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Java EE, Glassfish and Transparency

TORONTO -- Sun's engineers continued to beat the community drum on day two of the Sun Tech Days Worldwide Developer Conference here.

Sun engineers and tech evangelists touted the benefits of Java's next generation of enterprise applications and encouraged the assembled faithful to participate in its development. James Gosling, CTO of the Java Enterprise and Development Group at Sun, belted a similar tune in his day one keynote.

Though Sun has informed developers about the new openness, it's not clear that they have actually engaged much at this point. That is, if the Tech Days' audience is any indication.

Sun engineer Sridhar Reddy asked a morning audience whether it had heard of Java "Mustang". A few hands went up.

Then he asked how many had actually downloaded it. Not a single hand went up, and there was a moment of visible awkwardness followed by a few snickers.

Rich Sands, a Sun tech evangelist, noted that since the November 2004 launch of the Mustang initiative, more than 20 contributions have been integrated and more than 58 have been submitted.

"We're pretty pleased with how this is going," Sands said.

Sands noted that there was a lot of discussion in 2004 at JavaOne about open sourcing Java. The new openness of Mustang, Java EE and Glassfish, among other enterprise projects, is Sun's effort to be more open while still stewarding compatibility and quality.

Sands argued that developers didn't really want open source, but rather they want transparency.

"You want to see source -- want to be able to contribute features, fix bugs and preserve compatibility," Sands said.

There are two keys to the new openness and the ability for developers to get involved: the development community sites that Sun stewards, such as Java.net, and a new licensing structure that enables outside community contribution.

"The old licenses were nobody's friend," Sands exclaimed. "The new licenses are more friendly."

In fact, developers were told that they didn't have to be lawyers to understand or benefit from the new Java licenses or the CDDL.

Though Sun has called for developer participation in Mustang, it is nearing completion, and Sands said that only low-risk changes are being made to the code base. Bigger changes will be held over for Dolphin, Java version 7.0, which is currently targeted for a first-quarter 2006 release.

That's not to say there isn't a need for developers to help with Mustang. Sands explained that Mustang implements a new type-checking verifier (JSR-202) and asked the developer audience to test both the spec and the implementation.

Sun also put out the call for developers to participate in the next generation of J2E development, Java EE and its associated Glassfish open source application server platform project.

Sun Engineer Doris Chen explained that GlassFish is all about creating a developer and user community around Sun's application server code base. She also said its development and associated compatibilities are an important part of J2EE's successor, Java EE 5.0, which is expected in the second quarter of 2006.

Sun engineer Rima Patel told a standing-room crowd that they don't have to be afraid of Java EE 5.0, as its goal is to make things easier while maintaining full compatibility with legacy Java applications.

She said at the beginning of her presentation that, perhaps the most confusing part of Java EE 5 is that it's not called J2SE 5.0. Patel blamed "marketing people" for creating the confusion which elicited a few laughs from the audience.

As to what developers would gain from participating in Sun's development process, be it for Mustang, Glassfish or Java EE technologies, the answer was somewhat esoteric.

Time and again, speakers noted that participation is developers' opportunity to help improve the code they get to use. Participation may also give developers a renewed sense of self worth and pride as well.

Speaking about Mustang, Sands said, "Your code will be downloaded 20 million times a month once it's out (Mustang) so you can feel really good about that."