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Where Is Java EE 6?

It's in an interesting time to be a Java developer. The custodian of Java, Sun Microsystems, is on the verge of being acquired by Oracle and a major new Java specification is set to be finalized.

Java EE 6 is the first specification update to enterprise Java since the Java EE specification was ratified around the time of JavaOne in 2006. JavaOne 2009 has now come and gone, however, Java EE 6 is still yet to be finalized -- and there's been little mention of where it now stands.

So where is Java EE 6? And why wasn't it announced at JavaOne?

Sun (NASDAQ: JAVA) has been showing off some early Java EE 6 features since November with the Prelude version of GlassFish V3, Sun's implementation of a Java EE server. But InternetNews.com has learned that the company originally intended to issue a press release specifically on Java EE 6 at JavaOne 2009, but it never went out -- though a preview release of Java EE 6 did make its appearance at the show in tandem with GlassFish.

"We had intended to issue two press releases -- one for the release of updates to the GlassFish Portfolio and then a second press release on Java EE 6 preview. In the end, we decided to do one combined press release," Paul Hinz, director of Java EE/GlassFish at Sun Microsystems, told InternetNews.com.

Hintz said that the preview release of Java EE 6 was made available at JavaOne with the GlassFish v3 reference implementation.

He also explained that at this point, the public reviews of the Java EE 6 specification have been completed and that the majority of the specs are in the proposed final draft. According to Hintz, the final release of Java EE 6 is planned for the fall.

It's unclear, however, how Oracle's (NASDAQ: ORCL) new role in Java will impact the release. By that time, the database giant will likely have closed its deal to acquire Sun, which will include Oracle taking over the stewardship of the Java language. Oracle's CEO Larry Ellison was very bullish during JavaOne 2009 about how his company will continue to embrace Java.

Oracle declined to comment to InternetNews.com for this story.

While questions still linger about the implications for Oracle's involvement, Java EE's developers are pushing ahead and fleshing out the requirements that users and licensees will need to meet.

For instance, Hintz said that once the Java EE 6 specification is finalized in the fall, Java EE licensees will need to leverage the TCK (Technology Compatibility Kit) to certify their application platforms for Java EE 6.

However, Hintz said he does not see any particular challenges for migrating existing Java EE 5 applications to Java EE 6 servers.

"Java EE 6 is backward-compatible with Java EE 5, therefore applications developed to Java EE 5 specification can run unchanged on Java EE 6-compatible application servers," Hintz said.

Open source Java SOA vendor MuleSource has a positive outlook on the new Java EE 6 specification. Ross Mason, founder and CTO of MuleSource, said he also sees migration to Java EE 6 as being fairly straightforward.

"The JEE 6.0 spec has shown the most innovation for a long time," Mason told InternetNews.com. "There seems to be a real emphasis on simplicity, which has clearly been driven by innovative open source companies outside the JCP [Java Community Process]. I think it's a great validation that Java wants to change and can do so effectively."

Not everyone in the Java community is as pleased with Java EE 6, however.

SpringSource CEO Rod Johnson told InternetNews.com that he's frustrated with Java EE 6 and, in his view, it sold out on its early promise.

In particular, Johnson said that in the beginning of the Java EE 6 process, he had been impressed by the introduction of profiles, which had been designed to enable developers to run only the parts of JavaEE that they need, making the process more efficient.

"Basically, what happened in the end is that some of the vendors decided they really wanted to have JavaEE profiles pull in things like EJB [Enterprise Java Beans] and JTA [Java Transaction API], and eventually, you end up with something that I think really misses out on the promise to make Java EE a lot leaner and meaner," Johnson said.

"So frankly, we're not tremendously impressed with the final result," he said.