INTEGRATING ENTERPRISE applications has been a thorn in the side of enterprise planners since companies started using more than one piece of software to run the business. An end-to-end solution, Java has helped join the disparate worlds of enterprise information systems, linking legacy, ERP, and relational databases with Web-based business applications. Sun has shaped J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) into a formidable platform for enterprise integration. But the strengths of Java don't necessarily make a clear-cut case for standardizing EAI efforts on J2EE Web services.
The J2EE platform has matured into an enterprise powerhouse, but Sun has hindered J2EE Web services by poorly developing a decisive track for services-oriented computing.
Although Web services are garnering attention for improving end-user access to data and applications, the technology is also shaping up as an alternative to traditional methods for EAI; 53 percent of respondents to the 2002 InfoWorld Application Integration Survey are evaluating Web services as a partial EAI solution, and another 14 percent are considering it as a complete solution. But the path for Java as a comprehensive platform for Web services remains riddled with outstanding issues, such as the lack of a definitive model for class extensions and adopted security mechanisms.
Sun announced Sun ONE (Open Net Environment) as a vision for both platform and architecture, rolling together the Solaris OS, iPlanet application server, Forte development tools, and J2EE. But the vendor has done little to address the requisite specifications and standards necessary for a comprehensive Java Web services stack.
No small surprise, then, that J2EE received relatively lackluster reviews from our survey respondents. Participants ranked J2EE with roughly a 50-50 split in importance to EAI considerations, and another survey question proffered similar results in its popularity as a standards-based integration broker. In spite of Java's shortcomings, it has become the platform of choice for developing and deploying Web services by many early adopters in situations, such as in-house application integration, where lack of inherent security, for example, may not present an overriding concern.
A majority of survey respondents ranked J2EE higher in importance than Microsoft .Net for EAI: 49 percent call J2EE important to their EAI strategy, whereas .Net is important to just 38 percent. But some of Java's popularity can be attributed to Microsoft's unhurried advance into the Web services space. Also, industry heavyweights such as IBM and BEA Systems have pushed Java by building solutions on top of the technology; for example, BEA recently included support for the new J2EE 1.3 specification in its WebLogic product line.
But how long can strong momentum and good intentions sustain Java? Specification add-ons from the past year have helped draft an interim solution. But for Java to remain competitive and for CTOs to develop long-term technical strategies, the standards committee must soon release an authoritative framework for the future of Java Web services.
Drafting an architecture