Proposed Java standard holds content integration keys

Industry efforts to create a standard connection layer for content repositories such as CM (content management) and portals took a step forward this week as the Java Community Process approved a specification request to create a standard API for accessing content repositories in Java 2.

The approval gives a green light for development work to commence on JSR (Java Specification Request) 170, which is seeking to address challenges with proprietary APIs for CM, document management, and other content stores.

Many influential vendors in the CM and portal infrastructure space are leading the effort, including Day Software, Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp., Interwoven Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc., and Vignette.

The specification attempts to define a standard, implementation-independent means of accessing content bi-directionally on a granular level within a content repository, according to representatives of the committee.

The JSR 170 addresses a significant challenge posed to CM software developers who have to program to so many APIs and interfaces, said Roy Fielding, chief scientist at Day, in Newport Beach, Calif.

“The goal is to bring together the development of CM system software and have them agree to a single API that would be common to all of them in Java, so all developers creating Java applications can program to one API instead of multiple proprietary interfaces,” he said.

This shift would result in lower costs of integration, shorter development cycles, and greater flexibility in platform and vendor choice, Fielding said.

In addition, JSR 170 holds further implications for the burgeoning enterprise portal market.

“JSR 170 is very important for portal development in terms of access mechanisms for the back end of the portal,” Fielding said. “The content repository API would simplify the implementation of portals, enabling portal developers to access many different types of content sources and applications.”

According to Rob Perry, senior analyst at The Yankee Group, in Boston, although tangible results may be some time away, a standard interface for CM is a good idea to help with the development and integration of content-rich applications in enterprises.

“Since there aren’t APIs for these products today, coming out with a standard [API] would allow people to [more easily] build knowledge of how to integrate content management with any other application,” he said.

Both content management and application vendors need to work together to facilitate integration for the successful delivery of content-based applications, Perry said.

“Having a standard way to interact provides additional value, especially for smaller vendors. For the bigger companies it will make it easier to partner and to provide a tighter level of integration,” he said.

The initial expert group for the JSR 170 includes representatives from Apache, ATG, BroadVision, Day, Deloitte Consulting, HP, IBM, Interwoven, SAP Portals, Silverstream, Sun, and Vignette.

The group plans to submit a community draft by July and to have a public draft submitted by the end of the year, according to Day’s Fielding. A final specification could be readied by early 2003, but the vendors involved in the group plan to begin implementing the proposed specification while helping to write it, he said.