Sun plugs developer package, new Java spec

Sun Microsystems Inc. released a package of software and tools for developers on Wednesday intended to jumpstart their efforts at building Web services applications. The product is a few months behind schedule but to spur interest the company is offering a steep promotional discount.

At a press conference in Boston Wednesday, Sun also highlighted new training materials and online resources for developers. It also announced a new Java specification for Web services integration that passed a preliminary stage in the Java Community Process this week.

Called the Sun ONE Web Services Platform Developer Edition, the developer package includes Sun's application server, portal server, identity server and integration server, as well as its Sun ONE Studio integrated development environment, its portlet builder and other tools.

It aims to provide all the Sun software a developer would need to build Web services, an emerging computing model that uses standard languages and protocols like XML (Extensible Markup Language) and SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) to link different types of business applications together. Sun is competing in the market against more established software vendors such as BEA Systems Inc., Microsoft Corp., IBM Corp. and Oracle Corp.

"Basically it's everything you need for development of Web services through proof-of-concept," said Roger Nolan, Sun's senior director for Web Services Integration.

The offering should make it easier for developers to build Web services applications because the various products are tightly integrated and can be installed as one. A focus was to include tools for security and identity management which are required for important enterprise applications, Sun officials said.

"It's not just a bundle of stuff; we've done a lot of testing and we believe this is the most integrated and complete Java development environment out there," Nolan said.

The license for the products doesn't cover predeployment testing or actual deployment, Nolan said; for that, customers must go back to Sun and buy a full license. The package will be available for Microsoft Windows and Solaris versions 8 and 9, and Sun expects to offer a Linux version in the future, officials said.

The package was first announced in June last year under the name Sun ONE Developer Platform. Sun officials at the time said it would be released in the fourth quarter, making it about three months behind schedule. The product was delayed because Sun wanted to make sure it met "the highest quality control standards," Nolan said.

This week marks general availability of the developer package. In addition, for six months starting on April 1 Sun will offer promotional pricing of US$999, Nolan said. After that time it will carry a list price of US$5,000. Bought separately, developer licenses for the products would cost US$36,000, according to Nolan.

The release comes as Sun prepares to launch version 7 of the Enterprise Edition of its Sun ONE application server, which it has said it would deliver by the end of the month. The developer package includes the Standard Edition of the product which should be adequate for most developer needs, according to Nolan.

Also Wednesday Sun unveiled the Sun Developer Network, an umbrella program that pulls together several existing initiatives. Developers deal with multiple operating systems, device platforms and Java technologies and Sun is trying to improve the content it offers to help address that challenges, said Sanjay Sarathy, director of Sun's Developer Program Office.

For example, new training materials include a sample logistics application that cuts across all the various software and development tools that make up the Web services suite, he said.

"It's not based on a particular technology, it cuts across numerous technologies so you'll understand how J2ME interacts with J2EE and how our identity server works with SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language), and we think that's the wave of the future when it comes to helping developers," Sarathay said.

Sun also hopes to build partnerships with other vendors, initially in the wireless industry, and said that developers will be able to access developer resources at those other sites using a single sign-on system based on the Liberty Alliance identity management specification. It wasn't ready to name any of those partners Wednesday. More information is at http://java.sun.com

Sun officials also discussed a new Java specification called Java Business Integration (JBI) that aims to unify at least two competing initiatives for automating business processes using Web services. The executive committee of the Java Community Process signed off on Java Specification Request 208 on Monday, according to the JCP Web site. The JCP is a multivendor organization overseen by Sun that approves new Java standards.

"The JBI will utilize existing J2EE integration components such as the Java Message Service, Java Connector Architecture, and the J2EE 1.4 Web services APIs, adding a host of new capabilities as well," Sun said in a statement. "The integration specification defines an open ended pluggable architecture that will support both industry standard integration components as well as proprietary elements through the use of standardized interfaces."

At least two specifications have been proposed for defining a standard way to orchestrate business processes in distributed software environments, including the Web Services Choreography Interface (WSCI), backed by Sun and BEA, and Business Process Execution Language for Web Services (BPEL4WS) backed by Microsoft Corp. and, again, by BEA.

"While this work is not complete as yet, the general shape of this standard metadata can be seen in the WSCI and BPEL4WS proposals," the JBI proposal reads. "The industry needs a standard in this space and we look to the recently chartered W3C Choreography Working Group to drive the convergence of these and other related efforts. The JBI SPIs will reflect the industry consensus that emerges from this work."

The JBI will extend J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) with "service provider interfaces," which "enable the creation of a Java business integration environment for specifications such as WSCI, BPEL4WS and the W3C Choreography Working Group," the proposal says.

JSR 208 was proposed by a Sun engineer and voted in favor of by 13 of the 16 executive committee members. BEA was among the positive voters, but suggested changing the name of the specification which it said was too broad and "conveys to the casual observer an expectation well above the intent of the JSR, as currently specified."

The authors hope to form an expert group in April to define the specification, with the final draft not scheduled for release until December 2004, according to the JCP site. The proposal can be viewed at http://www.jcp.org/en/jsr/detail?id=208

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