Java components speeding Web development

The market for third-party Java software components finally seems ready to ripen, promising Web commerce developers a rich harvest of reusable code.

The market is materializing as several influences converge: Java has reached a milestone in maturity with the release of Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE); corporate developers are under growing pressure to deploy Java-based Web commerce systems quickly; and on-line component marketplaces have sprung up, maintaining a burgeoning inventory of components, such as Enterprise JavaBeans and Java applets. These marketplaces let corporate developers buy and download components via the Internet.

“We have a mature object-oriented language for components, and ways to develop them, distribute and integrate them,” said Tracy Corbo, senior analyst with Hurwitz Group in Framingham, Mass. “And people want to develop this way: they either don’t want or don’t have the resources to write all their own code.”

Getting software built faster, and saving time and money in development, are the main reasons for buying ready-to-use components. For these reasons, there has long been a strong market for Microsoft Corp. Visual Basic Controls, and more recently for ActiveX Controls and Component Object Model objects. The same is starting to happen with Java.

“When you want to build an e-business application, you can plug together Java components that someone else has written for an on-line shopping cart, a catalogue, credit card authorization and for e-mailing receipts,” said Sam Patterson, CEO of, an on-line component marketplace in Atlanta. “You’ve now built maybe 90 per cent of your application and spent $10,000 to $15,000 on software components. That’s not even one month of a developer’s salary.”

At ComponentSource, top-selling Java software includes InstallAnywhere for deploying Java programs, a set of Java-Beans for creating user interfaces called JFCSuite, and JClass Chart, which lets users create sophisticated graphs and charts.

In recent months, the marketplace sites have been adding an array of free and pay services for enterprise customers. Buyers can put out a “request for components,” inviting registered developers to bid for custom software work. Testing services are being added and expanded, so the marketplace sites can certify parts of a component’s operation and some level of compatibility with Java APIs and with each other.

ComponentSource has created an escrow service where it stores source code in case the component supplier goes out of business.

Rival site recently released Component Manager, a Java program that plugs in to the Web browser interface of any Java development tool set, such as Webgain Inc.’s VisualCaf