Price Is No Object

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When it comes to choosing a platform for software development, most corporate customers develop habits that are hard to break.

Price Is No Object

When companies do try to analyze the choice they face, cost seldom seems to figure into their equations in a major way. That's because vendors such as Microsoft, Sun, IBM, Oracle and others increasingly are making single copies of various developer tools available for free, hoping to convert those who test-drive the free versions to paying customers down the road—when they begin outfitting their entire programming shop.

It's also tough to compare apples to apples when assessing development platforms, customers and market researchers say. For example, Microsoft currently does not have all the shipping pieces in place for customers who want a pure .NET solution. Its .NET application server, which will be part of the Windows .NET Server product family due to ship later this year, is not yet available. On the Java side, customers face myriad application server choices, with Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) products available from not only Sun's iPlanet division, but also from IBM, BEA, Oracle and others.

Most companies are using Java development tools when writing e-business applications and Microsoft tools when writing specific application-to-application interfaces, not for general app development, according to research by Arlington, Mass.-based Cutter Consortium. Cutter found in a recent e-business development survey that 70% of respondents claimed to use Java, J2EE and other Java tools, and 33% claimed to use Microsoft tools.

Where customers can do comparisons is in the features area. If a customer has to deploy exclusively or primarily on Windows, Microsoft's .NET platform tends to be the preferred option. For customers that want to produce services that work across many types of computers, Java is favored.

Customers also need to consider security, scalability and reliability of the platform and applications developed using it, says Patterson. The maturity of the platform and its level of built-in support for emerging standards—such as the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), which are going to be important when writing Web services, are also key, according to Sam Patterson, CEO of ComponentSource.

A.B. Watley, a New York-based online brokerage, claims to have chosen Java for many of these reasons when designing its online trading application. Java's support of open standards, like SOAP; the fact that Sun makes developer versions available for free or low cost; the choice of Java-based products from vendors other than Sun; and cross-client compatibility all contributed to A.B. Watley's decision to go Java, says Eric LeSatz, vice president of information systems.

While he evaluated using Microsoft on the client side, "our application needs to run on multiple platforms. We'll even be adding Apple support," says LeSatz. "And Java was faster to write in than C or C++," he adds.

But the bottom line, LeSatz admits somewhat begrudgingly: He just doesn't like Microsoft much. And despite all the other metrics and reasons out there, that's all that really matters.

This article was originally published on 2002-04-05
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