Java development critical to Oracle Fusion strategy

Oracle emphasizes Java, JavaServer Faces as major cogs in its middleware plan

For developers, Oracle's Fusion Middleware 11g rollout on Wednesday emphasizes Java technologies, particularly the company's JDeveloper IDE, along with concepts, including declarative programming and ALM (application lifecycle management).

Oracle's emphasis on Java should come as further relief to Java developers, with Oracle already in the process of buying Java founder Sun Microsystems and offering reassurance to these developers at the recent JavaOne conference. The Fusion announcement featured a multifaceted suite of technologies for business IT needs, ranging from SOA deployments to cloud computing, business process transformation, and IT governance.

[ Earlier today, Oracle launched its Fusion Middleware 11g. ]

JDeveloper, Oracle said in one of its statements on the rollout, lets developers build applications and services across application servers; Oracle's WebLogic Java application server acquired from BEA Systems is a key part of the company's middleware line. Developers also can leverage the open source Eclipse IDE through Oracle Enterprise Pack for Eclipse, Oracle said.

"In the developer tools space, I think we're really excited with what we've done," said Ted Farrell, chief architect and senior vice president of tools and middleware at Oracle. The unveiling gets Oracle fully into the ALM space and desktop integration, he said.

As part of Wednesday's announcement, Oracle is offering an upgrade to JDeveloper, identified as version 11.1.1.1, as well an ALM technology called Team Productivity Center. "Its goal is to bring teams together inside the IDE," Farrell said.

The ALM software lets teams track bugs together and share code, he said. "You can chat with each other right from inside the IDE," said Farrell. Developers can work with third-party technologies such as the Subversion version controly systems.

All Fusion middleware products plug into JDeveloper. Asked what Oracle's emphasis on JDeveloper and Eclipse means for the Sun-dominated NetBeans IDE, Farrell said he could not comment on what Oracle might do with it. But he did call NetBeans "a viable IDE in the market today."

Oracle is leveraging its ADF (Application Development Framework) and ADF Faces, Farrell said. "Basically, what we're saying is we're trying to abstract our users building enterprise applications and Web applications from the underlying view technologies, which are constantly changing," Farrell said.

While Microsoft tells developers to build using Silverlight, Adobe stresses Flex development, and others hail "Open Web" technologies, such as JavaScript and DHTML, Oracle emphasizes abstraction, leveraging JavaServer Faces (JSF) as a component model, said Farrell. JSF is geared toward a traditional Model View Controller architecture, he said.

Google's framework is most similar to Oracle, using Java as its native language, said Farrell. With JSF, Oracle is going "the declarative route," providing an abstraction layer, he said.

Observers offered varying perspectives on Oracle's moves, with one analyst making a comparison to Microsoft's Oslo software modeling platform.

"Oracle's introduction of ADF and MDS (Metadata Services) underneath it shifts development for their stack to a more abstract declarative model and away from one where a developer writes Java code in an editor to specify the systems they want to build," said Jeffrey Hammond, principal analyst for application development at Forrester Research. "What Oracle's really introduced with 11gR1 is the first mainstream model-driven platform, although with Microsoft's Oslo on the horizon, it certainly won't be the last.

A software company executive stressed the critical importance of Java to Oracle.

"The grand unifying theory of Oracle Fusion Middleware is BEA. And adding Sun Microsystems to the mix means that Java becomes more important to Oracle than even SQL," said Miko Matsumura, vice president and chief strategist at software vendor Software AG.

Oracle is offering unity of product lines, an analyst said.

"Although the Oracle Fusion product portfolio came from far more diverse sources than BEA (as Oracle was obviously a more aggressive acquirer), the result is far more unified than anything that BEA ever fielded," said analyst Tony Baer, senior analyst at Ovum. "Before getting swallowed by Oracle, BEA had multiple portal, development, and integration technologies lacking a common framework. By comparison, Oracle has emphasized a common framework for mashing the pieces together."

Oracle's 11g middleware underpins Fusion Applications, the company's next-generation business software intended to combine features from various product lines. These applications have not yet been released.

Earlier in the day, Oracle president Charles Phillips stressed the importance of Fusion middleware. "This is a major launch of a key part of Oracle," Phillips said. "It's really the unifying point of a lot of things that we're doing."

He said the company has made 58 acquisitions in the past five-and-a-half years.

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