Focusing on open source efforts, Sun Microsystems officials last week provided informational updates on the NetBeans IDE and GlassFish application server, noting that NetBeans will have an SOA bent and be extended for other languages besides Java.
Java, meanwhile, may have more staying power as a platform than as a language, a Sun official recognized.
The upcoming 5.5 release of the NetBeans open source IDE features enhancements for SOA and also moves beyond the Java realm with accommodations for C and C++ programming.
NetBeans 5.5 is in a beta test cycle now and is due out later this year. Authored by Sun Microsystems and the NetBeans community at large, the NetBeans platform rivals the higher profile Eclipse open source tools platform.
"We're happy with the healthy competition that exists between the two communities because we believe it spurs innovation and creates better tools for the Java ecosystem," said Dan Roberts, director of marketing for developer tools at Sun. Sun cites 11 million downloads of NetBeans since its inception in June 2000. Eclipse has noted download figures into the tens of millions, although Sun questions how that number was derived.
To boost orchestration of data in an SOA, NetBeans 5.5 will feature a set of visual XML tools to refactor XML so name changes can be propagated throughout an application. "It basically creates a visual hierarchical structure of your XML trees that are kind of comprehensible," Roberts said.
"When you're doing SOA, quite a large amount of your work is actually in mapping and orchestrating data exchanges between various applications," and this feature helps with that, Roberts said.
Also for SOA, BPEL (Business Process Execution Language for Web Services)-based orchestration is featured via technology gained through Sun's acquisition of SeeBeyond. "BPEL allows developers to actually create those orchestrations and express how those components talk to each other," Roberts said.
Version 5.5 features production-level support for C and C++. Supporting these languages in NetBeans is critical to the developing applications for mobile computing, according to Sun. "For our developers in the mobile space, they've really been asking for help and support for native coding," Roberts said. C and C++ tools can be used to build native code on Windows. Support for C and C++ compilers is featured as well as a basic debugger for these two programming languages.
Eclipse, for its part, has had support for C and C++ development.
Sun with NetBeans faces the challenge of Eclipse but has the backing of developers, said Shawn Willett, principal analyst at Current Analysis. "I would say this about NetBeans: It does have grassroots support among Java programmers," even if it has not had a lot of vendor buy-in, Willett said.
"It looks like they're putting in some pretty interesting and useful features in there," such as the BPEL and XML tools, Willett said.
JavaServer Faces (JSF) Web development is enhanced in NetBeans 5.5 with the Visual Web Pack, a visual tool for building Web applications. Visual Web Pack features technology from the Sun Java Studio Creator development tool.
Java specifications being supported in NetBeans 5.5 include several technologies featured in Java Enterprise Edition 5. These include: JavaServer Pages 2.1, for creating dynamic Web content; JSF 1.2; Servlet 2.5, for extending a Web server and accessing business systems, and the Java Persistence architecture for persisting objects in a database. Also featured is Web tier support for Struts, Spring, and other Web frameworks.
Concurrent with NetBeans 5.5, Sun will release the NetBeans Profiler, which examines an application for issues such as performance bottlenecks, race conditions, and thread locks.