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Java WorkShop beta debuts

Sun also releases UltraSPARC-powered Netras, Java middleware,
Intranet-related services, new e-mail server software

By Cate T. Corcoran

April  1996
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Sun brewed a broad range of products for the Internet in late March, including one of the first integrated development environments for Java and a family of Internet servers with speedier CPUs and improved software. Sun customers we spoke with lauded Sun's development product, which will help solve some of the difficulties of debugging code in the Internet environment.

The announcement reinforces Sun's position as one of the premier players in the Internet market and represents a baby step toward maturity in an immature market, analysts said.

New products include:

Sun customers said they were interested in Java WorkShop and Internet WorkShop because they are comprehensive environments and because Java WorkShop features one of the best Java debuggers.

"Perl scripts will work on the bench, but the minute you put them in the (Internet) environment, they stop working," said Robert Gahl, chief operations officer and co-founder of The Sphere Information Services Inc., an Internet service provider based in San Jose, CA "Trying to figure out why is a total pain," he said, because parts of the application may be running in so many different places and the programmer can't view how the program is running on remote machines.

Java WorkShop helps solve part of the problem by allowing you to debug code while it is actually running in the Internet environment, he said. Programmers can test code from within the program and in an Internet environment at the same time because the program itself is a browser and uses a browser rather than a desktop metaphor as an interface.

This feature will also streamline the interaction between HTML designers and application programmers, said Chan Suh, co-founder and principal of AGENCY.COM, a New York company that designs Web sites and Web strategies. "Before Java WorkShop, the programmers would write an applet, and then the HTMLers would put it in [a Web page] and then it would break and they'd have no idea why, no idea if the problem is the HTML or the applet," he said.


"Then they'd e-mail the programmer and the programmer would say `I'll take a look at it' -- but meanwhile has to write 20,000 lines of code -- and so it went, back and forth. Now, because Java WorkShop is a browser with a run-time debugger, the HTML designer can point to the problem and say the problem is in line 52 or whatever."

The integration of a browser and development environment could also enhance collaboration between programmers in far-flung locations, said Evan Quinn, analyst with International Data Corp. of Framingham, MA.

"You're testing a new Java applet you built in a browser under Solaris, you debug it, and you can't figure out a problem," he said. So the programmer attaches the debugging page to an e-mail and sends it to another programmer anywhere in the world. He or she can save the HTML file, then view the page, the debugger, and the code through a browser, fix it, and e-mail it back, he said.

Java WorkShop's browser feature is also convenient for developers who may want to browse programming resources on the Internet without leaving their development environment, said Gene Diveglia, vice president of information services with Intelligence Network Online Inc., an Internet service provider in Clearwater, FL. "Often you're working on an application and you know you've seen something before [on the Net] that's of relevance to your project, and now that's a little more within your reach. [Java WorkShop's browser capability] cleans up the desktop and is more efficient," he said.

Java WorkShop's cross-platform capabilities also appeals to AGENCY.COM, where not every programmer and HTML designer has a Sun workstation. "When you're building stuff before it gets to byte-code level, it's hard to pass code back and forth between programmers if they're not all on the same platform," Suh said. "And you have to drag the HTML designers to a SPARC. Or if you're developing on a PC with Windows 95, you have to worry about whether it will still work when [you deploy it to a] Solaris server."

However, Java WorkShop's Internet advantage probably won't last for long, said Frank Dzubeck, president of Communications Network Architects Inc. of Washington, D.C. "All the other tool vendors will come out with it," he said. "It's the natural thing to do. You need to be able to develop software and test it in the environment it runs in." In addition, because Java WorkShop is written in Java, it could be a little slow, customers said. "As a compiler, it might be slower than the rest because of the nature of the way Java works, but not substantially," The Sphere's Gahl said.

Java WorkShop will ship in April for $295. The follow-on release will include a Visual Java GUI builder, an integrated WYSIWYG HTML editor to ease applet publishing, support for the Apple Mac platform, and a Java to C++ gateway that will give Java developers access to existing code written in C++. Sun also plans to release a just-in-time compiler for near-native performance, although it didn't give a delivery date.

The SunSoft Internet WorkShop will ship in third quarter. Pricing has not yet been set.

New Netras
Sun's three new Netra Internet servers will start shipping in April. Prices will range from $7,495 for the Netra i 4 to $24,395 for the new, deskside Netra i 150.

The Netra i 150 shown at the announcement contained a motherboard from an Ultra 1 desktop computer sporting a 167-MHz UltraSPARC processor. The new model has enough space for a dozen 3.5-inch disks, and is designed to accept SPARCstation 20 motherboards, and multi-processor motherboards from computers Sun is expected to release soon.

The company also said it will announce another, enterprise-level model soon, possibly on April 16. Users said they could use the extra speed provided by the new models to run CPU-intensive applications.

"Yes, we can use the CPU performance," said Carl Howe, director of World Wide Web Services for BBN Corp., an Internet service provider located in Cambridge, Mass. "If you do complicated Web serving, the CPU can be the bottleneck." This actually happened on one of BBN's sites last year when an unexpected number of users logged on at once to run a multi-step customized scheduling application.

The Netras come with software pre-installed so the server can automatically boot itself up and install itself in less than 30 minutes, Sun said. Preinstalled software includes Web server software, an updated e-mail package, Domain Name Service, and file transfer. These Netras are the first Internet servers Sun has bundled with firewall software -- in this case, Firewall-1, which provides network security through packet-level filtering, Sun said. The systems also come with HTML-based graphical administration software. Internet service providers said the Netras would be useful for their customers who had limited expertise with Internet servers but wanted to set up a Web site quickly and easily.

"We use Netras for providing services," Howe said. "Our customers don't have to worry about configuring the machines or what to buy."

Disconnected e-mail & a better firewall
Sun also announced an e-mail package based on the Internet messaging standard IMAP4. Solstice Internet Mail is designed to provide global e-mail access over corporate intranets and the Internet. It runs on a Solaris mail server and supports Solaris, Windows 3.x, Windows 95, and NT clients.

Messages can be created and received off-line, and they can also be accessed by travelers who are away from their desktop system. That's possible because messages can be stored in folders that can be shared with other e-mail users. The IMAP4 protocol will also let users review message headers, attachments, and file size before downloading, and conduct Boolean searches on headers, making it more robust than the POP protocol, which also supports disconnected clients, said Larry Weber, vice president and general manager of developer products for SunSoft Inc.

Analysts, however, said they doubted Sun would make much headway with Solstice Internet Mail. Even if it has better features than other mail products, it's too new and too much a Trojan horse for other Sun products to succeed, said Rob Enderle, analyst with Giga Information Group of Santa Clara. "Unless Sunsoft can really spin out and create a separate identity and cut deals with companies like HP and EDS like Microsoft is doing [with Exchange], they're channel bound and that will limit the product," he added.

The client and server versions will ship in May. The server component will cost $995; clients have not yet been priced. Sun also enhanced its firewall software, Solstice FireWall-1, and security hardware, SunScreen. SunScreen SPF-100G protects private networks and ensures secure communications across both intranets and Internets. The SPF-100G version can be used in any country (the previous version was U.S.-only) because it uses a 1,024-bit encryption key rather than a 512-bit key, Sun said. It will ship in April for $21,995. The SunScreen Administration Station G costs $7,995.

Solstice FireWall-1 creates and manages TCP/IP firewalls. New features include network address translation, client authentication, HTTP authentication, and encryption, Sun said. The basic FireWall-1 Security Center, which controls network access through a gateway for a 50-node network, is available now for $4,990. The same product with encryption costs $7,980.

Hello, Joe. What do you know?
Sun also announced middleware for connecting Java applets to existing applications running on corporate networks. Using CORBA interfaces, Joe will connect a Java client to a server, to an RDBMS, or to existing corporate applications running remote NEO objects. (Solaris NEO is Sun's development environment for creating CORBA-based applications.) Joe sends only updated information rather than whole Web pages, making it more appropriate than CGI or HTML for communications among Internet applications, according to Sun. It is also written in Java.

Joe supports remote callback, which allows Java applets to receive asynchronous event notification from remote objects, which is useful for managing the network and does away with more-expensive polling. The product also allows users to access remote services through standard firewalls. A beta version will be available in June. Sun did not specify a ship date but said all versions will be free-of-charge.

Other announcements of March 26th included a partnership with Ilog Inc. (Mountain View, CA), to help create Twin Peaks, a component gateway between Java and C++ objects. The gateway will let developers leverage code from their existing C++ applications and help "mature" the Java environment by giving access to missing class libraries, such as database calls to SQL Server and math and science libraries, said Sun's Weber. Developers will also be able to extend translated C++ classes in Java as if they were Java classes, the company said. A delivery date has not yet been set.

Sun has also partnered with Active Software, also of Mountain View, CA, to help create Visual Java, which will ease development of GUI interfaces for Java applets. It will support all Abstract Windowing Toolkit widgets and can be extended to support third-party or custom widgets. It will be included in the next release of Java WorkShop.

SunService announced a new service. SunIntegration Internet Practice will develop and manage intranet projects. Analysts said this portion of the announcement reinforced Sun's position in the intranet market. "In taking this kind of leadership role in the intranet, Sun is underscoring its strength and vision as an enterprise networking vendor," said John Mann, vice president of the Yankee Group of Boston.

At the announcement, VXtreme Inc. of Palo Alto, CA, demonstrated its Internet-based video decompression technologies to show the bandwidth capabilities of the Internet. Running over a 28.8 modem, the software-only compression scheme can display video running at about 10 frames per second in a 160 by 120-pixel window, said Jamie Rapperport, VXtreme vice president of marketing. It will ship in third quarter.
--by Cate T. Corcoran

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