March 25, 2002 5:25 AM PST
Java brewers to stir Web services pot
Sun Microsystems, Oracle, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard are expected to announce new software or tools to improve or fill holes in their product family, and battle the perception that Microsoft is leading the way in Web services, a method for building software that lets companies with different computing systems to interact and conduct transactions.
At issue is a delay in the Java community's plans to update the Java 2 Enterprise Edition standard to give programmers a uniform way to build Web services using Java.
Sun executives originally planned to release the new version of the standard--version 1.4--by the end of this year, but have pushed back its release until next January. Sun, which downplayed the delay, creates the standards with its Java partners through a standards body called the Java Community Process (JCP).
"A little change in the specification, like the scope, will cause a change in the ship date," said Ralph Galantine, Sun's product line manager for Java and XML Technologies. "We had enough changes in the scope that we have to come out in January. The 2002 (release) date was an estimate."
Gartner analyst Daryl Plummer said the delay is not significant because every Java software maker is already supporting Web services in their tools and software. Still, any further delay only underscores the industry perception that Java software makers are slower to tackle Web services than Microsoft.
"The delay...will hurt in a marketing sense because developers and Microsoft will say Java is falling behind," Plummer added. "In a practical sense, that's not true. The tools are already out there regardless. But quite often, what makes something succeed or fail is perception, not reality."
Last month, Microsoft released its Visual Studio.Net software tools for developing Web services on Microsoft technology as part of a plan called .Net.
The Java companies have offered toolkits that define different ways to build Web services using Java, but plan to adhere to the formal standard when it is ready.
Many of the JavaOne product announcements are related to Web services tools. For example, Sun this week will ship an update to its Web services toolkit--called the Web Services Pack--that serves as the company's stopgap measure to allow Java developers to start building Web services. It includes tutorials, tools and four Java application programming interfaces (APIs), or sets of instructions, that connect Java applications to XML (Extensible Markup Language), a Web standard for data exchange used extensively in Web services applications.
Sun's iPlanet division will also offer an XML tool for its iPlanet Integration server which allows businesses to link their different computing systems.
Sun is also expected to detail plans for Web services tied to mobile applications. On Monday, Motorola said it has developed a Java-enabled mobile phone with color display.
Not to be outdone, HP, IBM, Silverstream and Iona Technologies say they will also ship new tools for building and running Web services. Through IBM's updated WebSphere Studio Java tool and new integration features in its application-server software, developers can choreograph their e-business site functions by stitching Web services, Java software and non-Java applications together, IBM executives said.
Similarly, among HP's new Web services products is Process Manager Interactive 1.0, which will allow companies to glue together Web services or other pieces of Java code, and Services Transactions 1.0, which will coordinate and manage Web services transactions.
In other JavaOne news, Oracle will announce a new feature on its developer Web site, called the Oracle Technology Network, that will give programmers support services and help online. The new service, called Oracle Service Network, will allow developers to pose questions about software programming or Oracle's products to more than 600 certified Oracle consultants. Through the Web site, programmers can hire Oracle consultants to build custom applications, said John Magee, senior director of Oracle 9i marketing.
Oracle is also shipping two free development tools, including one for building Java software for mobile devices, so people can grab corporate information on their cell phones and personal digital assistants, Magee said. The other free tool is aimed at Oracle's portal software, which allows companies to build Web portal sites for employees, customers and business partners.
The new Oracle portal tool allows programmers to build "portlets" and turn them into Web services. Portlets are small elements of information--such as e-mail, news or sales forecast reports--that are combined together on a portal site to deliver a single view of corporate data.
Oracle, Borland, HP and others have joined Sun and IBM in developing the potential standard through the JCP standards process that could make building portlets easier. With everyone supporting the same method, it will be easier for businesses and service providers to share information, Sun executives said.
Sun will also announce updates to its family of Forte for Java programming tools. The Enterprise Edition of the tools, used for building business software, will support Web services, while the Mobile Edition will allow programmers to build Java software for mobile devices. Sun is also announcing Forte Developer, which combines Sun's tools for C and C++ and Fortran languages. Test versions are now available with final versions shipping during the summer.