Sun readies app server upgrade

Sun Microsystems is readying an upgrade to its enterprise-level application server and is touting new downloading figures as...

Sun Microsystems is readying an upgrade to its enterprise-level application server and is touting new downloading figures as evidence of the company’s growing presence in the application server market.

Sun Java System Application Server Enterprise Edition 8 will be offered in a preview release in a few weeks and is due to ship early in 2005, according to Sun.

"We are enhancing some of the functionality to improve the management and administration features of that as well as investing in and improving the performance, especially in EJBs [Enterprise JavaBeans]," said Deborah Williams, product line manager for Java web services at Sun.

Improving high availability will be focal point of the new release, she said. Enhancements will be made to the application server's ability to run multiple server instances in a high-availability architecture, she said.

Compatibility with J2EE 1.4, which has been known as the web services-enabled version of J2EE, also is a highlight.

The Enterprise Edition features high availability and management functions not available in the lower end Platform Edition of the application server, which will be refreshed at the same time as the Enterprise Edition, albeit with only minor tweaks such as bug fixes, Sun said.

The free Platform Edition has been downloaded nearly one million times since 23 March, according to Sun. The company is touting this figure as evidence of the momentum of Sun’s application server. The Platform Edition is included with the download of the J2EE 1.4 software development kit.

By comparison, though, rival JBoss Group open-source Java application server has been downloaded five million times since March 2001, according to JBoss. And a July report on application server market share in the US from International Data Corp (IDC) had Sun garnering just a 4.9% market share in 2003.

This was far behind BEA Systems with a 30.6% market share, IBM with 27.6%, and Oracle with 17.4%. Sun's share dropped 10.9% last year. IDC, in explaining the drop, cited pricing and bundling strategies at Sun, including integrating software packages together as one system.

An analyst said Sun’s strategy of bundling its application server with the J2EE 1.4 reference implementation was clever.

"By converging its low-end product with the reference implementation, Sun basically got its product into the hands of anybody who downloaded the reference implementation," said analyst John Rhymer, vice-president at Forrester Research. "It is very clever.

"I basically consider [Sun] a challenger because its stuff is cheap. You can basically get a full-blown application server and gain the rights to deploy for nothing," Rhymer said.

The Enterprise product, however, costs $10,000 (£5,500) per CPU when deployed separately from the Java Enterprise System enterprise software bundle. Java Enterprise System, including the Enterprise application server, costs $100 per employee per year.

A study to be released next week by The Middleware Company and commissioned by Sun will report that Sun’s application server is present in about 25% of application server deployments, Sun said.

Paul Krill writes for InfoWorld

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