An easier way to build web services?

Microsoft has held a workshop to demonstrate its latest development tool, Visual Studio .net 2003. The company said the product...

Microsoft has held a workshop to demonstrate its latest development tool, Visual Studio .net 2003. The company said the product represents the easiest way to build web services.

The first version of, launched just over a year ago, gave developers a route into building applications using the .net environment. With this second release, Microsoft sees combined with Windows 2003 as the key to its application server strategy. Both products are due to be released on 24 April.

Ivo Salme, product manager for .net develop tools at Microsoft said, "The combination of the two products represents, an application server in a box. We are providing the easiest way to build web services."

Improvements to the development system include a C# Forms Designer utility for building data entry forms, and a built-in database connector for Oracle.

In terms of developer productivity, Microsoft sees .net as way ahead of Java 2 Enterprise Edition. Salme pointed to a recent study conducted by the Middleware Company, which looked at the complexity of a .net application development against a J2EE application. According to Salme, the Microsoft application using .net required just 2,096 lines of code, compared to 14,000 with J2EE.

"This shows a dramatic productivity gain for developers using .net," he said. When translated into the days spent programming, Salme said that while the .net program took two weeks of development time, J2EE took 10 weeks.

So is Microsoft offering an application server in a box?

Gary Barnett, an analyst with Ovum, said the notion of web services was more completely supported by .net than in J2EE. "Java has a huge contribution to make but it does face competition from Microsoft," he said.

Microsoft is a viable alternative to Java, he added. "It does not make any sense comparing .net just to J2EE, particularly if you consider .net as a server framework and technology platform coupled with, which is one of the most compelling development tools available," he said.

Strictly speaking, Barnett said, .net should be compared to BEA Weblogic and IBM Websphere, both of which are regarded as highly sophisticated application servers. "Microsoft has a very complete solution. The research from the Middleware Company presents a range of lessons for the Java community."

He said that developing Enterprise Java Beans applications was still too complex. "Java tools suppliers like Borland are making it simpler to build EJB applications, but with it is far easier to build server applications."

While the results of .net developer productivity are significant, Barnett feels there is a need for further independent research to establish just how well .net compares to J2EE applications servers.

Looking at the Transaction Processing Council’s benchmark data, Barnett pointed to the lack of any benchmarking data on J2EE application servers. "I throw the gauntlet down to IBM and BEA to implement their applications against TPC benchmarks," he said.

Mitul Mehta, managing director at research firm TekPlus, is not convinced the productivity gains from .net are significant. "It really depends on where the applications are implemented," he explained.

Mehta said .net is still a "work in progress" and there are more web services to be developed, along with further improvements. "J2EE is much more robust. In a mission-critical environment, users need to compromise," he said.

Mehta believes users will make the choice between J2EE and .net depending on the type of application they want. Questions remain over whether the two competing technologies will integrate. In theory they should, but Mehta added "It is too early to see any real examples of J2EE integrating with .net."

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