OK, Microsoft still hasn’t gotten Visual Studio.NET out yet. But Microsoft’s tardiness is hardly the point. We’ve all known for some time what the .NET framework will include, and for developers of distributed, web applications, the welcome news is that there is real competition with J2EE.
We’ve also remarked before of Java being the victim of its own success. Until recently, it was the only game in town for developing scalable web apps, thanks to features like distributed component deployment, database connectivity, messaging interfaces, transaction management and more.
But then there’s the nagging matter of XML web services. Sun was blindsided when XML emerged four years ago, and failed to proactively extend Java by originating web services technologies. Maybe the hangup was a “not invented here” syndrome, or a fear that web services might poach away some of the logic that should otherwise reside in Enterprise Java Beans.
Either way, the consequence is that Sun has ceded thought leadership on the next generation of web application technologies to Microsoft and IBM, who have both internalized web services into their tools. For instance, type “WebMethod” in any Microsoft Visual Studio.NET language, and your code will automatically generate a SOAP message. As for the Java folks, the best that they’ve come up with so far is proprietary tools that do the same things, and for standards, piecemeal responses for things like how to parse XML messages and generate Java classes. We’re wondering what’s keeping the JCP (Java Community Process) from coming out with its own WebMethod equivalent, because generating XML messages is hardly brain surgery.
The game isn’t over. Microsoft hasn’t even gotten version 1 product out yet, the workability of web services has yet to be proven, and the user mainstream is at least 6 – 12 months away from meaningful experimentation with web services. And web services will never be an easy way out to the tough challenges of application integration.
But Microsoft is clearly running with the ball, topping its SOAP act with a proposed Global XML Architecture, that will deal with missing links in web services technologies like security, authentication, and performance.
For the moment, Sun needs to forget about thought leadership. Generating SOAP messages, WSDL service definitions, and UDDI directory listings are no-brainers. Just add a few simple bridges to J2EE and make the whole darn problem a non-issue.