Microsoft warms to Java

Microsoft isn't exactly hot for Java, but the company has at least warmed up to it a little, having licensed a JDBC driver to connect Java programs to SQL servers.

Having Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) is not news to SQL Server developers. So what's so new about Microsoft's licensing of Merant DataDirect's JDBC driver, which allows Java programs to connect to SQL servers?

Not much, according to Uttam Narsu, an analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Giga Information Group, except that now it's free and easier for developers to get.

Merant's Type 4 JDBC driver has been available for years, Narsu said. Microsoft announced on Sept. 25 the licensing agreement with Morrisville, NC-based Merant of a beta version of a Microsoft SQL Server JDBC Driver. Microsoft cited a commitment to providing customers flexibility in data management and access as its motivation to buy the driver.

This seamless SQL Server and Java connectivity is for developers "one less hop they have to take," said Vijay Sarathy, senior Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) product manager at Sun Microsystems, Inc. The announcement shows that there is a growing number of developers who want to connect to SQL Servers from Java, he said. Microsoft simply made it easier to do so by offering out-of-the-box connectivity.

"This is the recognition by Microsoft that developers are increasingly using and demanding to connect to backend solutions from Java," said Sarathy.

Could this be a sign that developers want even more Java access to databases? "Java access to databases is critical and important enough that it is a market requirement now," said Narsu. Hence, another reason for Microsoft to get in on the action.

Java's growth in momentum is due to its use as a cross-platform programming language, said Sarathy. As an open standard, J2EE was built with the Java community, "so it's a simplified development for building distributed applications."

Remember though, just because Microsoft is licensing a JDBC driver, it doesn't mean the company is getting back into Java. Narsu warns "Don't read any signs that aren't there." Because Microsoft is a huge company, "a decision by one of its departments doesn't mean they're making a corporate commitment to Java." This could also merely be a way for Microsoft to be in closer competition with Oracle, he said.

Microsoft was unavailable for comment.

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