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IBM Clears Path Between .NET, J2EE

For the most part, ISVs and end users have been able to choose between .NET and J2EE for their application server platforms. Now thanks to a new partnership between IBM and Mainsoft, they can do both.

Mainsoft's new Visual MainWin for J2EE version 1.7, also called "Grasshopper," is now IBM-validated and provides single source code deployment of .NET applications for IBM's WebSphere Application Servers running on Linux.

Both IBM and Mainsoft argue that the new initiative isn't about replacing Windows servers, but rather about breaking platform lock-in and providing additional opportunities for ISVs and end users.

Version 1.7 integrates with Microsoft's Visual Studio .NET development environment. It takes C# and Visual Basic.NET code and produces Java bitecode that will run natively on IBM's Websphere.

There is no performance gap in moving .NET apps to J2EE, according to Yaacov Cohen, president and CEO of Mainsoft. He explained that Visual MainWin provides native J2EE performance and is, "a no compromise J2EE version that provides a true Java binary."

Visual MainWin isn't the only .NET on Linux play out there. Novell's Mono also aims to provide an open source implementation of the .NET framework on Linux, though both Mainsoft and IBM argue that Mono is targeted at a different market segment.

"We are partnering with Mono and it's really two different offerings," Cohen told internetnews.com. "Mono is running directly on Linux and they are very focused on the desktop. We are exclusively focused on the server,"

"We rely on the J2EE application server, the bite code is Java bitecode and it's run and executed by the Java virtual machine on the application server runtime."

IBM's Scott Handy, vice president of worldwide Linux and open source, agreed that Visual MainWin is a different type of solution than Mono. It's a solution that plays well into IBM's whole multi-platform strategy.

"With Visual MainWin, ISVs don't just get Linux they get multi-platform Linux that can be run on x86, Linux on Power or Linux on the Mainframe," Handy told internetnews.com. "We don't have those Mono ports at this particular point.

"In a broad sense there are a lot of people working on the elusive nirvana of cross-platform development," Handy added. "This is a very specific area where we firmly believe and espouse as part of our strategy to use a language and an architecture that automatically gives you cross platform."

Handy noted that IBM would prefer that people write in Java to achieve cross-platform compatibility in the first place, though he knows well that there are still a significant number of applications and ISVs that are written in the .NET framework.

With Visual MainWin, those applications can now just compile out a version of that application that is in Java bitecode and take advantage of additional platforms without having to do a rewrite.

Making .NET applications run on IBM's Websphere isn't necessarily a migration play, either, but rather a market reach effort. Instead of providing applications that run just on .NET, ISVs can now provide their customers with both .NET and J2EE versions.

"In the whole five years I've been doing this, I've never come into an ISV and said we want you to switch from Windows to Linux," Handy said. "The right answer there is that you should keep Windows and add Linux for incremental opportunity.

"This fits right into that for those that have not yet done it and we would say that this is certainly one of the easiest ways to do it.