JBoss embraces EJB 3.0, rebuilds portal product

JBoss has added an early version of the EJB 3.0 spec to its products, and also upgraded its portal software. Meanwhile, Iona joined ObjectWeb.

JBoss is upgrading three of its Java middleware products to include an early version of the EJB 3.0 specification and is also releasing a big makeover of its portal-building software, the company announced Monday.

Separately, ObjectWeb, a European consortium developing open-source Java middleware, announced Monday that Iona Technologies has become a member and contributed an open-source ESB (enterprise service bus) project.

EJBs (Enterprise Java Beans) are pieces of reusable server code that include the business logic of an application -- basically what the application does. In an application for approving credit card transactions, for example, the EJBs might incorporate functions such as "check credit level" and "approve payment."

They're useful for building applications that run across multiple servers and have to support large numbers of users. But like other parts of the J2EE (Java 2, Enterprise Edition) specification, EJB has been criticized for being too complex and difficult to work with.

EJB 3.0 is supposed to address that and make developers more productive, in part by simplifying the API (application programming interface) for writing EJB components.

"All the EJB services that were there before are still there, but we've increased what developers can achieve with them and simplified how they get there," said Sacha Labourey, JBoss general manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

JBoss is releasing its implementation of EJB 3.0 in updates to three products -- Application Server 4, the Hibernate 3 persistence engine and Eclipse 1.5 IDE (integrated development environment) -- which should be available for download from JBoss' Web site later this week.

EJB 3.0 is not complete yet; a second draft was released for review in February. But the EJB mailing list is humming as its developers try to complete a final draft in time to for the JavaOne show in San Francisco next week, Labourey said.

The final, approved version of EJB 3.0 will probably not be released until early 2006, when the final J2EE 1.5 spec, or which EJB 3.0 is a part, is also due. But the EJB spec is unlikely to change much after the final draft later this month, so developers can start using it now without fear of big changes later, according to Labourey.

Developers can use Hibernate if they want just the new persistence features in EJB 3.0, rather than a full application server, Labourey said. Application Server 4 includes a tutorial application that gives a tour of what EJB 3.0 can do, JBoss said.

Other Java vendors including IBM, Oracle and Sun Microsystems are also backing EJB 3.0.

JBoss also updated its portal software, although JBoss Portal 2.0 is really more than an upgrade: the company basically tossed out the first release of the software, based on the open-source Nukes content management system, and started from scratch using J2EE specifications, Labourey said.

"Release 2 has nothing to do with Release 1 in terms of architecture and features; it's really Release 1," he said.

Fortunately, JBoss had few customers for its initial portal offering, he admitted, so the big change to Release 2 will not disrupt many.

Portals are essentially Web pages that provide a centralized point for accessing applications such as e-mail or expense report software, or content such as information about a company or weather and traffic reports. The various content windows in a portal are called portlets.

JBoss Portal 2.0 supports a recent Java API specification, number 168, that should allow developers to write a portlet once and then reuse it on any J2EE application server. JBoss Portal 2.0 also supports single sign-on, meaning end users can sign in once to access multiple portals and portlets. It also has content management features for directory and file management. The software will be available shortly at http://jboss.com/products/jbossportal/

Meanwhile, Dublin-based Iona Technologies said it has joined ObjectWeb and kicked off a project called Celtix, to develop a open-source ESB.

ESBs are sometimes employed with Web services to ease the complex task of integrating enterprise applications. They often incorporate a messaging technology such as JMS (Java Message Service) or IBM's WebSphere MQ and act as a type of "traffic police" for routing Web services between applications.

Some functionality in Celtix will come from the Java Business Integration specification. It will also support standard Web services technologies such as WSDL (Web Services Definition Language), SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) and XML (Extensible Markup Language), as well as Web Services Reliable Messaging and JMS. It will use Eclipse-based administration and configuration tools.

Iona hopes the ObjectWeb consortium will help it to release an initial version of the ESB by the second half of the year, the company said.

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