Sun Microsystems will release a technology preview of its Project Rave rapid application development tool for Java by the end of the year, with a beta and formal beta program to follow sometime in 2004, a Sun executive said Thursday.
The technology preview and a beta version of Rave will be available on Sun's Web site, where developers also can sign up for the beta program when it's available, said Joe Keller, VP of marketing for Java web services and tools at Sun.
To hear Sun executives tell it, Project Rave is the Holy Grail for making Java digestible for corporate developers that aren't hard-core coders and are more familiar with languages such as Microsoft's Visual Basic.
The tool will use drag-and-drop capabilities and visual constructs so developers can assemble Java applications using servlets and Java Server Pages quickly without substantial coding, Keller said.
These applications then can scale up to become enterprise-level deployments based on the J2EE platform through a seamless link to Sun's Java Enterprise Studio IDE, formally branded under the Sun One moniker.
This integration is a distinct advantage over using Microsoft VB because Visual Basic applications have to rewritten in an object-oriented language such as C++ or C# to scale up to the enterprise, Keller said. 'We think we have an advantage because we don't have to change programming languages to make this happen,' he said.
Sun is hardly the only Java tools vendor aiming to simplify Java development using visual tools. As CRN previously reported, Sun competitors Borland Software and IBM's Rational division already have tools available that attempt to link visual modeling and design to code development.
Even Microsoft, which provides a unified development environment for all of its platform programming languages through Visual Studio.Net, aims to make application modeling and design a more intrinsic part of the IDE through a project code-named Whitehorse that will be a feature of the next version of Visual Studio.Net, code-named Whidbey. Whidbey is scheduled for release sometime next year.
Such stiff competition begs the question of why Sun, a company that is struggling financially as it reinvents itself as a more prominent Java software player, even continues to invest in building Java tools, a business the company has yet to prove is profitable, observers said.
'Sun doesn't have the best-of-breed tools out there, that's what developers are telling us,' said Rikki Kirzner, director of application development and deployment at research firm IDC.
However, she said she has stopped asking Sun executives why 'they don't just throw in the towel and OEM something' when it comes to its tools business because Sun, with its emphasis on R&D, would rather build the technology itself.
Kirzner added that Project Rave could be helpful for customers running large IT systems on Sun infrastructure hardware and software that want to abandon Visual Basic as the language used for writing corporate applications. However, the tool's usefulness remains to be seen until it is available.