Java Developer Idolizes .NET

Grad student with a Java dev focus wins the New York City .NET User Group’s Speaker Idol competition, and learns to love .NET in the process.

Gautam Arora had a summer that most aspiring software developers would envy. The Georgia Tech grad student spent 11 weeks as a paid intern at Morgan Stanley, where he helped bridge the gap between the .NET-based order-generation process used by portfolio managers with operational systems that are built in Java.

It's worth noting that Arora, a native of Bombay, India, is a Java developer who came to New York this summer with no prior .NET programming experience. The clincher, though, was that his project outshined presentations of five other seasoned developers who all outlined their own respective programming case studies at an "American Idol" -- themed bakeoff called Speaker Idol held by the New York City .NET User Group last month.

Interoperability Solution
When Arora began his summer internship at Morgan Stanley's Investment Management Group, the firm's asset-management unit, he took on the task of providing better interoperability between the company's trade order-generation tools. These tools are used by portfolio managers and are developed in Visual Basic for Applications using Microsoft Office as a front-end and disparate Java-based back-end systems.

Arora says replacing Office with a Java-based UI was not an option. "Office in the enterprise is ubiquitous, it's familiar, it's powerful and extensible -- why take it away from my users and try to make a Java UI?" Arora explains.

Instead, he spent six weeks building reusable service-oriented apps (SOAs) using Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO). The SOA-based components allow connectivity between Office Business Applications and Java-based back-end infrastructure such as IBM's DB2 and Sybase databases. Those repositories are typically non-Windows-based and running on Linux and Apache servers.

VSTO's rapid application-development environment allowed him to create .NET services that could be consumed by different Java-based systems, Arora explains. The goal was to improve the business process of how trade orders are generated. "It provides access to business process services in a standards-based approach," he says of the way processes are defined in VSTO.

"The code is not just written in VBA [where just] one portfolio manager is going to use it," he adds. "[Now] everybody is going to use it, it will run on a Java back-end."

To build the order generator, Arora used VSTO 2003 using C# and WinForms. On the back-end he used Sun Java EE, Apache CXF, JAXB, Hibernate, Spring and Apache Tomcat, among other tools.

Quote: Gautam Arora, Java Developer

.NET Newcomer
Arora admits the biggest challenge was that he had never used .NET or Visual Studio before. "I'm a Java developer at heart," Arora says, though he adds he didn't encounter any difficulty figuring out .NET and VSTO. "It's a different world, but it's been very nice."

Does that make Arora a .NET convert? "I can think of some use cases where I might expand on my .NET experience," he says.

Arora was the only student in the competition. The six developers displayed a variety of programming efforts -- from the use of F# to arithmetic algorithms -- before a panel of four judges: Andrew Brust, chief of new technology at twentysix New York, blogger Mary Jo Foley, Kathleen McGivney, a software consultant, and Peter Laudati, a developer evangelist at Microsoft. Stephen Forte, chief strategy officer at Telerik Inc., organized and moderated the event.

"We thought his presentation was the most broad-based and well-rounded, and he did the best job of conveying a business case -- really explaining it clearly," Brust says of the panel's decision to name Arora the winner. The prize: an Xbox 360.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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