Volume 3, Number 19 -- June 7, 2006

Mainsoft Brings .NET Applications into J2EE Portals

Published: June 7, 2006

by Alex Woodie

There are some things that just do not mix well. Cats and dogs. Oil and water. Red states and blue states. In the world of application development, it's Java and .NET. IT shops generally pick one camp and stick with it. However, for reasons outside of their control, organizations sometimes are forced to support both languages and their associated middleware stacks. While technologies such as Web Services can provide some integration, the awkwardness of a joint Java-.NET application never fully goes away. A new offering from porting specialist Mainsoft aims to make the two languages play well together on Web portals.

Mainsoft has been in the language-interoperability and Windows application-porting business for some time. The company, which was one of the original licensees of Microsoft's Windows source code back when Windows NT launched in the 1990s, made a name for itself with its Visual MainWin runtime environment that lets Windows applications run on IBM mainframes and Unix servers.

Since that time, the Silicon Valley company has moved on to developing tools for converting .NET applications to the Java environment. In 2004, the company introduced Visual MainWin for J2EE, a set of Visual Studio plug-ins that enable C# and Visual Basic.NET developers to create Java 2, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) applications. This product lets developers work almost entirely within Visual Studio to develop, debug, and test their applications, and then, at deployment time, it takes the Microsoft Intermediate Language (MSIL) source code and transforms it into standard Java bytecode. While it is a one-time conversion, as opposed to a real-time process, a run-time component is also needed. For this, Mainsoft uses the Project Mono's open source implementation of Microsoft's compilers and the Common Language Runtime (CLR) environment.

Last week, Mainsoft announced the general availability of the next product in that line, called Visual MainWin for J2EE, Portal Edition. The new product is very similar to its older sibling, except that it converts ASP.NET applications into JSR 168-compliant portlets that can run on any J2EE-compliant portal server.

IBM has been working very closely with Mainsoft with both Enterprise Edition and Portal Edition, and while Enterprise Edition has proved it can run on other J2EE environments, such as BEA WebLogic and the open-source Apache Tomcat, Portal Edition at this point has only been certified for IBM's WebSphere Portal Server.

Yaacov Cohen, president and CEO of Mainsoft, says Portal Edition fills a need in the market for Web portal development tools. "We've found in the field that the J2EE portal is the meeting point [for Web applications], regardless of the programming language," he says. "But .NET applications are really second-class citizens in the J2EE portal. You don't get single sign on, you don't get inter-application communication . . . So really end users are affected by the gap in .NET and Java integration."

Many organizations have sought to connect Java and .NET portlets using the Web Services for Remote Portlets (WSRP) standard. "But then the ASP.NET applications are running remotely, rather than locally, so you don't have access to all the services the portlet provides," Cohen says. "From our end, they're getting the high level of integration that a Java rewrite would deliver. But we're enabling .NET code protection without touching the code, just recompiling."

Another benefit of Portal Edition is consistent branding across various parts of a portal. Mainsoft's technology is sensitive to the active style sheet in use by the portal, so changes to one part of the portal are automatically reflected in other parts. Administrators are also able to use existing tools for monitoring Java transactions, Cohen says. "From a system administrator standpoint, he's getting a Java WAR file, and can use all the performance tools on the back end," he says. "At the end of the day, from his standpoint, he doesn't even know it's an ASP application."

Mainsoft foresees larger firms using Portal Edition, particularly companies in the banking, insurance, and retail industries. The product can be used by end-user organizations, or its porting capabilities can be utilized as a service through a third party; in either case, the ASP.NET source code will need to be available.

IBM has lined up two of its business partners to provide full-service application porting using Portal Edition. These business partners include TamGroup, a systems integrator based in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Prolifics, a New York City company specializing in WebSphere, Tivoli, and Rational.

Visual MainWin for J2EE, Portal Edition, is available now. The software has been certified to run on WebSphere Portal running on all IBM hardware, including iSeries, zSeries, pSeries, and xSeries. Licenses for the Visual Studio 2003 plug-in cost $5,000 per developer, while the runtime component costs $7,500 per deployed CPU. Support for Visual Studio 2005 should be delivered in 2007, Cohen says. For more information, visit


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Editor: Alex Woodie
Contributing Editors: Dan Burger, Joe Hertvik,
Shannon O'Donnell, Timothy Prickett Morgan
Publisher and Advertising Director: Jenny Thomas
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