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Sun Serves Up Some Java EE 6 in GlassFish

The next big thing for enterprise Java isn't quite ready yet, but that's not stopping Sun Microsystems from rolling out an app server release that shows off some early Java EE 6 features.

Sun's GlassFish Enterprise Server V3 Prelude is a modular Java application server that is targeted at the web tier of applications. The new Glassfish release could help push the envelope for Java EE 6, which isn't expected to be formally completed until spring of 2009.

"We're trying to enable the concept of dynamically loading, where applications only load what they need," Tom Kincaid, executive director of Application Platform, told InternetNews.com. "We're trying to combat the idea that Java EE is too cumbersome."

Glassfish is Sun's open source Java application server. Paul Hinz, director of Java Enterprise System at Sun (NASDAQ: JAVA), explained that the new release is called v3 Prelude because v3 is the version that Sun is working toward and will come out in spring/summer of 2009. Though officially titled Prelude, the release will be fully supported by Sun, which claims the release is production ready.

Hinz noted that Glassfish v3 is a modular architecture that includes a base kernel with blocks that plug in as modules. In the Prelude release, Sun is including the first Web tier blocks with the plan being to include a complete set of Java EE 6 blocks for the final Glassfish v3 release in 2009.

Glassfish v3 Prelude will include enhanced abilities for users to run dynamic development languages in addition to pure Java. One of the languages highlighted by Hinz is Ruby, which is supported on Glassfish as JRuby. Hintz noted that to date, Sun has seen demand for running Ruby applications on a Java app server with some demand for users that want to run the Ruby on Rails framework as well.

Though Ruby is being supported, Sun isn't rolling out the red carpet for the PHP dynamic language just yet.

"We haven't seen demand for PHP, but that's probably because we haven't really offered it yet," Hinz said. "We do believe it's a popular language, but we haven't seen people begging for it on Java."

According to Hinz, one of the missing Java EE blocks from the Prelude release is full Enterprise Java Beans (EJB) support. The full EJB 3.1 specification is a key part of the Java EE 6 release and will be available as an add-on to the Prelude release.

The Java EE 6 development process has been underway since at least July of 2007, when JSR-316 was approved by the Java Community Process (JCP). Kincaid explained that what was approved in the JSR was not the final specification, but rather it was the decision to move forward on forming an expert group to fully develop the specification.

"Before you can begin working on the spec, the executive group has to agree that there is need for the specification," Kincaid explained. "That's what was approved and we're making steady progress."

Kincaid expect that Java EE 6 will be finalized by the time Sun's JavaOne conference gets underway in May of '09.