By Cliff Saran
Sun is expected to open a new chapter in Java history next month when it will formally unveil details of a strategy dubbed the 'service driven network'.
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Based on the fruits of a two-year on-going research project called Brazil, the service driven network appears to follow similar lines to Microsoft .Net, announced last June. The Brazil framework is analogous to the.Net Soap (simple object access protocol) architecture.
A paper on the Sun http://www.sun.com/research/features/brazil describes the technology as a toolkit of reusable Java components that can be accessed over the Web. In the paper Stephen Uhler, lead architect on the Brazil project said, "In our vision, Web servers will be augmented by meta-servers." These so-called meta-servers he said, would be able to pull in Web-based content from various sources.
Commenting on Sun's forthcoming strategy, Tony Lock, senior analyst at Bloor Research said, "This isn't entirely a new strategy for Sun. A large number of back-end servers are based on Sun technology." The difference he sees is that Sun appears to be putting a heavy focus on security. For instance, according to Sun, the goal is to provide "a strong authentication architecture", which it claims will allow extranets to access intranets without compromising security.
Another benefit, according to Lock, is the possibility that the strategy will eventually lower the technical expertise barrier to Java development. "Today, Java is an expensive skill to have in-house. If [Java] components could be linked together easily, then developing Java applications would be simplified."
For over-stretched IT departments in the short and medium term the Sun initiative poses a problem as compatibility with alternative Web service architectures like Microsoft's Soap, UDDI (a project to develop a service directory from Microsoft, IBM and Ariba) and Oracle is likely to be some way off according to Bloor's Lock.