App Server Vendors Race To Embed Java EE 5 Support

Java EE 5 aims to simplify development, but most shops aren't using it yet because of lack of software support. Help is on the way: Many of the top application vendors expect to have compatible updates shipping by early next year.



The new version of the enterprise Java platform that shipped in May was such a comprehensive overhaul that Sun Microsystems retired the J2EE name and introduced a new moniker: Java Enterprise Edition 5.

But solution providers say they don't expect serious Java EE 5 development work to begin until the major application server vendors deliver compatible updates.

"We have it in our lab, and one of our customers has it in their lab, but no one is deploying it yet," said Robert Abate, principal at RCG Information Technology, an Edison, N.J., services firm with a large J2EE practice.

"All of our clients are on application servers that don't support it yet, and none of our clients would be willing to deploy anything on a beta application server," said Aaron Mulder, CTO of Chariot Solutions, Fort Washington, Pa.

Java EE 5 aims to simplify overall Java development. The most interesting thing about it, according to some solution providers, is the Java Persistence API, or JPA. "There are people that would never consider using [Enterprise JavaBeans, or EJB] who will use the JPA," Mulder said.

Adoption may be spurred, however, as top vendors are moving quickly on Java EE 5 support. By early next year most will have compatible updates shipping.

Here is a roundup of Java EE 5 activity among the major vendors:

Sun: Project GlassFish is the open-source initiative that created the first Java EE 5-compatible application server, Sun's Java System Application Server Platform Edition 9.0, which shipped in May. The software is both Sun's free, starter application server and a reference spec for other vendors to consult for their implementations.

GlassFish marked the first time Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun had a compliant application server shipping concurrently with a major Java EE update. Sun hoped GlassFish would speed Java EE 5 uptake and is pleased with what it's seeing so far, according to Ken Drachnik, Sun's open-source community development and marketing manager.

"Now, instead of a two-year time line, it looks like most of the application server vendors will have implementations in eight to 10 months," Drachnik said. "We somewhat expected this, but to actually see it happening is exciting."

BEA Systems: BEA got an early jump by buying tools maker SolarMetric last November, acquiring its flagship Kodo persistence engine for EJB 3.0 support. Kodo is available from BEA as a stand-alone product, but its technology will also be a key part of BEA's next major WebLogic update, code-named Dante.

BEA, San Jose, Calif., released a development-only preview release of WebLogic with EJB 3.0 support in May, and is in the final stages of completing its Java EE 5 WebLogic update, according to Blake Connell, director of product marketing for WebLogic.

"Our plan is to have a full Java EE 5 implementation in a WebLogic release targeted for the end of this calendar year," Connell said. "It's subject to change, but that's what on the schedule."

JBoss: JBoss, Atlanta, has been closely tracking Java EE 5 development and had a preview EJB 3.0 support pack available for its current application server release, JBoss AS 4, more than a year ago. Full Java EE 5 compliance will be part of JBoss AS 5, slated for general availability in the first quarter of 2007.

"We've had most of the key components available in the community for the past year," said Ram Venkataraman, director of product management.

IBM: IBM is on a slower development pace. It just released a major WebSphere Application Server update, version 6.1, in May, and doesn't plan another full overhaul until 2008.

Meanwhile, it will appease developers looking for Java EE 5 functionality with "feature packs," which Mark Heid, IBM's director of application infrastructure product management, cast as fully supported, production-ready add-ons for WebSphere 6.1.

"We see two types of customers right now, and the majority type is telling us, 'You're shipping things to us so quickly and comprehensively that we're having a hard time consuming it," said Heid. That feedback prompted IBM, Armonk, N.Y., to focus its priority WebSphere development on ease-of-use enhancements, rather than compliance with the newest specs.

For early adopters, IBM is readying three feature packs addressing pieces of the Java EE 5 spec. The first two, for Web services and SOA, are in alpha testing and scheduled for general availability in the first half of 2007. An EJB 3.0 feature pack will go into testing in the first half, though Heid wouldn't commit to finishing and shipping it in 2007. In 2008, IBM plans to have its next major WebSphere release, with full Java EE 5 support.

Oracle: Oracle declined to comment on its road map. The Redwood Shores, Calif., company contributed a key technology to GlassFish, TopLink Essentials, the reference implementation of EJB 3.0's JPA.

Oracle's latest release, Oracle Application Server 10g Release 3, includes an EJB 3.0 implementation, but the company has not publicly mapped out a time line for full Java EE 5 support.

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