Version 2.0 of Oracle Corp.’s Oracle9i Application Server, which is expected to ship as early as September, will relieve Java developers of the need to write wire-level representation of data in SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol). This is part of Oracle’s strategy to bring the two worlds of Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) applications and Web services closer together, and to “win the hearts and minds of Internet developers”, said Thomas Kurian, vice-president of Oracle 9i Application Server.

“The aim is to have J2EE applications transparently exposed as Web services, without developers having to write low-level code,” said Kurian.

The creation of Web services involves taking application programs and making them accessible over the Internet. A key feature of Web services is that they are not browser-based, but involve server to server communications.

Currently, SOAP – a wire protocol that uses XML (Extensible Markup Language) for data encoding – is used for applications to “talk” between systems because the J2EE protocol cannot go through the firewall. A wire protocol defines the formats of client and server messages and interactions with various application programming interfaces (APIs).

SOAP provides a simple solution for making remote procedure calls via HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) that circumvents firewall security issues and makes data readily available. However, because SOAP is a wire protocol, the XML data inside the SOAP envelope must be extracted and parsed. “Low-level code has to be written to receive the message, to parse it and push it into Java. This means the programmer has to learn the wire-level representation of data in SOAP,” he said.

With Oracle9i Application Server, however, the developer can program in Java and the objects can be sent as SOAP messages. The SOAP listener calls to the Java layer, the Java component is invoked, and the instructions are then executed.

Said Kurian, “The aim is to simplify the building of Internet applications, while adhering to J2EE standards.”

“The problem we are trying to solve is complex. The idea is to take J2EE and Web applications and to aggregate them into a portal, and then we can wireless-enable the portal so that the applications can be accessed from fixed or mobile devices,” he added. “The solution has to be able to take any content and deliver it to any device across any network.”

Version 1.0 of Oracle’s 9i Application Server was shipped in December last year. A major upgrade, Version 1.0.2, which was released in June, featured a Java upgrade. As part of the effort, Oracle licensed high-performance J2EE technology from IronFlare, a Swedish company, and integrated it into Oracle9i Application Server. With the new Java engine, the application server is said to offer significantly lighter memory footprint, requiring 20M bytes of RAM to run J2EE applications.

Version 2.0 will provide further support for Java standards, as well as business-to-business standards such as RosettaNet and UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration), and better clustering capabilities.

The standard edition of Oracle9i Application Server is available at US$10,000 per processor while the enterprise edition is available at US$20,000 per processor.

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