The complexity of Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) may be slowing Java adoption and benefiting its main competitor Microsoft, according to analyst Meta Group.
The company's latest METAspectrum market evaluation report sees intense competition between J2EE and .Net continuing to the end of 2003.
"Although many corporations have selected Java as a strategic platform for enterprise development, adoption has been hampered by J2EE's complexity," said the report.
An application server is central to an enterprise, as it provides the core infrastructure once supplied by the operating system, according to Meta.
But the analyst has warned against committing to one application server at this time, because the number of viable J2EE vendors will shrink over the next two years as IBM and BEA continue to dominate the J2EE market.
Michael Barnes, senior programme director at Meta, said: "Global 2000 organisations should continue ramping up internal expertise via proof-of-concept and limited-scope initiatives.
"But application server product choices should be re-evaluated during the next three to six months given ongoing consolidation. Making well-educated and well-documented decisions is critical."
The report also warned that companies should weigh market presence and vendor viability more heavily than technical capability in choosing an application server.
"Users are more concerned with providers' long-term commitment to the market and their ability to adequately service and support products on a global scale," said the report.
The main area of complexity is the need for J2EE developers to make applications conform to appropriate Java standards, such as Java Server Pages and Enterprise Java Beans, all carefully controlled and developed through the Java Community Process.
But J2EE standards are also rapidly evolving. In particular, standards for emerging web services are needed to close the gap on .Net.
"An application server must be able to host web services, components, users and servers," stated the report.
Mike Lucas, UK technology manager at Compuware, which produces the OptimalJ Java development environment, agreed with the report's findings.
"Developing enterprise applications using Java technologies, especially for the J2EE platform, has proven to be complex," he said.
Lucas added that finding experienced J2EE developers could be difficult, while many mainstream developers had seen J2EE complexity as a barrier to entry.
But he suggested that the use of development tools applying a model-driven approach countered this complexity.
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