Sun Microsystems executives took the stage Monday to unveil a recent contribution to open-source code, Project Looking Glass, and the upcoming Java 2 Standard Edition, version 5.0, known as Project Tiger.
But for a while, the liveliest thing on the stage at the opening day of the annual JavaOne conference in San Francisco was a white tiger. His advance billing by Sun president Jonathan Schwartz was that an 800-pound giant was about to be brought onto the stage, producing a shiver of anticipation through the keynote crowd. Some of its members remembered an incident in Las Vegas last year in which a white tiger in the Siegfried & Roy show turned on its trainer and caused critical injuries. However, the beast that actually came out was an 8-week-old cub that Schwartz frolicked with and fed from a bottle.
Project Tiger itself remains at an immature stage, perhaps one day to be an 800-pound technology giant, but right now is in its second beta or prepubescent version. The general release isn't expected before fall.
When version 5.0 arrives, "it will be the most significant upgrade to Java since it was first released," said Joe Keller, Sun's VP of marketing for Java Web services. Unlike previous updates, which expanded the services around Java, version 5.0 will include additions to the language itself.
The changes coming include an ability to annotate Java code, capturing information in metadata about how it's expected to run and relate it to other parts of the system. Until now, using metadata to describe the code has been an awkward construct in Java. Annotation "will prove to be one of the most far-reaching changes" in version 5, said Jim Inscore, Sun's group product marketing manager for development tools. Another change will be support for generics, or allowing a developer to produce code that can be used with different data types. At run time, the system examines the data type and adjusts the code to run it appropriately. The move saves developers from developing frequently used sequences multiple times, noted James Gosling, former lead developer of the Java development team and a Sun fellow.
Version 5 also will be the first to include Java Management Extensions, which will allow management hooks to be placed in Java devices or running applications. The extensions will mean Java devices and programs will have a standard way of being monitored and managed, with multiple vendors' management tools working with the same code, explained Mark Bauhaus, Sun's VP of Java Web services.
Schwartz used his kick-off keynote to symbolically submit Project Looking Glass as open-source code. Looking Glass is a desktop project that converts the user's screen into a 3-D space, giving the user the ability to rotate from front to rear around the objects in that space. Amy Wohl, editor of "Amy Wohl Opinions," a technology trends newsletter, said, "I'm not sure Looking Glass is anything more than eye candy." But Bauhaus said developers will use Looking Glass to produce a new, rich set of user applications.
Sun also staged the expected launch of its Java Studio Creator, which is designed to bring the ease of development associated with Microsoft's Visual Basic to the Java environment. "We haven't had tools that we could give to Visual Basic developers," Gosling said. The Creator environment is highly visual, using drag-and-drop conventions and drawing lines to connect resources together. A simple departmental application can be turned over to enterprise developers for rebuilding into a more scalable, multiuser application, with the original Java code still serving as its core. For the same thing to happen with Microsoft technology, a Visual Basic Application has to be converted into C#, a transition many Visual Basic developers can't manage, Gosling said. The Java developer "doesn't have that same cliff," he said.
Sun officials also began talking about Project Kitty Hawk, which will fill gaps in the current Java Enterprise System so it can be used for service-oriented architecture, or developing future applications that are independent of the hardware platforms and operating systems underneath them.
To get to service-oriented architecture, Sun will look to add a messaging service expected to emerge from the Java Community Process, Sun's vendor coalition for adding new technology to the Java platform. An expert working group is formulating a specification that would govern messaging among Java Systems, business-process implementation, workflow and other elements of a service-oriented architecture. The year-old effort is expected to yield a proposed spec, currently called Java Specification Request 208, by year's end, with the standard approved sometime next year.
Sun officials concede that making the Java Enterprise System ready for building service-oriented architectures is at least a two-year task. Sun also launched a services consulting group to perform readiness assessment to advise customers where their infrastructure stands in terms of being adapted to service-oriented architecture.
The JavaOne show continues through July 1.