IBM leads drive to make EJB neutral

IBM Corp. is leading the call for Sun Microsystems Inc. to cede stewardship of its Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) specification to a neutral standards body, such as the Object Management Group (OMG).

This call from IBM and other vendors comes as Sun plans to unveil in April Java2, Enterprise Edition. An “enabling solution,” it comprises a collection of server-side Java technologies — with EJB at the core — for creating server-centric applications, said Bill Roth, product line manager for Java2, Enterprise Edition, at Sun’s Java Software division in Cupertino, Calif.

Formerly code-named Java Profile for the Enterprise, the Enterprise Edition of Java2 builds on Sun’s Java2, Standard Edition, that was announced in December. It gives application server vendors and developers the means to serve up JavaBean- and Java Server Page-based Web applications using elements such as EJB run times and deployment models, Roth said.

The EJB specification, about seven months into a two-year maturation process overseen by Sun, is currently in the review process for Version 1.1, code-named Moscone. Now at 292 pages, the specification is expected to arrive in a final form in June.

Once that occurs, the specification should be opened up to a standards organization, said vendors such as IBM and application server maker Bluestone Software.

“The EJB spec is getting bogged down and bloated,” said Bob Brickel, senior vice-president of products at Bluestone Software in Mount Laurel, N.J. “The problem with any Java API is how to control it. It would be good to open it up to get higher quality.”

IBM views the OMG as an appropriate steward of EJB.

“I can imagine OMG becoming the logical body for the EJB spec. It’s an object spec more than a language spec,” said John Swainson, general manager, application and integration middleware at IBM in Somers, N.Y. “OMG already has work under way in CORBA 3 to converge CORBA 2 and EJB.”

An OMG official welcomed IBM’s idea.

“We believe Java and EJB should be in a process where it’s truly open,” said Bill Hoffman, president of the OMG in Framingham, Mass. “We would welcome the move.”

Sun’s Roth said such a scenario is not likely during the next two years. “We are gratified that IBM thinks EJB is so mature that they would suggest we turn it over to a standards body,” Roth said. “But we have no specific plans to turn a specific technology on top of Java2, like EJB, over to a standards body. We believe our process is the most inclusive and efficient way to advance the technologies, and we will use our process probably throughout the end of our road map.”

One analyst agreed. Known for its time-consuming methods, the OMG would slow the EJB process too much, said Anne Thomas, an analyst at the Patricia Seybold Group in Boston.

“EJB needs two more releases” before Sun relinquishes control, Thomas said. “If Sun does it, it will get done. Going to the OMG will throw molasses on the process.”