More HTTP/IIOP/RMI/etc..

Mark Baker (
Tue, 8 Apr 1997 17:16:31 -0400 (EDT)

Interesting article topic, but not enough content. The only
reason I'm posting it is for the Andreesen/Soley/Berners-Lee
exchange towards the end.

Can any of you followers-of-the-Tim elaborate on his comments?



By David F. Carr

The advocates of the Common Object Request Broker Architecture
standard for distributed object computing are looking at 1997 as the
year their technology will ride into the mainstream on the back of
Java and the Web. But the marriage of the two has introduced
conflicts centering on distributed object communications.

Although CORBA's backers may make up a Who's Who of companies
aligned against Microsoft-including Netscape, Sun Microsystems, IBM,
and Oracle-having a common enemy does not necessarily breed

At last year's Object World East conference, this was an intriguing
idea with some fledgling implementations. Ten months later, the 1997
edition of the conference came as Netscape was in the process of
shipping new client and server products designed to leverage CORBA's
Internet Inter-Orb Protocol (IIOP).

"With Java and integration of the CORBA standard, I think this is
when we'll finally see a rocket attached to the back of this CORBA
stuff, especially with Netscape behind it," said David Linthicum, a
manager of the Systems Integration Practice at AT&T who has been
working with these technologies.

Virtually every speaker at last month's conference made some mention
of Java and the Web as the major force accelerating interest in
distributed object computing. However, there remains some tension
over the fact that Java objects have several options for requesting
services from remote servers. Microsoft is encouraging Java
developers to take advantage of the DCOM (Distributed Component
Object Model) facilities it is building into its platforms, while
JavaSoft is promoting Remote Method Invocation as a protocol for
communication between Java clients and Java servers.

RMI, in particular, is causing confusion in the market, Linthicum
said. "You see a lot of 'RMI vs. CORBA' messages in the newsgroups,
where you've got your Java bigots and your CORBA bigots and people
like me who are both Java bigots and CORBA bigots trying to figure
out what to make of it all." Object Management Group president Chris
Stone said RMI is not a complete solution unless every application
is written in Java. It makes more sense to architect your enterprise
around CORBA and think of RMI as a subset of CORBA functionality
that can be employed in special cases, he said. "In fact, most of
the services coming out of JavaSoft are based on CORBA." But Giga
Research analyst John Rymer said Sun Microsystems is putting out a
confused message that is hurting both Java and CORBA.

"I believe 1997 is the critical year for CORBA to cross the chasm,"
Rymer said, referring to marketing guru Geoffrey Moore's book
"Crossing the Chasm." Moore's theory about the difficulties of
moving software products from an "early adopter" market of
technology enthusiasts to an "early majority" of pragmatists is
cited like scripture in object technology circles.

Rymer's point was that this may be the make-or-break year in which
CORBA vendors will either make the necessary investments in
easy-to-use tools that will bring their technology into the
mainstream or lose their chance at acceptance. They have to act in
the first half of 1997, while Microsoft's distributed object
computing technology is still too immature and incomplete for
enterprise-scale systems, he said. "This is the window of
opportunity the [CORBA] vendors have to take advantage of before
Microsoft starts shipping all the pieces." The advantage of DCOM is
that all the pieces are well integrated and are supported with
strong tools, Rymer said. "If you're going to go with DCOM, you've
got to be totally committed to the Microsoft platform. There are a
lot of good reasons to go that way. But because of CORBA's strength
on Unix, you're probably going to get scalability there before
you'll get it from Microsoft." Meta Group analyst Melina-Carol
Ballou agreed that Microsoft's technology will not solve the
problems her customers want solved. Meanwhile, CORBA is emerging as
a platform that integrates with many other types of middleware to
provide a comprehensive solution, she said. "But there is a terrible
dearth of products that can help you build these applications."
Rymer also said that the reality of Java as a serious development
language is at least a year behind the hype. "In terms of server
development, Java is not even on the map," Rymer said. Java won't be
a solid language for client-side development until 1998, and
server-side implementations will take even longer to mature, he

Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the Web and director of the World
Wide Web Consortium, gave a keynote speech extolling the virtues of
combining distributed object technologies with the Web. He said the
two technologies will continue to follow distinct paths, however.

At last year's Object World West, Netscape technology vice president
Marc Andreessen predicted that IIOP will replace the Web's Hypertext
Transport Protocol. On a slightly different tack, Object Management
Group technical director Richard Soley has been promoting the idea
that the two protocols can be combined in a way that will meet the
needs of both the Web and distributed object computing.

"They've both just moved to version 1.1; they both have problems,"
Soley said. "Version 2.0 is the perfect opportunity for these things
to become the same thing." Berners-Lee disagreed with both
suggestions. "It's worth having two standards, and having one
protocol is in fact a bad idea," he said. Although the two have some
goals in common, allowing the architects of each to draw valuable
ideas from the other, there remain enough differences that an effort
to reconcile the two would be a hopeless muddle, Berners-Lee said.
Instead, the two standards need to evolve in a separate but
coordinated way, he said.

"What will happen if we get it right is that there will be sharing
of things on many levels," Berners-Lee said. On the other hand, he
outlined what will happen "if we get it wrong." In that case, he
said, a Web page that is displayed according to one system of
security and authentication might launch a Java applet that would
use entirely separate and inconsistent security mechanisms to
communicate via RMI.

Only by building consistency among the protocols used by the Web can
it achieve its full potential, Berners-Lee said.


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"When I looked at [Oblix's] stuff, I said, 'These guys understand
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Allaire cited the fact that IntraPower Suite is a server-based
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HTML and JavaScript. "They're what I would call a perfect example of
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IntraPower Suite is shipping for Windows NT, Sun Solaris, and
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Reprinted from Web Week, Volume 3, Issue 9, April 7, 1997 ©
Mecklermedia Corp. All rights reserved. Keywords: java objects
Date: 19970407