How many lines for that doggie in the window?

Ask any sixth grader: when you get picked on, you have two available options. You can either get really defensive and start throwing punches, or you can start repeating the phrase “I don’t care.” Welcome to part two of the .NET versus J2EE smack-down.

In the last issue of Computer World Canada, the results of a white paper comparing Sun Microsystem’s Java Pet Store J2EE blueprint application with a similar application using Microsoft .NET were discussed. It turns out that Sun had something to say about it.

According to Cori Kaylor, J2EE BluePrints marketing manager in Santa Clara, Calif., the very choice of the Java Pet Store as a benchmark application was Microsoft playing dirty.

“Java Pet Store is a part of the Java BluePrints Program,” she explained. “The goal of the Java BluePrints program is that it’s an educational tool or resource for developers building Java applications. The main point here is that with the .NET Pet Shop, it is my opinion that Microsoft missed the boat. Pet Store was never meant to be a benchmark. It was meant to show off different design decisions that developers have to make. One of the goals is to teach developers how to be more efficient, and in addition to guidelines and best practices, we give as much sample code and reference code as possible to show off different design patterns and practices. It’s comparing apples and oranges.”

Ralph Galantine, Sun’s J2EE product marketing line manager in Santa Clara, Calif., agreed with Kaylor’s assessment.

“Because of the goal of Java Pet Store, it’s pretty much deliberately over written,” Galantine said. “It illustrates different things you may or may not need.”

According to Will Zachmann, vice-president of open computing and server strategies with Meta Group in Stamford, Conn., Sun’s argument is irrelevant.

“In the PR game of corporate one-upmanship versus Sun and Microsoft, which is a game that they play a lot with each other, did Sun mean that to be a performance benchmark? No, they didn’t, but is it a fair way for Microsoft to score points? Yeah, it is,” Zachmann said. “There’s nothing apples and oranges about that. Microsoft set out to score a point here and they took advantage of paying attention to their own environment to do it efficiently. And yes, obviously that isn’t what Sun started out doing. But did Microsoft score a couple of goals on them? Absolutely. If Sun wants to make the counterpoint, they should say, ‘Here’s the Pet Store implementation in Java that doesn’t use as many lines of code and that’s way better than Microsoft’s.’ That’s the appropriate response. By saying that it’s comparing apples and oranges is too little too late.”

Nonetheless, George Grigoryev, Sun’s senior J2EE marketing manager said that there is no immediate plan to recreate the Java Pet Store application for the purpose of benchmarking.

“Sun has relied on industry specific benchmarks, which are performed by a third party, and are clear, transparent and fair,” he said.

According to Zachmann, the winner in the war between .NET and J2EE is going to come down to real-world developers choosing sides based on practicality and performance, which is what Tom Kubik, vice-president of delivery for WebFront in Toronto has done. Well versed in both .NET and J2EE, Kubik has gone over to the Microsoft side of the fence for his company’s e-business solutions development.

“We’ve chosen our pony,” Kubik said. “We’ve been working with .NET for over a year now, and we’re very excited about the new framework and all the added features that it contains. By having all those added features, your developers have to do less plumbing work, and the less the better. [.NET] allows you to focus on the business functionality of the application, and obviously the less lines of code you have to write, the less complicated the application’s going to be, the cheaper it is, the easier the maintenance and ultimately the more value you deliver with a given amount of money. Given today’s economic conditions, this is a huge thing.”

Whether or not Sun responds with a new version of Java Pet Store, Zachmann is convinced that the battle between Microsoft and Sun is only heating up.

“Microsoft and Sun are definitely locked into a fierce competition to win. It is a PR kabuki drama contest at times, and both know that they’re playing a game to a certain extent, but both of them are playing to win.”