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Java kept alive by big money

April 9, 1999
Web posted at: 5:13 p.m. EDT (2113 GMT)

by Steven Brody

(IDG) -- Java and money go hand in hand, concluded consulting firm Gartner Group, through recent in-depth research into the key industries responsible for driving in the language.

Figure 1
Source: GartnerGroup

Research conducted by the consulting firm found the finance, banking, and insurance industries to be responsible for as much as 37 percent of Java usage.

"Java goes where the money comes from," said Gartner Group analyst Joseph Feiman. "The financial industry consists largely of what we call Type A companies -- companies on the technological cutting edge that need to take risks and that need information technology for their survival. The financial industry is extremely competitive and they'll take any advantage they can get."

In addition to finance organizations, telecommunication firms and, less often, utilities are classified by Gartner Group as Type A. The needs of the financial industry, however, are particularly well suited to the use of Java, said Feiman. Financial service providers tend not to market to niche audiences, and the "write once, run anywhere" cross platform promise to developers makes Java the ideal platform for reaching as broad an audience as possible. Furthermore, Java applications can be quickly modified and redeployed to accommodate industry dynamics such as fluctuating interest rates.

Figure 2
Source: GartnerGroup
Gartner Group found Java to be used predominantly in something less than its most dynamic forms, however. Providing customers with self-service applications accounted for 67 percent of Java deployment, with loan calculation and application accounting for a whopping 30 percent of the total deployment (see Figure 2).

Higher education was also among the top Java depolyers, accounting for 19 percent of the total. Academia relies heavily on Web-based enrollment to round up as many students as possible for a given course.

The ease of writing self-service applets and enrollment forms accounts for their prevalence, according to Feiman. But as the language matures, Feiman expects to see an increase in more complex applications such as tracking services (like those deployed by United Parcel Service and Federal Express), online catalogs and shopping-cart services, and order-entry. Despite the rapid expansion of e-commerce, these services have not individually kept pace with the finance industry, largely due to the greater complexity and longer time-to-market of the applications.

Figure 3
Source: GartnerGroup

"A prerequisite for the more complex Java programs, is a thorough knowledge of object-oriented [OO] programming," said Feiman. "There aren't so many organizations out there with people who have had several years of C++ or Small Talk [an OO language on which Java is based]."

Security concerns are also responsible for slowing Java deployment in online transaction processing. Consumers, said Feiman, are still more willing to turn their credit cards over to a waiter in a restaurant, than to use them on the Web.

Internet, intranet, and extranet

While Gartner Group research identified the Internet as the home of roughly half of Java deployments, the combined intranet (37 percent) and extranet (19 percent) proved to be the platform of choice for an entirely separate set of applications. A mere 4 percent of institutions deployed the same application on both the Internet and private networks.

Feiman said that most organizations began using Java in the form of applets over the Internet (see Figure 4), but applets have shifted in many cases to private networks, where

Figure 4
Source: GartnerGroup
companies can anticipate more uniform browser usage (different browsers may display applets incorrectly), and where high-bandwidth networks provide better support for large applets.

As Java develops, Feiman anticipates a shift to server-side Java (or servlets) as the preferred use for Java.

"Server-side developers have begun choosing Java applications and servlets for features that make it possible to program complex, changeable, and maintainable distributed business logic," concluded the report. "The shift from client-side to server-side Java represents the next, higher phase of Java adoption, and it will require [application development] organizations to master OO technology and distributed computing."

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