We've all read about the Internet's "endless potential" for redefining the way businesses operate and computers are built. The Internet's astonishing growth is a testament to its ability to live up to at least some of this hype. Yet most corporate Web sites consist strictly of marketing brochures and other static text and pictures.
To truly capitalize on the business potential the Web offers, organizations need to combine the Web's universal access and deployment with their own mission-critical business processes. By making transactions (such as travel planning, stock trading and package shipping) available on-line, companies can achieve benefits such as expanding their markets to a worldwide audience and accepting orders 24 hours a day, all while lowering their administrative costs.
To deliver applications like these on-line, corporations must re-engineer their architectures to support large-scale transaction processing. Enter Java.
Java enables a rich user interface, secure database access and high-volume transaction processing - a combination that has the potential for dramatic advances in the development and deployment of Web-based enterprise applications.
However, the Java language alone is not enough to develop these end-to-end enterprise solutions. For this, a scalable Java-based platform is required to make it easy to not only develop applications, but also to manage and deploy them. This platform is starting to emerge and consists of client, middle and server tiers. It is also becoming widely adopted with the definition of standard Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and the delivery of comprehensive products, such as development tools and component transaction servers.
Implementing this architecture, users find and launch applications using traditional HTML pages and Web servers. But instead of simply loading a static page, they download a dynamic "applet" into their browser. The applet also contains high-speed protocols that allow it to communicate directly with application servlets or business logic, which exist in the form of components running in the middle tier. The middle-tier server executes and manages most of the application logic and high-speed JDBC-based access to distributed databases. Java is also beginning to appear as the stored procedure language in back-end DBMSs, allowing data-intensive procedures to be written in Java and executed inside of the DBMS.
The combination of each of these elements provides application developers with a single programming language across all tiers. It removes the artificial barriers between client-, middle- and server-side programming and provides developers the flexibility they need to increase productivity (by focusing on building Java components regardless of where they are deployed).
To effectively deliver Java on all tiers, standards are emerging for each key component in the enterprise Java platform. For graphical development on the client, both JavaSoft and Microsoft have created standard foundation classes: JFC and AFC, respectively. In the middle tier, Enterprise JavaBeans and ActiveX provide a standard way to deploy and manage server-side components. In addition to components, the enterprise Java platform consists of a suite of connectivity APIs: Java Naming Directory Interface (JNDI) for connectivity to enterprise naming and directory services; Java Transaction Service (JTS) for transaction services and Java Message Service (JMS) for enterprise messaging systems. JDBC, a call-level interface similar to ODBC, provides the standard mechanism for accessing relational and legacy data stores. Sybase, IBM, Tandem and Oracle are working with JavaSoft, the ANSI SQL standards committee and the JSQL consortium to develop standards for running Java in the database.
As technology vendors release new tools and servers for building these Java-based architectures, aggressive enterprises can finally reap the full benefits of the Internet. Sybase, for instance, is providing a distributed, end-to-end architecture that answers the call for mission-critical business application development for the Internet. It accomplishes this by delivering products to enable Java in the client, middle and server tiers and by providing open support for emerging standards, so it can be implemented easily throughout the IT organization.
This is "Java for the Enterprise": bringing together the power of the Java language with an end-to-end architecture, in combination with leading-edge tools and technologies. It holds great promise for businesses today. In fact, when implemented correctly, it truly does offer "endless potential".
About the Author
Tina Lorentz is the Product Manager for PowerJ. Previously, Tina was part of the marketing team for Power++ and Watcom C/C++. She joined Watcom shortly before the merger with Powersoft in 1994. Prior to that Tina worked for Northern Telecom for two years as an analyst/programmer, after receiving a Bachelor of Science in Math from the University of Waterloo.