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(Nikkei BP Group)

(No.1 High-Tech News Site in Japanese)

  • Corporate Users Put Java Business Systems into Full Operation
  • February 22, 1999 (TOKYO) — Many Japanese enterprises have recently started full operation of large-scale business systems developed using Java software.
    The new systems are for practical business purposes, and are not simply prototypes (See table.).

    Java has been diffusing at a steady pace since the fall of 1997, when Java development tools became available in the Japanese language. This year will likely see many more companies adopting Java.

    Companies that utilize Java expect the following merits: (1) implementation of a cross-platform architecture, (2) reduction of operational loads by automatic distribution of programs, and (3) improvement of development productivity and maintainability.

    Nikkei Computer has conducted extensive market research on the state of Java in Japan, and it has learned that the largest systems generally provide the most merits when Java is used.

    Focus on Inheritance of Program Assets

    The Java cross-platform architecture provides two main advantages.

    First, by using Java there is no need to create programs tailored to each type of platform (even when no environmental unification is achieved on the client side). A program can work in the same way on various platforms, including those of Windows PCs, Macintosh computers and UNIX workstations.

    Second, there is no need to modify programs when upgrading client or server machines to newer versions.

    In the past, the first merit attracted greater attention. However, domestic users that have selected Java recently have started to attach greater importance to the second merit.

    “Client systems could possibly be replaced with some other platforms from Windows 95 PCs, although most client machines are now based on Windows 95. We don’t want to modify systems every time a platform changes, and that’s why we have adopted Java,” said Kiyoshi Hara, director of Nihon Unisys Ltd.’s technologies research & development group (in the Information Technologies & Services Division).

    Most corporate users have views similar to those of Hara, because many have gone through bitter experiences, trying to cope with numerous operating system upgrades, among other changes.

    “Our group built an insurance payment system based on Windows NT3.51 two years ago, but we were forced to remake the system following the operating system update to Windows NT4.0, which required significant time and money. We hope that Java will spare us such a problem in the future,” said Yuusaku Sinoe, manager of the system group at Saison Automobile and Fire Insurance Co., Ltd.

    Fuji Bank Ltd. has adopted Java and hopes to enjoy such merits. The bank is applying Java to terminals of an automatic account-opening system installed at its unmanned branches. Currently, the terminals are based on Windows NT4.0 PCs. However, the bank has hinted of a possibility to adopt various types of platforms.

    Automatic Distribution of Programs

    Alleviating operational loads through automatic distribution of programs is the second main objective among Java users.

    NEC Software Ltd. developed a Java-based internal fare settlement system for travel expenses. The system is used by more than 3,000 people.

    “Because we wanted to avoid installing programs for each platform, a decision was made to use Java. Visual Basic is a good choice for systems operated independently in each division, but systems used by the entire company can only be built with Java,” said Takejiro Miyashita, an information system manager at NEC Software.

    Saison Automobile and Fire Insurance, Fuji Bank and Misawa Homes Co., Ltd. selected Java to “improve their development productivity and maintainability.”

    Java allows for conversion of programs into components with greater ease than other programming languages, while it also realizes high development productivity, maintainability and reusability of programs.

    Mobile Agents and VRLM

    H.I.S. Co., Ltd. and Asics Corp. said that they have adopted Java for technologies exclusive to Java.

    H.I.S., a travel agency, has applied the mobile agent technology to a travel information search system using the Internet. It adopted a processing scheme in which a program (customer agent) for finding information is prepared as a class of Java and then moved to another server for execution.

    Paris Miki Inc., a dealer of optical products, also has been developing a mobile agent-applied system based on Java.

    Asics Corp., a sportswear maker, built up a system that could only be implemented by Java technology. The virtual reality modeling language (VRML) data format was adopted for three-dimensional graphical display. VRML data was due to be displayed with a software product called CosmoPlayer from Silicon Graphics Inc., which is controlled by an application programming interface (API) designed solely for Java.

    Various Restrictions Remain

    Java has met the high expectations of most corporate users, yet some problems remain.

    Various restrictions do exist. For example, Java doesn’t provide perfect cross-platform architecture (depending on the applied system environment). More information about such restrictions is found in the Feb. 15 edition of Nikkei Computer (in Japanese).

    Table: Examples of Corporate Users Running Business Systems Developed with Java

    User Name

    Target Business

    Starting Time

    Whole Company Systems

    NEC Software

    Fare adjustment for travel & transportation expenses

    April 1998


    Bulletin board system

    January 1998

    Nihon Unisys

    Management of employee work records

    March 1998

    Mitsubishi Electric

    Management of employee service records

    January 1998

    Schedule management

    February 1998

    Business Branch Systems

    Saison Automobile and Fire Insurance

    Sales support for automobile insurance

    October 1998

    Fuji Bank

    Account-opening system through automatic terminals

    July 1998

    Paris Miki

    Reference for client/inventory information

    May 1998

    Misawa Homes

    Creation of proposal document

    November 1998

    Services on the Internet


    Simulation of uniform design

    October 1997


    Order receiving and placing for office facilities

    September 1998


    Travel information search

    December 1997

    Dream Train Internet

    Systems such as mail, chat, etc. on the Internet

    December 1997

    (return to news)

    (Masahiro Nakamura, Associate Editor, Nikkei Computer)

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