Sun set to release ‘best’ Java update

Sun Microsystems Inc. expects to release its Java Enterprise Edition (Java EE) 5 software development kit and compatibility test suite to developers at the company’s upcoming JavaOne conference, Sun announced Thursday.

In previewing the server software development platform, Sun stressed improvements in ease of use and the incorporation of new technologies, including object/relational persistence.

Sun’s Java Platform, Enterprise Edition 5 specification was approved unanimously by the Java Community Process, the industry group that sets Java standards, midnight on Monday, according to Joe Keller, vice president of marketing for service-oriented architecture (SOA) and integration platforms at Sun. That decision cleared the way for the release of the Java EE 5 SDK (software development kit) and CTS (compatibility test suite) at JavaOne. The conference is May 16-19 in San Francisco.

Keller was speaking during a Thursday teleconference previewing Java EE 5 that featured executives from Sun and from Java licensees BEA Systems Inc., JBoss Inc., Oracle Corp. and SAP AG.

“This is one of the most significant [Java] updates we’ve done in years,” Keller said.

While the executives positioned the official unveiling of Java EE 5 as the main news at JavaOne, they did hint at another brewing development. Sun is working on its licensing and talking to partners to make it easier to distribute the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) with both its own Solaris operating system and its open-source rival Linux, according to Laurie Tolson, vice president of Sun’s Java platform group.

“Java as a server technology has had gigantic success; it’s pretty ubiquitous,” Shawn Willett, principal analyst with Current Analysis Inc., said. “Parts of Java EE 5 incorporate real cutting-edge technology and [others] address complaints people had.”

Developers found programming with Enterprise Java Beans (EJBs) too difficult and also struggled with the complexity of JavaServer Faces (JSF), he added. Sun has worked to address both issues with Java EE 5, which incorporates new versions of both technologies — EJB 3.0 and JSF 1.2 — that are much easier to use.

Willett pointed to the Java Persistence API (application programming interface) as an example of cutting-edge technology included in Java EE 5. The API was jointly developed by Sun and Oracle Corp. and enables programmers to more cleanly map Java objects to relational databases.

Other new features include additional Web services and hooks into Ajax, or asynchronous JavaScript and extensible markup language. Ajax is the collective term used to describe a group of client-side software development tools and standards that help Web applications try to match the speed and usability of their desktop counterparts.

Given Sun’s propensity to open source its other software, rumors have once again swirled that the company might open source Java. “I don’t see them doing it in the near term,” Willett said. He pointed out that Sun is running the Java specification endeavor through the Java Community Process in parallel with Project Glassfish, the company’s open-source Java EE 5 application server initiative.

Every year in the run-up to the JavaOne conference, Sun looks through the Java platform to see what areas might lend themselves to being open sourced, according to Jeff Jackson, senior vice president of Java development and platform engineering at Sun. “We look at everything,” he said, adding that some open-source Java announcements might be forthcoming shortly.

Willett applauded Sun for being a lot more transparent in the development of Java EE 5. “It was an area that Java licensees were concerned about, and Sun has made it much more open by including licensees from the beginning,” he said. “They probably will open it up further.”

One area Sun and the whole Java community do need to work on, according to Willett, is better integration with Microsoft Corp.’s rival .Net development environment. Although some progress has been made since Sun and Microsoft began working together, more needs to be done, he added.

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