Sun eyes Java packaging technology update

Through an effort afoot in the Java Community Process (JCP), Sun Microsystems is seeking to upgrade the aging procedure for the packaging of Java applications as JAR (Java Archive) files.

JSR 277, which Sun initiated recently, pertains to the Java Module System. One of its key goals is to modernize the Java archiving system that dates back to around 1996, said Onno Kluyt, director of the JCP.

"JAR files in themselves, they're fine. But they're sort of 10-year-old technology," Kluyt said in an interview at the JavaOne conference on Tuesday afternoon.

While Java was once thought of merely as applets, it is now deployed in Web applications and on systems such as laptops and cell phones, Kluyt said. This mandates taking a look at modernization for packaging of Java applications.

"This JSR will investigate whether it makes sense, for example, to use a different methodology during [application] installation," Kluyt said. Methods of application packaging during startup and retrieval over the Web also could be looked at.

Taking a new look at JAR files is a good idea, said Marc Fleury, president and CEO of JBoss, which offers open source Java software. "The packaging format is one that needs to be revisited. It's still too cumbersome to package stuff in Java."

Deployment of applications requires accommodations for packaging of classes and metadata, he added. JBoss is listed as a supporter of JSR 277 on the JCP Web site.

A timetable for development of the specification has it being delivered as a component of Java Standard Edition 7.0, which is due in 2008. An early draft review of JSR 277 would happen in the first half of next year, with a final draft in the second half of 2007.

The proposal, according to its specific wording, "defines a distribution format and a repository for collections of Java code and related resources. It also defines the discovery, loading, and integrity mechanisms at runtime."

In addition to Sun and JBoss, companies listed as supporters of JSR 277 include BEA Systems, Intel and Fujitsu.

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