In search of a gentler Java

By Colleen Frye, Application Development Trends

December 2003, ADT Mag Review. Corporate managers bought into J2EE technology and tools in a big way. Now, faced with the difficult task of building complex enterprise Java applications, they worry if they can find enough skilled Java programmers.

For their part, Java tool vendors are trying to bring out tools that make J2EE much easier to use. The “poster children” for this are found in the ranks of Visual Basic developers whose business acumen and scripting skills may outpace their OO programming capabilities. In fact, these VB aficionados may be at a crossroads, facing a not-insignificant migration to Microsoft’s .NET platform. Sun, BEA, IBM and others have set their sights on this type of developer. But highly skilled senior developers may benefit from a new set of kinder and gentler Java tools.

“Java is too hard for the masses, let alone J2EE,” noted Yafim Natis, an analyst at Gartner Inc., Stamford, Conn. “Java and J2EE have significant penetration in the market for those with advanced technical skills. Vendors looking to expand their market want to bring the Java platform to the less advanced. They have to hide Java with tools that layer over Java.”

“We hear significant pain from our customers,” added Carl Sjogren, director of product management, BEA WebLogic Workshop at San Jose, Calif.-based BEA Systems Inc.

“J2EE is designed for making the most complicated applications possible to build, but there was little thought about making simple applications simple to build.” And while Java vendors seek to simplify, Visual Basic has grown more complex, said Gartner’s Natis.

“Developers are relatively happy with Visual Basic, but Visual Basic has become more complex, so they’re not as happy as they were. Also, Visual Basic is Windows only and there is a lot of development happening for other platforms such as Linux, especially in the enterprise setting, where even small projects are requested to be on the Java platform so they’ll be compatible with big projects.”