Sun ONE: Still in Vapor

By eweek  |  Posted 2001-09-10

Suns Open Net Environment development road map is not helping IT get to where it needs to go, and the company needs to get serious in helping its customers develop next-generation Internet applications.

Sun ONE, announced early this year, is, as Sun puts it, "a new generation of software for open, smart Web services." Our Cover Story this week is on these very Web services, standards-based protocols that let businesses use Web interfaces to connect internal systems and share information and business logic with partners.

Sun ONE supports the right technologies: XML, SOAP and the rest. In fact, its largely the same road map that IBM, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Borland and others are also supporting. Web services built on these protocols are a step forward for open computing. However, thats not what Sun ONE is delivering now, nor is likely to deliver any time soon. So far, Sun ONE is merely a rebranding of Suns products.

In contrast, IBM and Microsoft have been model Web services vendors, cooperating on interoperability while competing on implementation, exactly what helps customers the most. Its ironic that if Java developers want to implement Web services today, theyre going to need to turn—not to Sun—but to IBM.

In fact, a key piece of what Sun ONE does provide now was written by IBM. Documentation for the Sun-Netscape alliances iPlanet Application Server, or iAS, describes how to download the Apache Software Foundations Apache SOAP and Xerces XML Java parser to add SOAP features to iAS. IBM wrote those components and donated them to the Apache Software Foundation.

On the tools side, Suns Forte for Java 3.0 Java development tool ships this month with new Web services capabilities, but it is based on a proprietary JavaServer Pages tag library. According to Sun, SOAP is coming in the next Forte release. Meanwhile, Javas own JAX set of XML APIs is still slowly working its way through the Java standards process.

Why is Sun ONE lagging? Because Sun initially dismissed SOAP as a Microsoft-centric effort and instead backed ebXML, a standard whose creators originally rejected SOAP. ebXMLs drafters have since softened their position as SOAP has gained a richer feature set and its popularity has become evident.

However, Suns reluctance toward SOAP and related technologies has left the company and its customers largely empty-handed when it comes to Web services. Sun should learn a lesson from this and from now on should support the standards customers have chosen—even when Microsoft supports them, too.

Lets see some meat on those Sun ONE bones.

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