Oracle Pushes Java IDE Extension Standard

Submits Java spec request to enable extensions to run with any standard Java IDE.

Oracle Corp. last week announced it has submitted a Java Specification Request to the Java Community Process for a new API to enable standards-based extensions to work with any Java integrated development environment.

Ted Farrell, architect and director of strategy for application development tools at Oracle, said that if accepted, the JSR—known as JSR 198, The Standard Extension API for Integrated Development Environments—will mean less work for developers.

"There are a lot of technologies out there, from Borland to our product to WebGain to NetBeans and others, and they all require developers to write multiple versions of their add-ins for their stuff to work with each different IDE," said Farrell, in Redwood Shores, Calif. "This API would enable them to write their extensions once and have their extensions run with any standard Java IDE."

Farrell said that although Oracle has technology available that it could submit as part of this specification, the company is simply promoting the idea and will work with other interested companies to develop the specification. He said Sun Microsystems Inc., Macromedia Inc. and JetBrains Inc. have pledged support for the JSR.

John Zukowski, president of JZ Ventures Inc., a Boston-based Java consultancy, said, "It will be interesting who the expert group members will be. Borland [Software Corp.] and IBM are noticeably missing from the early supporters. Any standard would be helpful for those developing extensions.

"Just look at something like Jalopy [an open-source Java source code formatter]," Zukowski said. "They offer seven different versions of the add-in tool to deal with different IDEs and build tools. Time would be better spent extending the tool than adding support for each tool."

Farrell said that although the JSR process can typically take from six months to two years to complete a specification, he expects this JSR will "run on the shorter side of that" because there is technology available to support this proposed specification.

Meanwhile, Farrell said Oracle has joined the Board of Stewards for the IBM-sponsored Eclipse open-source application development platform.

Java Specification Request

Standard Extension API for Integrated Development Environments:
  • API for developers to create extensions for any Java IDE
  • Supported by Sun, Macromedia and JetBrains
  • Based on AWT and Swing Java GUI standards
  • Developers have to create only one version of their extensions
"We want to ensure that Eclipse users will have an environment to build software for Oracle run-times," Farrell said. "We are a member in good standing in the Java community, and we support many programming environments. We want to give Eclipse users the same kind of benefit writing to the Oracle platform."

Ironically, JSR 198, which Oracle submitted to the Sun-run JCP, is based on Java-standard components such as AWT (Abstract Windowing Toolkit) and Swing for creating GUI application parts such as buttons and dialogs. Yet, Eclipse supports a different GUI development platform, the Standard Widget Toolkit, which competes with AWT.

However, Farrell, who will be Oracles steward on the Eclipse board, said he does not see a problem with that.

"Oracle can bring an additional perspective to the board," he said.

Josh Walker, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., said he believes there is a one-to-one connection between the two Oracle announcements. On the one hand, Walker said, Oracle announcing its support for Eclipse "is a very positive move for Oracle developers."

Yet, "Oracle is in a brand war with IBM, and to be that close to IBM may not be so good for them, so the JSR move is a way for Oracle to say, we support Eclipse, but we also support this standard [Java] way of doing things," Walker said.