Microsoft & .NET.NET.NET at JavaOne

.NET at JavaOne

It doesn’t come as a big surprise that Sun Microsystems isn’t pleased with Microsoft these days. At this year’s JavaOne, there was a more overt sense of a looming, unstoppable Redmond Menace than ever before. One of the most popular booth-trinkets was a button with a slash through it that said .NOT. A video shown at the first keynote depicted the Java Smart Car driving circles around a Bill Gates look-alike. The back of Bill’s T-shirt, of course, was emblazoned with a J-flat logo instead of J-sharp.

Clearly, Sun — on behalf of dozens of smaller app-server and tools companies whose product is based on J2EE — is running scared. There was a pervasive buzz of anti-Microsoftness. The easiest laugh any speaker could garner was to diss Windows XP or IE or VB or ASP to claim a Microsoft technology was rife with nothing but evil manipulations and horrific bugs. One developer I spoke to referred to it, in timely fashion, as a Java Jihad.

The guns really started blazing when Scott McNealy, Chairman and CEO of Sun, took the stage for his keynote. He referred to the conference as “JavaWon.” Microsoft was attacked for:

  • Not including Java in Windows XP, undermining it as a standard platform for applets and applications. This, in fact, is the basis for a big lawsuit. “If Microsoft walked in the door tomorrow and said they wanted Java, we’d be happy to license it to them,” McNealy said.
  • Providing a universal sign-in and wallet solution, Passport, where Microsoft is in charge of all the data — not trusted third parties. In fact, Microsoft’s database was proven to be hackable. Sun and other major financial companies would rather focus on the Liberty Alliance, which depends on existing banks to hold money and credit data.
  • Using its own standards and APIs. As McNealy put it, “The community aspects of Sun ONE will win over .NET. It’s mankind versus the monopolists.”
  • Even in cases where Microsoft is using standards such as WSDL, SOAP, and XML history has shown that Microsoft can quickly “extend”, “simplify”, or otherwise modify those standards. “Don’t take that first hit … from monopolists who want to hijack and pollute standards,” McNealy said.
  • Wanting to funnel all Web services through their own MSN servers. Whereas Java allows anybody to be a server provider.
  • Being all talk. After all, J2EE is here today and already being used widely. The full J2EE equivalent for .NET is still in beta.
  • Creating a firewall product where Java content is disabled by default, but virus-laden Outlook attachments are allowed.
  • Bill Gates’ “internal” letter to all his employees that security is of the utmost importance, which was then leaked to the press. “We don’t need any letter!” McNealy said, implying that Java was built from the beginning to be secure.
  • Creating a technology that forces you to give up on legacy databases and services.

All good and valid points. Though some of the claims were a tad exaggerated. The rhetoric definitely got a bit carried away. At one point, McNealy lowered his voice and his head like a forlorn preacher, begging disciples to make the Java revolution happen. “There’s a clear choice we have to make. You’ve all already made it! But I need your help, and mankind needs your help … I can’t retire, because I won’t leave my kids to a world of Ctrl-Alt-Delete!”

Standing Out in the Crowd

There were actually very few technical talks that mentioned .NET at all. Not surprising, I guess, considering this was a Java conference. But two sessions stood out. One was “A Comparison of Multi-Device XHTML Generation Using J2EE and Microsoft .NET”, by Jim Wolf and Tripp Thompson, IT consultants from Verizon. They talked about how both platforms allow you to mix custom tags and code, both work using similar database-access objects, both sit atop a request and response system. The focus was on which platform worked better to create XHTML content — that is, XML-based HTML content that can easily stream to either a Web browser or wireless device.

The key for vendors, as well as crackerjack developers, is to be able to deal with both flavors, and get both systems talking to each other.

In the J2EE universe, they used Servlets, JSP, JDBC, and tag libraries to generate their XHTML. The advantages were: cross-platform, better scalability, and lots of vendor choice for the application server. The cons were that everything had to be written in Java, which is not necessarily everyone’s favorite language. A scandalous (but accurate) thing to say at JavaOne! Also, J2EE’s various technologies aren’t always well integrated, and Web Services support is limited.

In the .NET world, they used ASP.NET and ADO.NET, along with custom tag libraries. They liked the easy-to-use, well-integrated tools, multiple language support, and good support for Web Services. They didn’t like the fact there was only one vendor for most technologies and that they were locked into the Microsoft platform and operating system. Because all the datasets were interconnected, they also found that .NET wasn’t as scalable.

In both cases, they were successfully able to create Web Services that were accessible by J2EE apps, .NET apps, or others.

The other session that focused on .NET was given by Noel Clarke, senior e-business strategist from SilverStream Software. It was called “.NET and J2EE Based Web Services — Can We Live Together?”

The session took a real-world look at the J2EE approach versus the .NET architecture. The list of pros and cons was similar to those outlined in Wolf and Thompson’s talk. In addition, Clarke believes that J2EE’s biggest con is that it is much more difficult and intricate to build and deploy than .NET, requiring that organizations have more skilled developers. He pushed SilverStream’s Integrated Services Environment, of course, as a means of overcoming that obstacle.

He concluded by saying that most people who are already using Microsoft solutions are probably going to migrate to .NET and those who want cross-platform compatibility will use J2EE. The key for vendors, as well as crackerjack developers, is to be able to deal with both flavors, and get both systems talking to each other. Hearing a note of common sense like that amid the clamor of Microsoft hostility was a nice breath of fresh, noncompetitive air.

About the Author

David Fox is the author of numerous books and articles about cyberculture and technology.

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