Business Applications of Java
This article examines the growing use of Java technology in business applications. The history of Java is briefly reviewed along with the impact of open standards on the growth of the World Wide Web. Key components and concepts of the Java programming language are explained including the Java Virtual Machine. Examples of how Java is being used by e-commerce leaders is provided along with an explanation of how Java is used to develop data warehousing, data mining, and industrial automation applications. The concept of metadata modeling and the use of Extendable Markup Language (XML) are also explained.
Keywords: Application Programming Interfaces (API's); Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB); Extendable Markup Language (XML); HyperText Markup Language (HTML); HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP); Java Authentication and Authorization Service (JAAS); Java Cryptography Architecture (JCA); Java Cryptography Extension (JCE); Java Programming Language; Java Virtual Machine (JVM); Java2 Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE); Metadata
According to Smith, "Open standards have driven the e-business revolution. Networking protocol standards, such as Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP), and the HyperText Markup Language (HTML) Web standards have enabled universal communication via the Internet and the World Wide Web" (2001, p. 4). As e-business continues to develop, several computing technologies are helping to promote its evolution.
The Java programming language and platform have emerged as major technologies for performing e-business functions. Java programming standards "have enabled portability of applications and the reuse of application components" across computing platforms. Sun Microsystems' Java Community Process continues to be a strong base for the growth of the Java infrastructure and language standards. This boom of open standards has opened new opportunities for designers and developers of applications and services (Smith, 2001, p. 4).
Java technology was first created as a computer programming system at Sun Microsystems in 1991. In an effort to show off the potential power of Java, the development team, known as the Green Team, created a simple interactive, handheld home-entertainment device controller. The device was designed for users to control their digital cable television programming. However, digital cable television was a relatively young industry at the time and was not prepared to take on a new technology. Then in 1995 the Netscape Navigator Internet browser was incorporating Java technology ("Learn about Java," 2007).
Applications of Java
Java has rather typical programming concepts and constructs. However, one of the unique features of Java is its portability and the common interface created through its external Java Virtual Machine (JVM). A virtual machine functions like an independent and self-contained operating environment. The JVM uses a software layer that allows applications written in Java to behave like they are actually a separate computer. This provides programmers with the ability to segregate Java based application, which, among other things, helps to reduce corruption of the application and provides for stronger application security (Matlis, 2006).
The JVM enables computers to be able to process more advanced applications. This is achieved because the internally executed JVM instructions actually do most of the work. The key benefit of Java is portability and the JVM can run on numerous different computer systems without needing to be reprogrammed for every computer. In addition, Java is an open standard programming language, which means that there is not a specific organization that controls the development of Java (Lazaridis, 2003).
Java on the World Wide Web
Java has found a place on some of the most popular websites in the world and the uses of Java continues to grow. Java applications not only provide unique user interfaces, they also help to power the backend of websites. Two e-commerce giants such as eBay and Amazon have been Java pioneers on the World Wide Web.
Founded in 1995, eBay provides a platform for e-commerce that can be used in most places in the world to support global sales and distribution as well as local selling abilities. eBay sites include the eBay marketplaces, PayPal, Skype, Rent.com, Shopping.com, and eBay Enterprise (formerly GSI Commerce). eBay uses Java almost everywhere. To address some security issues, eBay chose Sun Microsystems' Java System Identity Manager as the platform for upgrading its identity management system. The task at hand was to provide identity management for more than 27,000 eBay employees and contractors.
All eBay software developers work with Java applications every day. Java's "inherent portability" allows eBay to "move to new hardware to take advantage of new technology, packaging, or pricing," without having to rewrite Java code ("eBay drives explosive growth," 2007).
Amazon.com (a large seller of books, CDs, and other products) has created a Web Service application that enables users to browse their product catalog and place orders. Amazon.com uses a Java application "that searches the Amazon catalog for books and other products whose subject or purpose matches a user-selected topic. The application displays ten books or products that match the chosen topic, and shows the author or manufacturer name, product title, list price, Amazon discount price, and any images relevant to the product. The user may optionally view the positive and negative reviews for the displayed item and make a buying decision" (Stearns & Garishakurthi, 2003, p. 1).
Java in Data Warehousing
Data is created through every day business processes such as production of items, consumption of supplies or resources, sales of goods or services, and customer service activities. In a consumer goods retailer, for example, data is created when inventory is ordered, sales are made in stores, employees clock in and out for work, and when accounts are paid or collected. The larger the retail operation the more data is created daily, and the more important it is for data to be accurate and readily available to support business processes.
Data storage has three major elements:
- The software used to manage stored data (most often database software);
- The technology used to store data (disk drives); and
- The networks that connect computers and computer users to data storage systems.
The importance of database software has increased over the last three decades and has enabled banks, retailers, and manufacturers to grow beyond small, local, brick-and-mortar operations into online global giants. The primary tool for managing large amounts of data is database software. IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, and other software companies offer a wide variety of database software packages. The packages are capable of managing from several thousand up to billions of pieces of data. Database software can operate on desktop and laptop computers as well as servers and giant mainframe complexes. Database software is used in virtually all industries especially those that are transaction focused and need to track large quantities of items or activities.
Although many companies currently benefit from data warehousing to support corporate decision making, new business intelligence approaches continue to emerge that can be powered by Java technology. There are many newly developed software capabilities that include data warehousing and data mining and are being used to collect, create, or analyze business intelligence. These applications can help businesses gain insight into how to retain customers, how customer purchasing patterns may vary and why they vary, as well as perhaps even predicting a customer's future buying behavior based on previous purchasing patterns.
To achieve such knowledge, business analysts must dig through vast amounts of relatively raw data including previous billing statements, shipping information, and perhaps even inventory patterns and inventory levels at different times of the year. One of the biggest challenges in this type of data collection is that this data could be spread across dozens of computer systems with potentially several different operating systems and several different database software packages, which creates obvious technical challenges that have been overcome with to Application Programming Interfaces (API's) and Extendable Markup Language (XML)...
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