Jetson offers path to a 'gentler Java'

DataSource Inc., Greenbelt, Md., doing its part in the quest for a 'gentler Java,' has brought out Jetson, an application development toolset that officials said can help non-Java programmers to develop J2EE applications, thus making those difficult EJBs easier to use.

Jetson is not, however, a Java-made-easy tool for business analysts and other non-programmers, cautions Pamela Hopkins, DataSource's founder and president. It is a tool for programmers who have worked in Visual Basic or perhaps Cobol, and who now want to move into Java.

'You don't need to know anything about Java or J2EE,' Hopkins told JDT. 'But you do have to understand basic programming constructs.'

Jetson essentially abstracts out the syntax that is unique to Java so programmers can use methodologies that are common across most if not all programming languages, said Joe Brinkman, DataSource CTO.

'The gist of the product is that there are a number of things that happen in Java that are Java's way of expressing common programming idioms or programming methodologies, if you will,' Brinkman said. 'They're unique in the way that Java asks the question, the way Java requires you to state what it is you're trying to do. One of the things the tool does is that it tries to bring that back to a more general programming terminology -- for example, a common item in various programming constructs like 'if, then, else's,' those programming constructs that are common across languages, but which are specific syntax-wise to Java. What we try to do is remove the syntax from those items and allow you to enter it in more generic terms.'

In the quest for 'gentler Java,' toolmakers have tried building IDEs that can make things easier for developers by using wizards, said Hopkins. But she argues that such an approach is not very helpful for non-Java programmers because the wizards generally assume the programmer has experience with J2EE, so it asks questions based on J2EE terms that the VB or Cobol programmer doesn't know.

When asked if Jetson makes EJBs easier to work with, Hopkins said: 'Our whole tool is based on EJBs.'

Brinkman explained that DataSource looked at other tools in the gentler Java space and found that most focused on the presentation tier, which he considers an easier area than EJBs.

'As far as I know we're probably one of the first tools out there that is addressing it from the harder end, from the EJB side,' he said. 'We said 'Lets solve the tough problem first.' We're going to make EJB development easy. Our whole tool stresses building EJBs according to the specs and best practices.'

Making EJBs easier to work with is important because that technology has the potential to play a key role in most business applications, added Hopkins.

'The EJBs provide transactionality and in most enterprise applications you do need transactionality,' she said. 'I know there are ways to get to your elbow by going around your thumb and get to that with other techniques. But with EJBs you get transactionality automatically. It's one of the things that makes them very desirable. One of the things that's been a hindrance is the difficulty of it. But we think we have an answer to that.'

DataSource is primarily a services company rather than a software vendor; Jetson, its first product, was developed internally and used in major application development projects. In this way, it passed the popular 'eat-your-own-dog-food' test.

Brinkman said Jetson is vendor neutral and supports MS SQL Server, Oracle and DB2 database servers, and JBoss, WebLogic and WebSphere application servers.

It is scheduled to be commercially available in fall 2004. A 'fully functional,' pre-release version of Jetson is currently available for download at .

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.


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