Latest Java Spec Boosts XML Support

Sun previews its upgraded features for Enterprise JavaBeans, JavaServer Pages and servlets.

Java developers are welcoming the stronger XML support expected in the next version of the Java 2 Enterprise Edition standard.

Sun Microsystems Inc. expects J2EE 1.3 to debut in the third quarter of this year, with increased support for Extensible Markup Language and upgrades to Enterprise JavaBeans, JavaServer Pages and servlets.

"The point of using Java is its platform-independent; the point of using XML is its universal," said Anthony Siciliani, a developer with Digitas Inc., of Boston, at a Sun event here last week. Siciliani added that support is important because XML and Java need to work together for e-business applications. Using both, "you can transport your data and communicate between applications," he said. "Thats the way of the future."

"What Ive seen of it so far is a good thing," said Karen Fulcher Scholz, a developer with MapInfo Corp., in Troy, N.Y. "Im able to be sure the data Im getting is in a valid format. That saves me from a lot of coding validation of my own."

Sun, of Palo Alto, Calif., last week previewed whats to come and pointed out that nine vendors already are shipping application servers that are compliant with J2EE Version 1.2.

Rich Green, Suns vice president of Java software, said J2EE is gaining adoption because the standards portability frees users from a particular vendor or platform. The next version is currently under review.

Sybase Inc., Art Technology Group Inc., BEA Systems Inc., Bluestone Software Inc.—whose acquisition by Hewlett-Packard Co. was finalized last week—Borland Software Corp., SilverStream Software Inc., iPlanet E-commerce Solutions, Iona Technologies plc. and Hitachi America Ltd. have each released application servers that are compliant with J2EE Version 1.2.

The vendors agreed that J2EE compliance is one of the first questions customers ask about. "Youve got to have the [J2EE] brand to even go in and talk to customers," said Scott McReynolds, senior systems consultant for Sybase, in Emeryville, Calif.

Each of the vendors plans to follow Suns rollout of J2EE 1.3 with upgraded versions of application servers that support the new specifications.

Not present at Suns event last week was IBM, whose WebSphere application server either trails or ties with BEAs WebLogic in market share, according to surveys. IBM has been involved in helping develop the J2EE specifications and is a heavy investor in the technology but does not have the J2EE seal. While a WebSphere official dismissed the Sun event as a "marketing sideshow," IBM will seek the J2EE certification stamp over the next few months.

Sun used the event last week to tout Java and take a swipe at Microsoft Corp.s upcoming .Net platform, saying Suns technology is already shipping in products while Microsofts is not. Microsoft officials dismissed J2EE, saying the platform consists of technology the Redmond, Wash., company already has.

"Sun is really not offering any value in the J2EE brand," said Tony Goodhew, product manager for Microsofts developer division. Goodhew said some vendors "feel, based on the hype, they have to actually get that checkbox" of J2EE certification.