Thanks for the pointers on Atomikos. I will consider it if the opportunity arises. We're doing technical testing of our current app server. If we run aground, I will take up the offer to contact you to see whether Atomikos could be an option.
Regarding the templates, I have heard your argument before, but I think it is faulty. Raw JDBC code is so verbose and error prone that not using something like DbUtils or Spring-DAO is only to ask for needless pain. I would much rather wrestle with some ignorant manager than with JDBC. I also think that when demonstrating Spring, the increase in clearity and compactness is worth the effort of explaining JdbcTemplate.
But maybe that is just me, I just think JdbcTemplate is the closest thing you can get to a free lunch. :-) That's just my view, though. It's a pretty interesting discussion, deciding what tools to use...