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Apache Rolls Cocoon 2.1.7

The Apache Software Foundation (ASF) released Apache Cocoon 2.1.7, which includes improvements to the open source Web development framework's speed and ease of use. The Cocoon Project is currently one of the largest Java Based projects in production at the ASF.

Apache Cocoon is an XML-based publishing framework, whose modular approach of component pipelines allows disparate groups to develop components that are more easily "plugged-in" to the pipelines. This is supposed to make development faster and more efficient.

Cocoon version 2.1.7 is mostly a maintenance release that builds upon improvements made in previous versions, including 2.1.5, which was released last May.

According to Cocoon developer Carsten Ziegeler, the three main enhancements are JDK 5.0 compatibility, various improvements in the portal engine and additional features in the Cocoon Forms framework.

"All these changes are driven/feedback by needs/requirements of real world projects and aim to make the development with Cocoon even faster and easier," Ziegeler told internetnews.com.

"We had a more quiet phase last year, but by the end of the year, the development efforts in the Cocoon project increased," Ziegeler said. For some time, Cocoon has been branded as kind of a research project. But today, people recognize that it's not only possible to build complex Web applications with Cocoon, it's also elegant.

"We see a lot of companies building successful applications with Cocoon, and the number is still growing. It seems that especially the forms framework and the flexible portal engine are two key components in this area."

One application built using Cocoon is Apache Lenya Content Management System (CMS). Version 1.2.3, expected next month, will use Cocoon 2.1.7.

In a September 2004 study by MIT, the technical institution chose Lenya as its No. 1 recommendation for CMS usage. In its report, the MIT researchers said that Lenya's cross-platform Java and XML programming (based on the Cocoon Framework) as a noteworthy point.

"The team believes that XML is a forward-looking technology, whose predicted long life and flexibility will justify the long-term commitment of resources to development and support," the MIT report states.

Though Cocoon's popularity may be rising, Ziegeler doesn't necessarily see it as a direct competitor to enterprise offerings like those from middleware vendor BEA.

"I think Cocoon is a competing product to other 'open source' frameworks for Web development," Ziegeler said. "Today, the decision companies still make first is to decide whether they want to use open source or if they want to buy a commercial product with all the usual arguments why open source is better/worse. It will take some time until companies decide simply by the fact what's best for their use case."

That said, Ziegeler noted that open source projects provide an alternative to commercial offerings, thereby providing users with greater choice.

"This creates some kind of competition, which then leads to innovation," Ziegeler said. "I think the companies that are creating services and provide lifecycle management for open source projects by creating software stacks compiled of different open source projects can be seen more as competitors to 'closed' offerings."

The next big step for Cocoon is version 2.2, which Ziegeler hopes will make development with Cocoon much easier.

"Most committers are working on several customer projects, so we all see where potential problems are and what could be done to make things for the developer easier," Ziegeler explained. "So Cocoon is shifting from a big monolithic framework into a more [manageable] core with addition blocks of functionality that you can plug into the framework.

"This will not only reduce the learning curve for Cocoon, but also allows us to work more focused on the various features. In the end, Cocoon 2.2 will be a very big step for Cocoon, and will make the developer's life much easier."