Sun unveils J2EE 1.3

Aiming to provide simplified connectivity and easier to manage Enterprise JavaBeans, Sun Microsystems Inc. today unveiled the long-awaited next version of its Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) specification, the basic building block for Java-based application servers.

The new specification, J2EE 1.3, includes new Java connector architecture, Java Message Service (JMS) and XML integration support, as well as improved Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) 2.0, said Ralph Galantine, product line manager for J2EE at Sun.

"Simplified integration" was the top goal in developing J2EE 1.3, Galantine said. The J2EE connector architecture makes it easier to pull data from back-end systems, such as an enterprise resource system or customer relationship management systems, by providing a resource adopter for those particular applications, he said.

The Java Community Process executive committee, a group that includes 15 software vendors, including Sun, IBM Corp. and BEA Systems Inc., recently approved the J2EE 1.3 specification and reference implementation. The reference implementation is also available to vendors for compatibility testing with their application server products. Galantine said he expects most vendors will have conducted the testing by the next JavaOne conference scheduled for March of next year, he said.

The new specification offers changes to EJBs that address problems with container-managed persistence in different types of beans, he said. The new specification also requires that application vendors support JMS and the same version of Internet Inter-ORB Protocol (IIOP) to pass compatibility testing. IIOP helps applications written in different languages in working together. Those two requirements should also address connectivity issues, Galantine said.

Requiring JMS is important because without that stipulation in J2EE 1.2, there was no guarantee that applications could "talk" to one another, said Randy Heffner, vice president of application architecture at Cambridge, Mass.-based Giga Information Group Inc.

Galantine added that 34 vendors have licensed the specification from Sun, including Palo Alto, Calif.-based integration software maker Tibco Software Inc., the most recent J2EE licensee. Licensees each negotiate separate pricing for J2EE with Sun and typically pay an annual fee of 3 percent of net sales for use of the specification.

While J2EE 1.3 offers a number of new features, such as support for parsing and transforming XML with the Java application programming interface for XML, analysts said it doesn't provide adequate support for Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), a standard for swapping XML-based Web services between disparate systems.

The lack of SOAP support presents a problem, added Heffner. "There is no standard mechanism for SOAP within the J2EE 1.3 environment," which hinders portability between applications written in different J2EE-compatible application servers, he said.

"There's not anything in the 1.3 specification that supports SOAP directly," said Galantine. He added that that functionality should work its way into Version 1.4, which is slated to focus on Web services.

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