Sun seeks to spur app server adoption

Sun Microsystems Inc. hopes to make a bold leap in the Java application server space with its upcoming Sun ONE Application Server 7 Enterprise Edition, featuring high availability.

Having trailed companies such as BEA Systems Inc. and IBM Corp. in market share, Sun is looking to turn things around by focusing on a high availability database layer in the product that is based on technology acquired through its aquisition of Clustra Systems in 2002. Sun’s high availability technology is intended to ensure 99.999 uptime for applications such as e-commerce transactional systems, according to Sun officials, who discussed the technology during a “chalk talk” session in San Francisco earlier this week.

“What we do is we create a high availability layer, which allows us to store the information of, say, a shopping cart, into this [data] store,” said Joe Keller, vice-president of marketing for Java Web services and tools at Sun.

The high availability database layer features state information on transactions. Transactional loads can be shifted between application servers in the network if needed, Keller said.

While the current version of the enterprise application server, release 6.5, has had high availability support, Version 7’s support of the Clustra technology boosts real-time database functionality and scalability, to 24 processors per system. Version 7, which is set to ship in September for US$10,000 per processor, also is compliant with the J2EE 1.3 Java specification, which features container management support for access to a database without requiring programmer involvement, according to Sun.

Load balancing in Version 7 will enable uptime when taking down an application server for maintenance. Additionally, the high availability layer enables performance boosts through the addition of more processors, rather than having to add more application servers.

“It’s a new way of implementing high availability in application servers,” said Deborah Andrade, product line manager for Sun ONE Application Server.

The Enterprise Edition features the same code as the Standard Edition of the application server, but adds high availability and load balancing, according to Sun. Developers can transfer skills from the lower-level standard platform to the enterprise edition.

Sun will add J2EE 1.4 compliance to the application server, featuring conformance to Web services specifications, in 2004, Sun officials said.

Sun’s 4 per cent market share in application servers in 2002 trailed far behind IBM, with 38 per cent of the market, and BEA, with 30 per cent, according to a study by Gartner Inc.