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Monday, November 27, 2006

The great debate: .Net vs. J2EE

Does one Web services platform dominate the other?

Though the debate over the superiority of .Net versus that of Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) seems a hot topic in today's technology circles, many people believe it is simply a marketing battle of little consequence. Marketing battle or not, the debate's effects will one day prove critical in software evolution. Thus, Sun Microsystems' and Microsoft's executive teams have committed significant marketing budgets in an effort to gain advantage. Should Microsoft lose this battle, the operating system might simply become a lifestyle choice. Sun's victory could one day enable software to run on any operating system, causing Microsoft's dominance in operating systems to slowly fade as other operating systems, capable of running the same software, come to market. On the other hand, should Microsoft succeed, it will further entrench its technology suite as the de facto standard for the foreseeable future.

In this article, we compare the J2EE and .Net technologies to help you decide which one is worth the investment.

Before Web services

When looking back to the brief period preceding the dot-com meltdown (circa 1998-2000), Internet historians point out that many dot-coms duplicated others' work. Most duplication revolved around Website construction. These Websites of antiquity aimed to give their visitors access to myriad information; information, which in hindsight, pertained not to the company's core competency, but rather to its goal of achieving the cool factor. Companies providing this variegated information, which included weather reports, stock quotes, news, mail services, and more, did not typically create it. Hence, these companies would purchase rights to the raw data and its redistribution in a viewable format. After acquiring the raw data, companies would create expensive and time-consuming programs that converted the provider-formatted data to a format that could be rendered to the user, typically HTML.

For example, suppose the Know-Can-Do Company provided a stock quote information service on its Website. To do that, Know-Can-Do obtained raw data from a provider, or the creator -- for example, the Stock-Quote-Provider Company. Know-Can-Do accessed Stock-Quote-Provider's raw data typically through proprietary technology (e.g., installed software) and expensive hardware (e.g., leased lines). Know-Can-Do then created parsing applications that converted the raw data into HTML. Figure 1 illustrates this process. Notice the light-blue line, which denotes a proprietary and expensive communication system between Know-Can-Do and Stock-Quote-Provider.

Figure 1. Data movement and manipulation using proprietary technology

Since Know-Can-Do wished to compete with dominant Web portals such as AOL, MSN (Microsoft Network), Yahoo!, and Excite, the pressure to provide more information increased exponentially. To remain competitive, Know-Can-Do needed to add weather and news facilities. Figure 1's model proved tedious since disparate technologies used to source data from multiple vendors was often unmanageable from a logistics and cost perspective. Raw data transfer had to be more cost effective, plus Know-Can-Do required an easier way to convert the data to a standard form (e.g., HTML, WML (Wireless Markup Language), Voice XML). Enter the Web service strategy.   Continued

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