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Oracle's Ellison sees success in Java-based middleware

As Oracle took over the Sun-originated Java language, CEO Larry Ellison said the company's success in making money on Java will hinge on its overall success in middleware. The early take is that Oracle will now feature both enterprise-enabled and lightweight middleware product lines.

After recently clearing regulatory hurdles raised by the European Commission, Oracle Corp. today closed its $7.4-billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems and formally took over the stewardship of the Java language that Sun originated. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said the company's success in making money on Java will hinge on its overall success in middleware.

"Sun didn't make a lot of money from Java but we sure did," said Ellison, who noted that Oracle's 2008 acquisition BEA Systems also effectively capitalized on Java, which underlies much of the modern software infrastructure that runs large corporations' applications. Oracle's Fusion middleware, for example, is based on Java.

Ellison's comments came at the end of a multi-hour webcast outlining Oracle's future roadmap for Sun products. The company pledged to increase investment in several Sun-originated technologies.

The Oracle planning appears to make clear distinctions between such products as application servers from the WebLogic product line and the Glassfish product line. GlassFish is an open source application server created by Sun for the Java EE platform. WebLogic is a leading J EE server that Oracle acquired along with BEA Systems. The differences revolve around full featured enterprise-level products and light-weight open-source style implementations.

Thomas Kurian, executive vice president of Oracle product development, said Sun's Glassfish will "continue as a reference implementation for [J EE]." He touted Glassfish's "lightweight" Metro Web services stack.

At the same time Kurian emphasized that WebLogic "continues to be the strategic product for enterprise deployments."

Some middleware components will be interchanged. "We will share technology across WebLogic and Glassfish," said Kurian.

Counting on NetBeans

Oracle's Kurian said NetBeans would continue forward with an investment from Oracle. NetBeans, Sun's open-source Java IDE, has in the past competed with Oracle's JDeveloper IDE and the Eclipse open-source framework originated by IBM.

He said Oracle wants to bring focus to three areas where NetBeans is unique in the industry: that is, in terms of its support for dynamic languages and scripting, mobile development, and "how it provides reference implementation support for Java EE development."

Kurian said Oracle would extend the reach of the Java programming model and make the Java Community Process more participatory.

"They seem to have made a distinction between full bore enterprise grade middleware, like Fusion, and lightweight middleware," said Jonathan Eunice, Principal IT Advisor, Illuminata, Inc.

After a long period of speculation, people are now in the process of judging Oracle's plans, said Eunice.

The early forecasts, he noted, ranged from "Oracle will burn Sun to the ground" to "they will pick up all the assets and run with them." There was concern that some developers' favorite technologies would be lost.

"Oracle is really picking up a lot of the key assets of Sun," he continued. "They did not say NetBeans was dead—they talked about it as a lightweight for dynamic languages and Web development."

JavaFX's hopes buttressed

Surprising perhaps among all the technology details unveiled in the Oracle webcast was mention of JavaFX, a rich Internet application programming environment that spent many years wending through standards deliberations. Today, JavaFX competes with plain Java, JavaScript-based AJAX, Flash, Silverlight and other browser plug-in alternatives.

In JavaFX, Kurian said, Oracle would look to provide designers the ability to build applications more visually. Oracle, he said, plans to add drag-and-drop assembly and to "eliminate the line between Java, JavaScript and JavaFX" in application interfaces.

Reached for comment, Max Katz, senior systems engineer for Web development firm Exadel, suggested today's JavaFX comments showed Oracle is committed to developing the JavaFX platform, and making it a key technology moving forward.

"As for 'eliminating the line between Java, JavaScript and JavaFX,' Katz wrote via e-mail, "I think many new applications will be hybrid, containing both JavaFX and HTML/JavaScript portions. All the technologies—Java, JavaScript and JavaFX—will seamlessly work together. The argument that Ajax is better or JavaFX is better is no longer valid, you can have both in your application."

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