Sun casts light on new Java 2

Taking a few jabs at rival Microsoft, Sun Microsystems on Tuesday showcased eight application-server vendors already shipping products compliant with its Java 2 Enterprise Edition.

Taking a few jabs at rival Microsoft, Sun Microsystems on Tuesday showcased eight application-server vendors already shipping products compliant with its Java 2 Enterprise Edition.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Sun also gave a sneak peek at some of the features that will be included in the next version of the Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) specification, expected to be released in the third quarter.

Vendors such as BEA Systems, Art Technology Group and SilverStream Software highlighted their own work with the Java platform. They also talked about their application servers that are compliant with the J2EE 1.2 specifications, which were released last year.

Sun officials were quick to point out that this platform is already in deployment, while Microsoft's much-talked-about .Net platform is not.

"The biggest news today has to be in the area of delivered products," said Rich Green, Sun's vice president of Java software development.

Faster roll-outs
Green said the platform allows developers to get their applications to market faster and avoids the problem of being locked into one vendor.

"We've also created a standard platform, and that enables freedom of choice," Green said. He and the application-server vendors also stressed that with J2EE, users can still leverage their legacy applications and systems.

Other vendors showcasing their J2EE work included Sybase, Bluestone Software (which was acquired last year by Hewlett-Packard), Borland Software, iPlanet (which is an alliance between Sun and America Online) and Iona Technologies. Hitachi also has a server with the J2EE brand, but the company did not participate.

Notably absent was IBM, the maker of WebSphere, which is commonly placed as the No. 2 application-server vendor in terms of market share. Sun officials said they weren't sure where IBM stands in terms of compliance testing for J2EE.

Green said with the support of the vendors, the J2EE platform now has a market share of between 70 percent and 90 percent. "Ninety percent market share is quite a number to take hold in a year," Green said.

What's in store
Among the new features outlined for J2EE Version 1.3 are better support for the Extensible Markup Language (XML), including the parsing and formatting of XML messages; asynchronous messaging between the client and server and different server components on the back end through Java Message Service; enhanced integration capabilities of Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) and a common query language for EJBs; better and simpler "connectors" to legacy systems; and improvements to Java ServerPages and servlets, including enhancements for distributed or clustered applications.

"You'll see a broader range of services in J2EE," Green said.

Simon Pepper, director of J2EE products for Iona Technologies, said much of the 1.3 upgrade is focused on enhancements to EJBs and tighter integration with the asynchronous message layer.

Pepper, in San Mateo, Calif., said he'd like Version 1.4 to include a way to integrate EJBs between the Java world and the XML world.

Regardless of where Version 1.3 is headed, Arny Epstein, chief technology officer of SilverStream Software, said J2EE Version 1.2 has become a viable platform.

"You're seeing a lot of vendors supporting it," said Epstein, in Billerica, Mass. "It's really caught on like wildfire as an infrastructure platform."

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