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The database maker has based the latest version of its set of developers' software, called JDeveloper, on the latest release of its database and application server products, which now support Sun Microsystems' Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) standard.
Oracle said it had released the tools early to its developer community via its Early Adopter Programme. More than 1.7 million developers are members of the Oracle Technology Network (OTN), the company said.
JDeveloper for Oracle9i made its first appearance in June at the JavaOne developer conference in San Francisco. The release follows Oracle's previous tool kit, JDeveloper 3.2, which the company said was downloaded 70,000 times from the OTN Web site between March 2001 and July 2001.
"More and more companies are adopting and standardising for J2EE, but it's still fairly complicated down at the plumbing level," said John Magee, a senior director of marketing for the Oracle9i platform. "We put a big focus on making it easier to build J2EE applications."
The new tools offer support for industry standards that enable businesses to build applications that can be delivered over the Internet - a foundation for the emerging Web services market. JDeveloper for Oracle9i can create applications with support for Extensible Markup Language (XML), Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and Web Services Description Language (WSDL).
Oracle said support for Universal Description and Discovery (UDDI), which has been dubbed a "Yellow Pages" for businesses on the Internet, will be included in the production version of JDeveloper at the end of the year.
JDeveloper was designed with Oracle9i in mind, although it is compatible with previous versions of Oracle's server software and J2EE-compliant application server products from other vendors. Developers using the toolkit to build applications for Oracle9i can make use of "wizards" that ease the process of deploying, testing and debugging applications.
Wayne Kernochan, the managing vice-president at Aberdeen Group, a Boston-based research firm, said, "There has been some feeling from users that if an application is not integrated with Oracle's overall environment, Oracle is less interested in supporting it."
As for JDeveloper's ability to cut out much of the low-level programming, Kernochan said, "That's a recognition of the reality in the Java development space that you're no longer programming on the bare metal." Instead, programmers often develop more of the high-level code based on specific application server software.
JDeveloper boasts a number of new features. It is the first version of the software to run on operating systems other than Microsoft's Windows NT and includes additional support for Windows 2000, Solaris and the Linux operating system.
JDeveloper for Oracle9i is also the first standalone application to include tools designed to carry out a number of development tasks such as modelling, profiling, sourcing and Structured Query Language (SQL) development.
Earlier versions of JDeveloper were included in a package of software products called Internet Developer Suite, which had separate applications for modelling and design, SQL development and other functions.
Competing toolkits include Sun Microsystems' Forte for Java, Sybase's PowerBuilder and Borland Software's JBuilder.