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Sun's Next-Gen Enterprise Java

The next generation of enterprise Java is (almost) here.

Sun Microsystems today is set to release a preview version of its highly anticipated successor to J2EE, called Java EE, as well as previews of its Glassfish-based Java Application Server and a new version of NetBeans.

Ken Drachnik, group product marketing manager of application platforms at Sun Microsystems, said that Java EE version 5 has not changed much since the specification was formally announced at JavaOne last year.

There are two core enhancements in Java EE that are supposed to make enterprise Java development simpler and easier: EJB 3.0 (Enterprise JavaBeans) and JSF 1.2 (Java Server Faces).

According to Drachnik, EJB 3.0 decreases the amount of programming by reducing the amount of artifacts that developers need to provide ,which makes it simpler to develop applications. JSF 1.2 claims to make building AJAX type Web-based apps much more straightforward for developers.

"The whole focus of Java EE 5 was to address the issue of how do you make Java easier and simpler for developers to develop in," Drachnik told internetnews.com. "And then how do you attract new developers to the Java platform? You do that by making it a simpler platform to work with."

The release is being called a "preview," as the Java Community Process has not yet finalized the specification with a formal final vote. That vote is expected at either the end of April or beginning of May. After the vote is held, Drachnik said, Sun is expected to finalize and then release the Java EE SDK.

Sun is also providing developers with a preview of the Java EE-based Sun Application Server 9, which was developed via the Glassfish open source effort. As Glassfish is open source and is in a state of near constant evolution Sun has taken milestone 5, as a fixed build of Glassfish to build Sun Application Server 9 version.

From an IDE point of view, Sun is releasing a preview of NetBeans 5.5 to help developers take full advantage of the opportunities afforded by the new release of Java EE. NetBeans 5.0 was just released a few week ago.

NetBeans 5.5 will include UML support for the first time in a NetBeans release.

Robin Smith, product line manager of developer tools at Sun said that the UML functionality included in NetBeans 5.5 used to be part of Java Studio Enterprise, so it's already production quality. The new preview release also includes a sneak peak of upcoming SOA design tools that leverage the power of Java Application Server 9.

As opposed to previous versions of enterprise Java and Sun's Java Application Server, Sun is developing the new versions in an open source Manner, which makes the development more transparent.

"Previously J2EE 1.4 and all the earlier versions of Java were developed within the walls of Sun Microsystems and outsiders were not allowed access to the source code," Drachnik said.

Transparency as opposed to participation is the key.

According to Drachnik, "they [developers] want to have the freedom to see the code and see that it's open source, but they don't necessarily want to contribute to the code or participate necessarily in the next generation of the app server."

Though Java EE version 5 is now just a preview, developers of new applications may well want to start using it now.

"If you are in production and developing something that needs to go into production today, you'll use NetBeans 5 as a tool and J2EE 1.4 as a platform," Drachnik said. "If you're developing new applications then you'll want to switch to Java EE 5 and NetBeans 5.5."

It's a busy time for Sun Java preview now overall.

Barely a week ago Sun released a preview of Java Platform, Standard Edition 6 (Java SE 6), code-named Mustang.