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J2EE or .NET: Pick one and stick to it

Is .NET or Java your preferred development platform? Forrester Research asked more than 300 enterprise decision makers.

Are you a .NET guy, or is J2EE your poison?

Forrester Research Inc. recently put that question to more than 300 enterprise decision makers in North America and learned that while most call .NET their preferred development platform (56%), developers and managers are definitely not on the same page. Enterprises need to recognize these different points of view when making strategic decisions, said Randy Heffner, vice president of Forrester's application development and infrastructure research group.


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"The differences in platform views will strengthen your decision process by ensuring broad consideration of platform issues and, even more importantly, having all involved will increase your chances of success in actually implementing your resulting strategic direction," Heffner said in the report.

Respondents who are in the application delivery field, along with senior IT and IT strategists, are in the J2EE camp, while general IT management and staff were up to 25% more likely to favor .NET.

Make a strategic choice

Heffner also acknowledged that many enterprises have both platforms in-house, and managers need to consider whether this is worth the additional staffing and management costs.

All of these complexities add up, so our recommendation is to go down one side or the other.
Randy Heffner
Vice presidentForrester Research Inc.

"Our core recommendation is to focus on one as strategic because of the broad number of investments you're making in a strategic platform," Heffner told "If you're in a situation where there's a good business reason to have both -- and sometimes there is -- then make sure you go in with your eyes open and not toss up your hands and say, 'The world is against me, I have to do both.' Make a conscious business choice to have both."

Heffner said those platform investments go beyond the technology. Staff has to understand how to remediate problems, manage patches and software upgrades and integrate management tools. On the development side, programming skills, best practices and tool investments are mandatory as well. Companies tied to both platforms that want to construct a portal, for example, have to do everything twice essentially, in addition to any add-on products necessary to a business process, Heffner said.

"If you have to do it twice, it's just that much more expensive," Heffner said. "All of these complexities add up, so our recommendation is to go down one side or the other."

Heffner characterized the internal divide between .NET and J2EE as hinging on how closely a respondent may work with the platform on a day-to-day basis. If 20% of applications require 80% of application development efforts, that's likely to be their platform of preference, he said. Senior IT's perspective, meanwhile, depends not on which platform requires the greatest investment, but more in terms of overall value. General IT management who may oversee all of IT, including desktop support and operations and management, was decidedly with .NET (70% of respondents).

Heffner also pointed out that companies in a weak business climate generally named .NET as their primary development platform, while J2EE was the favorite among those in thriving industries.

"From an overall market mindset, [some are] thinking that Microsoft is less expensive and justifiably so," Heffner said.

Java is the choice platform in industries where investments have been made in diverse Unix environments with high reliability and throughput requirements like financial services and telecommunications.

"Unix folks naturally migrate toward J2EE," Heffner said. "The fact that J2EE development isn't as daunting to them because some of the things they're doing, would be complex in .NET, too. Not much of a differentiator there. Those factors drive people toward J2EE."

One important differentiator for Java shops is the leverage they have against their vendors. Most platform providers dabble in Java and can be played against one another should pricing get out of hand.

"That's the kind of pressure you can put [on those vendors] that you can't put on Microsoft," Heffner said.

FEEDBACK: Are you a .NET or J2EE guy? Tell us why you prefer one over the other.
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