with Project Rave into JSE and add all of the enterprise capabilities you need."

Sun plans to release an early-access version of the tool sometime in the fourth quarter, Keller said.

The Java Enterprise System package combines Sun's entire network services architecture, including the SunONE Directory, Application Server and a suite of Java 2 Enterprise Edition applications that includes Identification/Access Server, Portal Server, E-mail/Messaging Server, Calendar Server, Instant Messaging, Collaboration Server and the Solaris operating system.

The Java Studio Enterprise tool suite is priced at $5 per employee if bought with the Java Enterprise System, or at $1,895 if purchased separately.


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About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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