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Next Version Of Java Enterprise Platform Delayed

The delay could put the platform for building Web applications further behind competitor Microsoft Windows in delivering native support for emerging Web-services standards.
Sun Microsystems and its partners in building the next version of the Java enterprise platform have moved back the release date for J2EE 1.4 from the fourth quarter until the first quarter of next year. The delay risks putting the platform for building Web applications further behind competitor Microsoft Windows in delivering native support for emerging Web-services standards, which proponents say will eventually redefine application development for the Internet.

J2EE 1.4 is expected to include native support for the Simple Object Access Protocol, the Web services protocol for communications between applications. Ralph Galantine, J2EE product line manager for Sun, says the release date has been revised because the Java Community Process, the industry-standards body established by Java creator Sun to build the platform, needed more time. While Soap support is still planned, other proposed specifications need review before the JCP can work on reference implementations and develop a test suite for compliance. The original date for release was never set in stone, Galantine says, and even the new date is soft and could change. Meanwhile, Microsoft supports Soap in its development tool suite, Visual Studio.Net, and will include its .Net Framework runtime environment for Web services apps within Windows.Net Server, an upgrade to its server operating system line, due by year's end.

Native support for Web services within the Java platform is crucial for Sun and its partners to deliver on a standards-based platform that does not tie an enterprise to any one vendor--a key advantage over Microsoft's .Net Web-services framework on Windows. Time, of course, is also crucial. Microsoft can deliver technology for its platform faster than Java vendors, which have to submit all requests for platform changes or enhancements for approval by the JCP. "The Java community is moving at a reasonable speed, but Microsoft has moved faster," Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillett says.

In the meantime, Microsoft developers are building Web services with Visual Studio.Net. Once J2EE 1.4 is released, it will take months for Java vendors to gain certification for their products, further delaying industrywide, standards-based Java Web services.

Sun and its partners, which include IBM and Hewlett-Packard, will use next week's JavaOne Developers Conference in San Francisco as a forum for capturing mindshare of developers on Web services. At this point, "there's a battle for the heart and mind of developers who write the code that goes underneath the Web-services interfaces," Gillett says. A lot of the weapons used in the battle are marketing, because Web-services standards still don't exist for many services needed by the enterprise, including security, transaction integrity, and management. These standards are expected to take more than a year to evolve.

In the meantime, JCP initiatives involving Web services will be discussed at JavaOne. BEA Systems Inc. will reveal that it has taken parts of its application development framework for its WebLogic application server and submitted them as proposals for the Java platform. The technologies are for defining Java-based Web services within integrated development environments and for bridging Web services to applications. BEA officials say Sun has joined BEA in its submission, which also has support from tool vendors Borland Software Corp. and WebGain Inc. BEA plans to ship WebLogic Workshop, a set of tools for building Web services-based applications for the WebLogic server, by June. Pricing has not been released.

Earlier this week, Sun and IBM said they would unveil at JavaOne technology that will complement emerging Web-services standards for integrating applications into corporate portals. If widely adopted, the proposed technology would replace many proprietary interfaces used by Java-based portal vendors, simplifying the integration process.