No winner yet in Java vs .net battle

The turbulence of the market in past 12 months has been mirrored in the standards war.

The turbulence of the market in past 12 months has been mirrored in the standards war.

As 2002 begins to draw to a close, as an industry we are beginning to reflect on the successes and failures of a turbulent 12 months.

How far have we come, given the volatile economic and political climate? Where will next year take us? What have been the success stories and what have been the damp squibs of the past year?

One of the technologies that has not yet taken off in quite the way that many had anticipated is Web services.

Still touted as a hot topic by many, and undoubtedly the technology of the future, the "battle of the standards" between .net and J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) suffered a glancing blow over the summer, with Bill Gates' admission that .net was in need of a "reset".

But was Gates admitting failure? It was more of a statement that things had not quite rolled out to plan. And with the world as it is, in the wake of Enron and WorldCom, let's face it, not a lot of businesses have had the year that they had been hoping for.

Next year will see Microsoft looking to increase its .net fanbase with C# and .net servers, to right some of the wrongs and to continue to build on its undisputed successes. But how far can .net - described by critics as being an essentially "closed" standard - take us?

There will always be those who see J2EE's open standards as considerably more mature and evolved. And true, J2EE is an ideal choice for many high-end developments. But for smaller companies and specialist applications, .net is likely to remain a preferred choice.

For a business to evaluate the two effectively, perhaps the most obvious answer is to take a step back and assess your business needs first.

Consider your resources. You probably have staff who are used to dealing with Java and are suited to working in a J2EE environment. Or, would using the more intuitive .net mean that your team's skill sets could be better employed?

The strength of feeling on the two solutions at times verges on a religious debate - each has its own vehement supporters and dissenters. Perhaps it is time to call a truce.

For many, the best results will be gained by utilising your team and infrastructure to use both platforms together to deliver the best solution for your business. After all, although they are disparate, mixed platform deployments do have their uses, and if using both brings the optimum results, well, why not?

Only last month, Tony Lock, senior analyst at market commentator Bloor, was quoted (Computer Weekly, 26 September) as stressing the importance of going through comprehensive proof-of-concept testing, to take a proposed solution from "bits of string and sticky tape" to the "Rolls-Royce solution". It is an important move. It is during piloting that you can assess the strengths and limitations of .net and J2EE.

By placing solutions under stress, only then will you know how that stress will affect your business and your customers. If you don't have the ability to test and evaluate in-house, then maybe it is worth considering seeking outside help to do this. Advice from a neutral third party can help you to make a firm decision on whether .net, J2EE, or a combination of both is the best way for your business to go.

As for what next year will bring, well, I think it's still a case of "watch this (Web) space".

Richard Curran is regional director, Intel Solution Services

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