Java Middleware and SOA: Wrong Together?

Almost all Java-based middleware stacks today that provide support for Service Oriented Architecture  are based on J2EE , which is now called Java EE.

A new startup is out to change some minds about that.

With $4 million in funding from Intel Capital freshly in its coffers, WSO2 has hung out a shingle with a business model built on open source Apache products for SOA.

But why the beef with Java EE?

“The approach of taking a J2EE application server and shoving a Web Services layer in front of is not the right way to go about implementing a services platform,” Sanjiva Weerawarana, CEO of WSO2, told

Coming from a company filled with developers active in the open source Apache Software Foundation, the J2EE dig should be no surprise. In short, these guys say they’ve got a better mousetrap.

They certainly have room to grow in the space. According to a recent Gartner Group report, Open Source software accounts for half of 1 percent of the market, but it could reach 10 percent by 2010.

WS02 is rolling out its Tungsten SOA Application server around a smattering of Apache projects, notably the Apache Axis2 Web services foundation. (The WS02 crew is also active in leading and developing the open source project.)

Apache Axis2 version 1.0 was just released in May and is an implementation of SOAP 1.1 (Simple Object Access Protocol) , 1.2 as well as REST (Representational State Transfer)  for Web Services. The server also integrates bits from Axis2 extension module projects, Apache Rampart which supports WS-Security and Apache Sandesha2, which provides support for WS-Reliable Messaging.

And just to make sure things are perfectly clear, Apache Neethi components, which provide an implementation of WS-Policy specification, are also part of the mix. So is Apache Axiom as an “XML infoset model.”

“It’s a different type of application server. It’s not J2EE, but it is implemented in Java right now as it runs on top of a Java Virtual Machine ,” Weerawarana explained. “We are also working on a C version designed as a highly embeddable library into which we can plug other languages such as php, perl, ruby etc.”

Tungsten can integrate with J2EE Web service-enabled platforms as well as those based on Microsoft’s .NET  platform.

WS02’s Weerawarana knows of what he speaks. He’s a veteran of eight years with IBM’s Research division, where he helped to develop IBM’s Web services strategy. His also an active member of the W3C Web Service Description Working Group and the co-author of some core Web Services Specifications, including key Web services infrastructure specifications such as WSDL , WS-Addressing, WS-RF and WS-Eventing.

Weerawarana general point about J2EE-based Middleware Application servers is that they are built on a 1990s-era platform that supports a distributed object model approach. And that “is the wrong model for the much more external facing applications that we are building today,” he added. “Our model is to say we are starting with a clean sheet, what can we do? How can we get it right. ”

WS02’s next application service, called “Titatanium,” will be an integration server with an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) by way of the Apache Synapse project. Titatanium is expected to be released in the third quarter of 2006.

Though Weerawarana sees competitive challenges from other middleware players, including his former employer Big Blue, and JBoss on the open source side, his biggest challenge is still within.

“Our formula for success is not going to be coming from hiring a bunch of salespeople and trying to sell it to customer but rather by building software that the developer community finds valuable and uses widely.”

WS02 will develop in Apache and is licensing its products under the same license, namely the Apache Software License.

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