New Java Protocol Could Give Sun Web Services Edge

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2002-05-27 Print this article Print

Sun Microsystems Inc. is poised to finalize key XML standards and back an alternative interoperability standards group to give it and Java more credibility in Web services development.

Sun Microsystems Inc. is poised to finalize key XML standards and back an alternative interoperability standards group to give it and Java more credibility in Web services development.

The JAX-RPC (Java API for XML-based Remote Procedure Call) standard is expected to be approved by the Java Community Process executive committee next month. At the same time, Sun is getting set to join a standards organization, SOAPBuilders, to test it, said Rahul Sharma, a senior staff engineer at Sun and specification lead for JAX-RPC, in Palo Alto, Calif.

SOAPBuilders is a consortium of companies that meet quarterly to test the interoperability of Web services offerings. Members now include Microsoft Corp., IBM, Oracle Corp., Iona Technologies Inc. and BEA Systems Inc. SOAPBuilders gets its name from Simple Object Access Protocol, a key Web services interoperability standard.

The move to SOAPBuilders puts Sun in a key position for Web services without the political machinations of other organizations, particularly the Web Services-Interoperability group, or WS-I, which has had a frosty relationship with Sun.

In recent federal court arguments in Washington, lawyers for the nonsettling states seeking harsher antitrust penalties against Microsoft produced e-mail that indicates Microsoft, at its highest levels, sought to keep Sun out of the WS-I.

Indeed, Java developers said the affiliation with SOAPBuilders, formed last year, is key for Sun.

"SOAPBuilders is a development effort, not a marketing event," said Anne Thomas Manes, chief technology officer of Systinet Corp., a Cambridge, Mass., Web services infrastructure software provider. "At some point in the future ... WS-I will be more aligned with marketing than with development."

"The [World Wide Web Consortium] develops specifications; WS-I clarifies the specifications and packages them into profiles," said Mark Ericson, product architect at Mindreef LLC, in Hollis, N.H. "And SOAPBuilders is where the rubber meets the road to achieve interoperability within the guidelines of the WS-I profile."

The goal of JAX-RPC has been to provide support for interoperability and portability based on widely adopted XML and Internet standards: SOAP; XML Schema; Web Services Description Language; and Universal Description, Discovery and Integration, Suns Sharma said.

JAX-RPC is a part of the J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) 1.4 specification, which is expected early next year. J2EE 1.4 will deliver Suns most extensive support for Web services. "JAX-RPC is kind of the building block," Sharma said. "Its like the core of Web services support in the Java platform."

Using JAX-RPC, developers can write applications on Suns reference implementation of JAX-RPC, on BEAs WebLogic or on any other vendors implementation and enable Web service portability across all these vendors implementations, Sharma said. "That wasnt possible prior to JAX-RPC being there."

Simon Fell, a SOAP developer and a primary engineer with Provada Inc., in San Francisco, said, "What JAX-RPC gives you is the ability to write to a standard API and switch underlying products if you need to."

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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