Survey: Java breezes by .Net for web services

An informal survey of IT decision-makers whose companies are getting an early start at building web services suggested that most developers are choosing Java-based tools over Microsoft's .Net, a research company says.

An informal survey of IT decision-makers whose companies are getting an early start at building web services suggested that most developers are choosing Java-based tools over Microsoft's .Net, a research company says.

Polling 120 IT executives in early December, Giga Information Group found that 78% of the group viewed J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) server software as the most effective platform for building and deploying web services. Microsoft's .Net, which enables users to build web services for Windows server operating systems, accounted for 22% of the votes.

"Frankly, I found the results rather surprising," says Mike Gilpin, an analyst at Giga, who surveyed the group. "In February, we did the same study with a different group. At the time, Microsoft came out number one."

Giga polled IT executives who attended its Emerging Technology Scene Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. Gilpin noted that the group polled was not representative of the entire developer population, but rather IT departments at large organisations that are building or planning to build web services -- typically "early adopter" organisations.

The perception among those polled regarding which software platform will be best suited for web services points to a shift in how software vendors are marketing their products, as well as in what tools are actually available to developers, Gilpin says.

Support for the key technologies for developing web services is now just beginning to appear in final versions of developer kits -- first, in J2EE kits. Microsoft offers test versions of its Visual Studio .Net that support those standards, but not a production version.

When Microsoft first started pitching its .Net platform more than a year ago, J2EE software makers had been relatively quiet about their support for web services standards such as XML (Extensible Markup Language), SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) and UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration). Since then, Java software vendors such as IBM Corp., BEA Systems Inc., Oracle Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. have heavily promoted their wares as web-services-ready, Gilpin said.

"It appears the marketing dollars were well spent," Gilpin says.

More importantly, J2EE software makers have made a number of software development kits available with support for web services standards. Sun last week released its Java XML Pack, which enables developers to add XML and SOAP support to J2EE applications. Oracle also recently added web services support to its JDeveloper software development toolkit.

IBM has been shipping tools that support XML and other standards for months. Its WebSphere Studio version 4 software, a web development toolkit, was first available in August, and the company recently released a more advanced WebSphere Studio Application Developer Java tool kit, says Scott Hebner, director of marketing for IBM's WebSphere division.

By contrast, Microsoft has only delivered early versions of the tools and software that will enable companies to build web services. Its Visual Studio.Net developer software suite, touted as the linchpin of .Net with support for XML, SOAP and UDDI, is still only available in beta versions and won't be released in production until February, Microsoft has said.

Of the software vendors that make software based on the J2EE platform, IBM gathered the largest share of support from those IT executives polled. About 33% said WebSphere was the most important web services platform, according to Giga. Oracle's Oracle9i server software garnered 7% of the votes, while the top seller of J2EE applications servers, BEA Systems Inc., drew only 6% of the votes, Gilpin says.

"The reason that IBM is ahead is twofold," he says. "They started doing things with web services earlier (than the competition) through free releases of developer tools. Those things tend to make them seem like an innovator. Also, the amount of marketing emphasis from IBM was greater than that of (market leader) BEA."

The survey also found that web services won't become a mainstream part of the development process at most organisations until late 2002 or later. Most respondents also said they are using the standard technologies such as XML and SOAP internally to integrate different applications running within an enterprise.

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