Shifting Alliances With J2EE 1.4

SAN FRANCISCO — The bickering that hindered Java
enterprise development in the past has subsided for now, prompted in part by
Microsoft.

A large group of IT firms rooted in J2EE development said Monday that
they are putting aside their differences to make sure that compatibility is
attainable, now that J2EE version 1.4 is working its way through the
marketplace. Santa Clara, Calif.-based network computer maker Sun
Microsystems sponsored the press event here, which also
brought partners and sometimes rivals IBM, Oracle,
BEA, Borland,
JBoss and others to the table.

“This is less about the bitching and moaning and moving past it and
saying to the enterprise, ‘Let’s do something productive,'” John Loiacono,
Sun ‘s new executive VP of software, told internetnews.com. “As an
industry and as a company, we’ve standardized implementation. Now it’s about
who has the best version of J2EE, who has the fastest, the most secure.”

A big motivation for the niceties is Sun’s landmark
$1.9 billion deal with Microsoft. So far, the J2EE community is split
between those who have relationships with the Redmond, Wash.-based software
giant and those who rely on Sun. Most are curious to see whether Sun will
have a positive influence on Microsoft or whether it will be the other way
around.

Those who have worked with Microsoft, especially on the Web services
standards bodies, have already worked out their compatibility issues . Mark
Heid, IBM’s program director for WebSphere, said the company’s next
generation J2EE application server will align much more with both the .NET
and Java platforms. BEA Deputy CTO Benjamin Renaud said his company’s
WebLogic platform is more than just a bag full of APIs that
allow for piecemeal interoperability.

On the other side of the coin is JBoss. CEO Marc Fleury said even though
his platform is closer to Microsoft than it is to Java, he’d appreciate a
better relationship with Microsoft. He suggested that protocols like DHTML
in browsers will help with renderings, and applets will control the session
on the client side.

Sun has identified improving interoperability between Solaris and Windows
servers, and bringing the companies’ respective Web services architectures,
.Net and Java Web Services, into closer alignment as its top priorities, but it
has not publicly disclosed its roadmap.

Michael Dortch, principal business analyst with the Robert Frances Group,
suggested that the discussion isn’t so much about Java vs. .NET as it is
about where each makes the most sense.

“More unification among Java’s adherents should mean lower development
costs and support challenges,” Dortch told internetnews.com. “The new
Microsoft-Sun rapprochement, meanwhile, implies more and better avenues for
Java-.Net integration, as does integration of XML and Web services in J2EE
1.4. However, there are as yet no guarantees of, nor hard and fast time
frames for, such integrations on which IT executives can hang their hats —
or bet their enterprises’ strategies for development and support of Web
applications and services.”

J2EE version 1.4 marks the convergence of XML and Java technology into
Web services and support for WS-I Basic Profile. The latest J2EE spec also
implements both the Java API for XML-based RPC (JAX-RPC) and the Enterprise
Web services specification (also known as JSR 109) in the Java Community
Process (JCP). While the majority of applications out in the wild are still
running J2EE version 1.3, the majority of firms involved said they were
either just launching or on the cusp of releasing products based on version
1.4.

Sun has claimed some successes when it comes to the platform. With the
recent launch of Java Enterprise Application Server version 8.0, Sun
said it now has reached some 900 thousand downloads of the free software, with
40 to 50 thousand downloads just in the last week. The company also said it
has signed up a half dozen more licensees including Shenzhen Kingdee
Middleware out of China. Sun released its free J2EE 1.4 Application
Verification Kit (AVK), which helps developers with Web services testing,
including source code scanning for incompatible proprietary APIs and ANT, an
open source program from the Apache Software Foundation.

While many of the players have collaborated nicely on Java’s application
foundation for Web services , tension between the
development platforms remains.

Even though IBM has distanced itself from the Eclipse Project,
the developer environment is still at odds with Sun’s NetBeans platform. And
then there is the question of Sun. IBM has written an open letter to Sun asking it to open
Java
.

Loiacono denied any need to open up Java more than it is, citing
certain market confusion should Java take the same path as Linux and result
in 15 or so separate flavors.

“I get that request from vendors, but I don’t buy it,” Loiacono said.
“Customers could care less if Java is open or closed. What they keep asking for
is compatibility. Besides, we want to own the technology. What would happen
if we did open it, and one of those vendors would take it and make it
incompatible with the others?”

Heid said that despite Sun’s masking, the two companies are in “preliminary
steps” when it comes to opening up Java’s code to a broader audience.

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