A recent Australian survey has found that 72 percent of respondents have Java initiatives underway. Does this mean Java has become the next ‘must have’ for local organisations?

The survey, carried out by analyst META Group, found a growing interest by Australian organisations in Java application development. The comparative research found that in contrast only 41 percent had iniated .NET projects.

Craig O’Shannessy, director of software development house Perfect Logic, said that the Java work it carried out had probably increased by about 90 percent over the past 12 months.

After having spent the previous two years largely programming in Sculptor for some of his long-term clients, O’Shannessy said the decision had been made to migrate them to Java.

O’Shannessy believes Java is a clean language from a design point of view. “VB’s [Visual Basic] changing a lot and probably improving now, but Java’s become very stable and a very powerful language…with a lot of industry support behind it.”

Migrating his long-term clients to Java meant that O’Shannessy and another developer had to skill up, attending a short training course designed for experienced programmers.

O’Shannessy then wrote a pilot system for his clients–for proof of concept, to “show that Java was up to the job”–which he said went very well.

Following this O’Shannessy said they moved into using Sun’s Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE), which he professes to be very impressed with and describes as a far-reaching and complex specification, particularly for larger enterprises.

Similarly, Paul Watters–a research engineer at government body Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)–has also worked on projects in the last couple of years using J2EE.

Among the aspects of J2EE he liked were the publicly-available libraries and the fact it’s object-orientated, which Watters believes makes it easier to use and learn than languages like C++.

Yet, despite finding that more Australian organisations were opting for Java initiatives, META Group research showed that only 42 percent of respondents had standardised on a platform for the majority of new development projects.

“This confirms META Group’s belief that Microsoft continues to have a strong opportunity to gain ground on Java as a standard for new application initiatives, particularly among the 58 percent of Australian organisations that have yet to standardise on one platform,” the analyst said in a statement.

Michael Barnes, senior program director at META Group, said he had seen some interesting trends in the Australian marketplace in terms of Java application development.

“There’s a group of organisations that I would actually argue that are among the world leaders in terms of best practices around development,” Barnes said. “Particularly in terms of defining the requirements for a development and deployment framework prior to making product choices.”

Barnes believes that Australian companies possibly have more experience in defining requirements for themselves, and understanding the development frameworks.

He also sees ongoing interest in open source here, and thinks that there will be trends moving in that direction over the long-term.