Java seems redeemed at Internet World 97

If the corporate Java developers who gathered for Internet World are any indication, the stories of poor performance, missing functions and problems with cross-platform deployment may be giving way to a new experience. - Java as a reliable and effective corporate technology. The difference? Java Development Kit 1.1 is a whole lot better than JDK 1.0, say developers. And JavaSoft is saying that the next major JDK release, probably in June 98, won't leave browser and tool vendors struggling to catch up.

The chorus of complaints about Java's speed, performance and platform independence seemed to be fading among the IS faithful who gathered for Internet World '97.

In interviews with a dozen corporate Java developers at the show, there were strong indications that the technical stumbling blocks are being cleared away.

The Java language of six months ago is a different creature from the tweaked product available today, developers say.

"We definitely skinned our knees with Java, but there have been no broken legs," says Mark Benerofe, vice president of platform development at Sony Online Ventures in New York. "The cross-platform is working great for us, and we've saved months [of work] over developing with C++. So I can afford to lose a little skin."

Benerofe, who still is looking for better memory management and debugging, says the improvements in speed and cross-platform capabilities that have continued to arrive in Java Development Kit 1.1 (JDK) are helping to quickly mature a language that is only two years old.

Similar commentary from other corporate developers at the show also ran counter to the findings of some recent surveys, which have shown information systems managers and developers to be losing interest in Java development. Missing functions and problems with cross-platform capabilities were cited most often by the respondents as the roadblocks.

Users and analysts pointed out that some of those surveys are already dated. They were taken several months ago, before just-in-time compilers were souped up to boost speed, integral foundation classes were added and development tools and Java Virtual Machines finally caught up to support the latest JDK release.

"We originally had issues with performance, about six months ago, but now it's good," says Teresa M. Light, a manager at Xerox in New York.

Dan Woods, director of technology at Time Inc. New Media in New York, says that in less than a year Java has gone from being useless for businessapplications to handling more than 18 million World Wide Web pages a week on his Java Web server.

"We used JDK 1.0, and we couldn't deploy it because it wasn't nearly fast enough," says Woods, who now gives Java high ratings for reliability and ease of development. "When we stress-tested applications built with JDK 1.1, we were quite shocked. It was completely different."

But Woods said running Java applets or applications on different browsers still sometimes delivers different results. "You have a mishmash of support still in the browsers," he said, noting that Netscape's Navigator 3.0 doesn't support JDK 1.1.

David Spenhoff, director of product marketing at JavaSoft, Sun's Java subsidiary, says those improvements all are planned for the next release of JDK. He also says the release, which hasn't been named yet, is expected in June, about half a year later than originally slated because JavaSoft wants third-party tool and browser developers to be in sync with that release.

"When we announced that JDK 1.1 was done, users were frustrated because browsers and tools lagged behind in supporting it, sometimes by months," Spenhoff says. "Licensees, like Symantec and Borland, are getting code drops now. We're learning that just throwing code over the wall doesn't help."

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