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Sun, Others Prep Java Integration Spec

Several vendors led by Sun Microsystems have published a draft of Java Business Integration (JBI), a blueprint for facilitating Java software integration based on service-oriented architecture (SOA).

Also known as Java Specification Request (JSR) 208, JBI is a new container model for hosting pluggable integration as event-driven services in an SOA, according to David Chappell, vice president and chief technology evangelist for Sonic Software and member of the JSR 208 expert group.

The spec is being developed through the Java Community Process (JCP) by more than 22 vendors, including Novell, Oracle and Sonic. Apache, JBoss and IONA joined Wednesday, and while BEA and IBM had supported JSR 208, both left recently, according to Chappell.

The goal of the spec is to alleviate the pains associated with the integration of software from disparate vendors, providing greater portability and code reuse, both key characteristics of an SOA .

Integration developers will be able fit a JBI-compliant BPEL engine, an XSLT-based transformation engine or XPath-based routing services into one container, paring production costs.

At a glance, JBI might look as though it overlaps with functionality from the BPEL spec, which Microsoft, IBM and BEA Systems spearheaded along with many of the vendors associated with JBI. Chappell said this is a misnomer.

"JBI and BPEL are very complementary in that JBI provides a container environment in which to host a BPEL engine, which will allow that BPEL engine on to other integration services through an enterprise service bus," Chappell told internetnews.com. Sonic specializes in ESBs , which links applications via XML and Web services .

While this may be the case, the emphasis on BPEL seems to be the reason major J2EE software makers IBM and BEA left the JBI table. IBM spokesman Ronald Favali confirmed IBM is not supporting JSR 208.

But Chappell said the prospect of standardized integration seems to scare off some vendors who rely on Java-based application servers and messaging middleware.

"JSR 208 is looking to do standardized integration just as the J2EE spec standardized the app server space," Chappell said. "What that's going to lead to is an increased choice for customers and a reduced cost, and IBM, being one of the entrenched vendors in this space, probably feels threatened by this trend of standardization of integration components."

But IBM, considered by some analysts to be a leading standards driver in the software market, is buckling down on BPEL, which is now being shepherded by standards group OASIS.

"IBM is focusing efforts for business integration around other specs that are further along, such as BPEL," Favali told internetnews.com, adding that Big Blue remains an active, committed member to the JCP.

ZapThink analysts Ronald Schmelzer and Jason Bloomberg called the news positive for the Java community, but issued words of caution to the vendors. Their concern is that because the spec is Java-oriented, it will lock out others.

"There's nothing here that enables the development of heterogeneous SOAs that are deployed on a wide range of infrastructure types, including Microsoft, mainframe and non-Java environments," Schmelzer told internetnews.com. "It might be the foundation for Java-based SOA, which is great, but that will by definition only serve a part of the market need."

Schmelzer also argued the spec will be a tough sell without support from leading vendors IBM and BEA. "What if IBM and BEA come up with their own Java-based spec? They'll need to deal with that," he said.

Bloomberg said one of the reasons there seems to be so much clash between Sun and IBM with regard to Java is that IBM now positions itself as the leading Java software provider, while Sun argues it is still the leader. This has triggered "some kind of holy war" against the likes of IBM and BEA in which Sun is trying to "maintain its tenuous hold on Java."

"There's clearly a need for both JBI and its metadata-driven approach to business integration," Bloomberg told internetnews.com. "Should JBI become established, it will be the best way to support business integration metadata approaches, including WS-BPEL and the related output from the W3C Choreography Working Group on the Java platform.

"However, the political battles among vendors risk sinking JBI before it gains the traction it needs to be successful," he said.

While such political battles have been waged frequently during the last few years, recent events have bridged gaps separating Sun, IBM and Microsoft, generally considered the prevailing camps in software standards advancement. Sun, through its settlement with Microsoft, has joined Web Services standards efforts, such as WS-Notification and WS-Eventing.