Java licensing producing multiple development environments

Number of offerings from tools vendors
reflects popularity of Java

The pace of Java licensing is explosive. According to Sun there are easily more than 1,500 Java applets and Java-enhanced development tools in some stage of release, with 10,000 to 20,000 applications in the process of being written. This is not a fad; it is an avalanche.

To check out the latest online information, point your browser at Gamelan (http://www.gamelan.com), the Yahoo of Java applets. To see actual ratings of hundreds of Java applets, see the Java Applet Rating Service's collection (http://www.jars.com).

If you're looking for commercial-grade development environments to do your own work, there is also much good news. The months of hype and excitement are now paying off in both Java-savvy general purpose and client/server application development environments.

General development environments

Silicon Graphics, Borland, Symantec, Natural Intelligence, and Metrowerks are all moving to break the Java vaporware barrier for general-purpose development environments.

So too, is SunSoft, with its March 26 announcement of Java WorkShop and its description of plans for Internet WorkShop later this year. Java WorkShop, written entirely in the Java language, is billed by SunSoft as the first complete Java-development environment in the marketplace. Solaris (SPARC and Intel/x86) and Windows NT/95 beta versions will be available in April and May, with production versions expected soon thereafter. Since it's written entirely in Java, Java WorkShop also will become available on other platforms (such as the Macintosh and additional Unix flavors) once the Java Virtual Machine runs on these platforms and SunSoft has tested Java WorkShop for compatibility.

Java WorkShop provides an integrated environment for designing, testing, and deploying Java applications. The browser-based interface provides access to an integrated editor, compiler, and debugger, and a component repository promotes object reuse.

Java WorkShop will also incorporate Active Software's (http://www.activesw.com/) Java GUI Builder. It supports all Abstract Windowing Toolkit (AWT) widgets, and an extensible palette of GUI components, allowing developers to use pre-built widgets in their Java applets.

SunSoft's Internet WorkShop, slated for third-quarter delivery, is a superset of Java WorkShop designed to support universal client development, Visual WorkShop, and the NEO distributed-object application environment.

Also in March, Silicon Graphics Inc. (Mt. View, CA) delivered on the first part of its two-phase strategy for Cosmo Code, an integrated Java-development environment that runs on SGI's IRIX operating system, versions 5.3 and 6.2. The basic development environment now available includes a Java compiler and interpreter, a source-level debugger, an object- oriented static analyzer, and a class browser. SGI says a mid-year release will add a visual-applet builder and new media libraries.

"We are taking Java very seriously. So much so that we are even beating Sun to market with user-oriented development tools," says John McCrea, SGI's marketing manager for its WebForce line of turn-key systems. "We are in the early stages of a new phase of computing with more open standards. The combination of HTML, VRML, and Java makes up this new platform where not only are programs independent of platforms, but content is also platform- and database-independent."

The Java compiler produces machine-independent bytecode to be executed by the runtime interpreter. On SGI systems, runtime support includes extensions for symmetric multiprocessing and native code execution.

The static analyzer is designed to help users understand the relationships among source files and objects. The tool displays a program's object-oriented structure, including inheritance graphs, class definitions, and more. Users can ask the tool to display where methods are declared, how multiple classes are related, and related issues. The static analyzer is integrated with the debugger, so a developer can, for example, view the code as an inheritance graph and double-click on a class name to display the source code.

The Java debugger supports full source-level debugging, including source-level traps, thread controls, exception handling, and breakpoints.

Slated for later this year, the drag-and-drop-savvy visual app builder is supposed to make assembling interface components much easier, including support for 2D or 3D graphics, animation, video, and audio. The Motion Engine Library defines a set of interfaces for audio and video streams, 3D, 2D, text, and animation embedded in a 3D virtual world. The MediaBase Library provides a set of interfaces to manage complex multimedia objects.

The Cosmo software suite will eventually include Cosmo Player, a Moving Worlds browser, and Cosmo Create, which is an HTML-, VRML-, and Java-authoring tool.

Borland International (Scotts Valley, CA) started to deliver its first Java components last month. The firm announced its Java licensing in November 1995, and plans to incrementally release Java components developed for Latte within existing products, says Steve Grady, a Borland spokesperson. Latte, the complete Delphi-like Java-development environment is slated for release in late 1996.

Just released Borland C++ 5.0 includes Sun's Java Development Kit (JDK) for Java code generation, a just-in-time compiler, and a graphical debugger that Borland wrote in the Java.

The firm calls its just-in-time compiler the AppAccelerator, and claims applets achieve a 5x-to-10x performance increase when developed on Windows 95/NT platforms. Borland plans to license AppAccelerator to Web browser vendors and others, to speed applet execution on other platforms.

Beyond C++ 5.0, the firm is on record promising InterBase InterClient, which is Java-based connectivity software for InterBase databases. No time frame is available for InterClient.

Borland said it will ship beta versions of a product, code named Nexus, for three-tiered intranet development. Planned features include simple clients and centralized business rules and validation.

While Borland is adding Java components to its C++ development environment, Symantec (Cupertino, CA) is admitting it made a big mistake when it did the same thing in December 1995. Correcting its misstep, the firm launched Cafe for Windows 95/NT in March and will ship a Mac version in April.

Adding Java into its C++ development environment produced a 200-megabyte product that overwhelmed many users, says Mansour Safai, general manager of the development-tools business unit for Symantec.

"To be honest, we did not understand who would be using Java. We simply assumed that professional C++ developers would be moving to Java. We quickly got very strong feedback that people were totally confused. We were hearing from MIS and Visual Basic developers, and even HTML page designers that had no practical C++ experience," says Safai.

Symantec went back to the drawing board, removed most of the C++- specific material, and shipped a 20-megabyte Cafe product that Safai says is much easier for users to grasp. The user interface was also redesigned with the needs of less experienced programmers in mind.

Cafe provides a visual development and construction environment for things like menus, forms, and Windows-style resources. The editor offers text-highlighting capabilities for Java and HTML, and macro capabilities.

Symantec wrote their own compiler because they found Sun's compiler to be "extremely slow," says Safai, who claims Symantec's implementation compiles up to 13 times faster. "Something that takes four and a half minutes to build with Sun's compiler will take about 10 to 15 seconds with Cafe. That's a big productivity advantage," says Safai.

Cafe also provides an integrated hierarchy browser for the Java class libraries and a graphical debugger.

The graphical debugger enables users to step through multi-threaded applets in slow-motion to diagnose problems. It contains a thread view to display the state of individual applets threads, and it shows the data in its appropriate format -- character, integer, or floating-point number.

The next step for Symantec, says Safai, will be to tackle database access, something that will require Symantec to extend JavaSoft's recently proposed API -- JDBC (Java Database Connectivity).

"JDBC is a good attempt to match ODBC capabilities," says Safai, "but it only supports a subset of ODBC's capabilities, and then ODBC is already widely viewed as inadequate for large- and multi- database access."

Mac-specific products

In addition to Symantec's Cafe for the Mac, two other products target Apple machines.

Natural Intelligence (Cambridge, MA) began shipping the first Java-development environment for the Mac -- Roaster -- on January 5th, says Hillel Cooperman, director of business development. He concedes it was a developers' release -- beta software sold with the rights to get the future finished product.

The integrated development environment includes a Java-specific editor, a packaged-based project window, two compilers, a bytecode level debugger, and a runtime engine.

Two compilers were included because NI's own compiler was only about 90 percent complete, says Cooperman. Since it is fast but incomplete, NI bundled Sun's Java C compiler with Roaster.

The firm is about to announce details of its next release -- expect news in late April or early May, with software to follow soon thereafter. Among the likely components will be a full compiler, source-level debugger, class browser, and an interactive development environment.

On May 15, Metrowerks (Austin, TX) will release two products for Java developers -- its professional development package and an introductory offering.

Java will be included free of charge with Metrowerks Code Warrior Gold products, which now consists of C, C++, and Pascal. Code Warrior generates code for 68K-based Macintosh systems, PowerPC Macs, and Intel-powered Windows 95/NT PCs, and a couple of other specialized platforms.

In addition to a full language compiler, Code Warrior includes an interactive development environment and a full source-level debugger. The Java debugger uses the same user interface as the debugger for other languages supported in Code Warrior.

"Metrowerks is not simply another ISV," says Jean Belanger, Metrowerks' general manager. "We are a development partner under contract with Sun to help deliver the Macintosh Java implementation. We think developers will find our package very attractive in that it supports four different programming languages and multiple target platforms." A native Windows 95/NT Code Warrior version is slated for November.

Metrowerks is also going to offer "Discover Programming with Java" for 9. This product targets less experienced developers. It includes the interactive development environment and a full Java trade book on CD- ROM.

Client/server development environments

Developers focused on client-server application development will also find new Java wares entering the marketplace. Gupta, Sybase's PowerSoft, and Oracle Corp. all have Java products in play or on the drawing board for later 1996.

Centura Software Corp. -- the new name for Gupta Corp. (Menlo Park, CA) -- is launching a new product line anchored by Centura Team Developer, a 32-bit development environment that builds two-tiered, three-tiered, or Internet-based development environments. A Java-enabled version will be available in December, says Matt Miller, vice president of marketing for the firm.

Developers will be able to build applications in much the same way as with Centura's current SQLWindows, but they have the added option of compiling the work as a Java applet.

"We think this gives people a lot of flexibility to begin their development work today, even though they are not yet sure what the final deployment platforms will be. Rather than having to learn Java at a low level, developers can use a familiar 4GL to do their work and retain a lot of flexibility," says Miller.

The Centura product line is compatible with SQLWindows; previous applications can easily be recompiled for Java when the Java version ships. There are 125,000 SQLWindows users that know SAL (Scalable Application Language), says Miller. Centura Team Manager, like SQLWindows, enables users to write in SAL and then convert that code to Java, which is run by the Java interpreter.

Team Manager differs from SQLWindows in that it is 32-bit and supports a three-tiered architecture, TP monitors, and flexible partitioning.

Centura backed into supporting Java, admits Miller. "We were looking for a way to rip out the language engine in our development environment. We have our own language, SAL, but were looking for a higher quality execution engine, and we believe Java will give us that. So we selected Java for its inherent worth rather than because we thought it was going to be a wildly popular development language."

PowerSoft (Concord, MA), a division of Sybase, announced in February that it licensed Java for inclusion in its new Optima++, a rapid application development (RAD) environment emphasizing C++ component assembly. Java support will be delivered in the third quarter in the Professional and Enterprise Optima++ packages that run on Windows- based platforms.

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