Sun and Netscape begin new angle in Java battle

Sun and Netscape seem like good Java allies. But when it comes to at least one chunk of object technology, the two are more like old rivals.

Sun and Netscape seem like good Java allies. But when it comes to at least one chunk of object technology, the two are more like old rivals.

The companies are sparring over an esoteric yet fundamental technology, the Java mapping to the Interface Definition Language. IDL allows a Java object to communicate with an Object Request Broker (ORB), which, in turn, can distribute the object across the 'Net. By agreeing on a single Java mapping, vendors improve the chances that objects will be interoperable.

But Sun and Netscape do not agree, and this seemingly technical dispute throws the future of Java-based client/server computing, with Java code written once and running on any machine, into question.

Sun and Netscape are now ready to slug it out at the Object Management Group with different approaches to IDL defined for OMG's CORBA

There are only three Java-ORB client/server computing products on the market today and they differ markedly. Iona has Orbix Web; Sun has Joe as a part of its NEO tool for Solaris; and Netscape is betting on the Visigenics Software Visibroker with a multimillion dollar investment.

Netscape, which is putting a Visigenics-based ORB in its Web browser, will be pushing the Visigenics IDL Java mapping at the OMB against Sun's IDL entry, says product marketing manager Eckart Walther.

Netscape may win this little skirmish regardless of technical merits. The company will have an advantage in the nascent Java client/server computing market because it will be able to get its ORB out on to the desktop of millions through the Navigator browser.

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