Java app support is on its way

Robert Luken, chief of the PC Acquisitions Contracts Management Office at NASA's
Kennedy Space Center, hopes he'll find time this summer to write Java applications to
lighten the workload of his four-person staff.


Luken's staff supplied technical contract management last year for $18 million in
desktop hardware and software orders. They received orders via File Transfer Protocol,
edited those files and loaded the information into an Informix Software Inc.
Informix-OnLine Dynamic Server database.


From the database, the staff can run reports and generate Hypertext Markup Language
pages for display on the World Wide Web. "We're still doing a lot of things manually
that we could automate," Luken said.


When he finds the time, he will work with a transactional Java tool from Prolifics, a
subsidiary of JYACC Co. of New York.


"If it does everything they claim, it will be quite helpful," he said.


Prolifics 3, due out in September, will be among the first commercial development tools
to use JavaSoft Inc.'s Java 1.1 for high-volume Web transaction processing applications.


NASA will award follow-ons to the PC acquisitions contracts in September or October. By
then Luken hopes to have completed a transactional Java application for vendors to access
the database and update prices and products, "so we don't have to," he said.


Despite Java's shortcomings, recent enhancements make it "ready for prime
time," Prolifics president Frank Vafier said. Web browsers from Netscape
Communications Inc. and Microsoft Corp. will be Java 1.1-enabled by summer or fall, and
just-in-time compilers should have Java 1.1 support by then, too.


Vafier said the Java 1.1 virtual machine performs three times faster than before.
Multithreading is improved, he said, and a new archive file format permits aggregating
Java applets for download.


Prolifics 3 users can build high-volume transactional applications without Java
Database Connectivity links between each Java-enabled browser and back-end database. Under
such constraints, "you quickly run out of horsepower," Vafier said.


Instead, Prolifics has extended its distributed transactional object model to permit
cooperative processing between Web browsers, Web servers and transaction servers. The
Prolifics development package includes transaction processing middleware based on the
Tuxedo transaction monitor from BEA Systems Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif.


"The key to high performance is to break the relationship between number of users
and number of database connections," Vafier said.


Prolifics 3 exploits the publish-and-subscribe capabilities of transaction processing
middleware to push transactions down to the Web browser and "do everything as
efficiently as the architecture will allow," Vafier said. Prolifics 3 detects
automatically whether a browser is Java-enabled and supports HTML as a fallback.


Luken, whose programming experience includes "a little bit of everything except
Ada," said he's found Prolifics products relatively easy to use. He has been studying
other people's Java code and modifying it. "There's a lot out there to play
with," he said.


Prolifics will release its software initially for Sun Microsystems Inc.'s SunOS and
Solaris and for Microsoft Windows NT. A five-user license will cost $35,000.


Contact Prolifics at 212-267-7722.


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