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Sun Web Services Tools On The Rise

Sun Microsystems Friday gave developers their first sneak peak at the company's Web Services Development Pack (WSDP) and its accompanying tutorial.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based networking giant, which is expected to bundle the software for free distribution this June, made the first early access (EA1) download available as a convenience for developers to help them begin building and testing their Web services.

The technologies comprising the Java WSDP include the Java APIs for XML included in the Java XML Pack, JavaServer Pages Standard Tag Library ("JSTL"), Ant Build Tool, Java WSDP Registry Server, and Tomcat Java Servlet and JavaServer Pages container.

The EA1 pack has been tested with various configurations with the Java 2 SDK, Standard Edition version 1.3.1_01, 1.3.1_02, and 1.4 on platforms such as Solaris 2.8, Windows 2000, Professional Edition, Windows XP, Professional Edition and RedHat Linux 7.2. The download also includes software developed by the Apache Software Foundation. Sun says EA2 is due out in March.

"There are two parts within the Java specification request," says Sun Java and XML Technologies senior product manager Peter Kacandes. "The first objective is to produce a particular set of features for Java XML led by Sun and fold them into the core of the Web services pack. The other aspect is developing XLM-based RPC (remote procedure call) systems that are familiar to programmers who want to invoke a piece of code functionality that exists on a remote system."

Kacandes says the way Sun has done this is through SOAP 1.1 language with attachments and XML messaging which works like a digital exchange of purchase orders that are recognized by both systems.

"The other important aspect of the pack is developer convenience," says Kacandes. "We are working with all the tools vendors and there are hooks for tools developers, which means that by the time we ship the final version it will support what ever tools the developer likes to use."

Because it has so many swappable parts to it, Web Services are often likened to the invention of movable type by Johannes Gutenberg... but this time data and APIs can be interchanged at will.

Sun's strategy has been to work in the open architecture and open source world. The process takes a little bit longer because each component needs group approval. But Sun is hedging its bets that the finished product will be something that developers can live with now and in the future.

"We don't try to hem them in through proprietary platforms," says Kacandes. "Our developers have access to standard APIs and import that across the smallest smart card or the largest server. Once they develop the skills they have the ability leverage those skills across several markets."

And unlike .NET, Sun says developers using the Java technology do not have to retrain and start development from scratch.

Sun is scheduled to talk with analysts about their Web Services strategy and the rest of their offerings in San Francisco this week.