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Sun Updating Portal Server with JSR 168

Sun Microsystems Thursday said it will release a beta version of its upcoming Sun ONE Portal Server next week and introduced a new Java specification to compliment it.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based network computer maker said version 6.2 of the beta release is coming Monday, July 21. Sun says it will stage a controlled early access run on Friday, July 18 to select partners for feedback purposes.

When officially released sometime in September, Sun said its Portal Server 6.2 will include the Web Services Remote Protocol (WSRP) as well as JSR 168, which is now available for public review.

The specification is an API designed to establish a common interface for portlets (Sun refers to them as channels or providers) as well as other key Web services protocols like SOAP, HTML/WML and VoiceXML. Sun said the final version of the JSR 168 is on track to be finalized in late August. The company said the specification would eventually find its way into Sun's networking on-demand billing initiative Project Orion and most likely its provisioning platform -- N1.

Sun is pushing its JSR 168 as an open portlet standard as well as providing a vehicle for it -- something they've been criticized about in the past.

"Sometimes we don't receive the accolades we should in moving the technology to market. When it comes to implementation, we are not always the leader," Sun product line manager Adam Abramski told internetnews.com.

Thursday's release also includes an Early Access version of Sun ONE Portlet Builder 2.0; sample portlets that show how JSR 168 would work; a whitepaper for developers on JSR 168; and the corresponding specification, APIs, and JavaDocs.

Abramski said the release of Portal Server and Builder is available weeks before the company's quarterly software update to provide early access to tools and code to developers.

"Some of the best ways in Sun that we've learned to keep ahead of the curve it to provide early peeks. It's one of the reasons there is such a large Java development community," Abramski said. "Because it's a free tool, we thought it would be a good idea to preview some of the sample code of JSR 168 in addition to the whitepaper to give them an idea of what the spec is all about."

Abramski said one of the last hurdles before releasing the beta and spec this week was to make sure the documentation was viewed by the Java Community Process (JCP) and to make sure it works with all J2EE technologies such as J2EE 1.4, which is due in the next few months.

JSR 168
Portlets are Web components -- like servlets -- that are invoked to in the single capsule or box on a portal page such as My Yahoo!. Each portlet produces a fragment of markup that is combined with the markup of other portlets.

Co-authored with IBM , JSR 168 is an attempt at interoperability between portlets and portals using XML, JAXP, Servlet/JSP, JAAS and other J2EE technologies. For example, a JSP tag library extension or Java Server Faces implementation could be used by a portlet developer to render the portlet's content. In addition, a portal vendor wanting to implement the rendering of the portal page could use a JSP tag library extension or Java Server Faces.

Sun software engineer and co-leader of JSR 168 Alejandro Abdelnur says the specification will help address the areas of aggregation, personalization, presentation and security.

"This way applications can run in any portal server and portal vendors don't have to worry about vendor lock in," Abdelnur said.

The preferences are also supported through various user agents like a browser, phone or PDA.

Since the spec was submitted in January 2002 with an Expert Group formed March 2002, a multitude of Web services companies have climbed aboard to support JSR 168 including Accenture, BEA, Borland, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, SAP and Vignette as well as defense contractors Boeing and McDonald Bradley and car maker DaimlerChrysler.