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Sun Makes Java Simpler, May Call Upon Developers to Help

With a sweeping business strategy announcement and a new development platform release, Sun attempts to make Java simpler for developers and partners. It also may enable developers to get more involved in further simplification of the language at this summer's JavaOne Conference.


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Sun Microsystems wants to simplify Java for developers and get more of them involved in its evolution. "We as a community—not just Sun—need to make Java easier to develop to and get it out to the masses of developers to make Java successful long term," said Ingrid Van den Hoogen, director of Java marketing, during a recent interview with DevX. "Ease of development is always an issue that comes up, and we want to address that head-on."

So what is Sun's plan for addressing the complexity conundrum, an issue that has long plagued Java? For developers, the answer is the new Sun Developer Network and last month's release of Sun ONE Web Services Platform, Developer Edition. The developer network is a consolidation of all Sun's developer Web properties, including a newly revamped java.sun.com, and the Sun ONE Web Services Platform is an integrated development environment with server technology and tools for Web service-based application development. For its enterprise customers, channel partners, and ISVs, the answer is Project Orion. Although they may seem unrelated, these initiatives share the same strategy: simplify.

Project Orion
Van den Hoogen describes Project Orion as "a new software system." The concept (and that's all it is right now—an actual product won't come along until the beta program release scheduled for this summer) is this: Sun will bundle all its software, integrated with common components, technologies, and architectures, with Linux and Solaris releases and distribute it with single sign-on and common install/uninstall. It will come distributed on every Solaris release and every Linux Sun release this fall, and according to Van den Hoogen, "new updates would come out every quarter [thereafter]."



The details of pricing are still being discussed within Sun, but Van den Hoogen claims it will be a "very competitive, very cost-effective" uniform pricing model. "Customers can take [the updates] if they want, or not. You can try one piece of it or you can try five pieces of software, and you can decide when and where you want to install it," she added.

Project Orion intends to reduce the complexity of what it takes to run enterprise infrastructure software.
The goal is to make it easy for enterprise customers to acquire and enhance maintenance upgrades over time. "Because right now people have to pay dollars per mailbox on mail servers, dollars per entry on directories, dollars per CPU on apps—complication city. We want to simplify that," explained Van den Hoogen.

Orion will be released on Solaris 8, 9, and x86, and Sun Linux. According to Van den Hoogen, it will "reduce the complexity of what it takes to run enterprise infrastructure software."

Sun ONE Web Services Platform
Van den Hoogen classified Sun ONE Web Services Platform, Developer Edition, as a pre-release to the developer version of Project Orion, saying, "If developers start with that today, they'll be in good stead to deploy on Orion. That's where you'd want to start your prototyping and building your products and services, but your deployment will be on Orion."

Van den Hoogen explained that the product follows "a very similar strategy, which is to put together all the tools and all the common components—everything you need to create Web services or applications—so that they can all run together on that backend and deployment system."

For those developers who don't work in homogeneous J2EE environments equipped with the latest Sun ONE server products or Solaris/Sun Linux backends, Van den Hoogen points out that although Orion is integrated, it is also open to other vendors' J2EE offerings. "There's no reason why we couldn't pull out our app server and put in a BEA server or another J2EE app server out there. We're working on some sort of certification program that would allow that to happen. We don't intend this to be a closed environment at all."

Just Wait Until JavaOne
Sun Microsystems has a lot of big announcements surrounding these initiatives in store for developers at the JavaOne Developer Conference this spring, according to Van den Hoogen. She couldn't get into detail about any of them yet, of course; they're being saved for the show, taking place June 10-13 in San Francisco. However, she did predict that developers would be "elated" about them.

"We'd like to include a lot more developers in evolving Java applications."
Aside from that bold declaration, Van den Hoogen offered only vague allusions, summing up the announcements as "new energy around Java and the community." She did hint at the form that energy would take in a series of rhetorical questions throughout the interview: Could we host code at java.sun.com? Could we host collaboration? Could we spin up and add some new developer communities that would be complimentary to existing content? We've talked about wireless for years, but it's actually happening. What does that give Sun the opportunity to do now?

These hints point to some sort of collaboration initiative through which developer feedback would be centralized within the Sun Developer Network and used more actively in Sun Java developments. "We'd like to include a lot more developers in evolving Java applications and services," said Van den Hoogen, "and get them more involved in a collaborative sense."



   
Glen Kunene can be reached at gkunene@devx.com.
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