Debate over standards compliance came into focus Tuesday when Sun Microsystems assembled a panel of 18 software vendors at a J2EE 1.3 compatibility event in San Francisco.
Companies including BEA Systems, IBM, and Computer Associates turned up to support Sun for an event that was designed to highlight the rapid adoption of Java as an enterprise development platform since Version 1.3 of J2EE debuted just five months ago.
But not everyone was impressed by the proceedings, with at least one analyst observing that J2EE applications developed to run on one vendor's application server are not automatically portable to a different application server.
"This event shows Java development is moving forward," said Carl Olofson, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass., "but I can't say it was extremely significant."
"Some of the panel members mentioned that we don't want to see Java balkanized along the lines of Unix," he added. "You would think that Sun and IBM would want to take the lead to make sure this does not happen."
Wayne Parslow, vice president of global business development for SilverStream Software Inc., an application server and tools vendor in Billerica, Mass., agreed that this is a significant problem. "If you write a J2EE application for BEA, it can take months of intensive effort to port it over to IBM." On a different note, Richard Green, Sun's vice president and general manager of Java software and XML technologies, chose to emphasize the integration of JMS (Java Message Service) in J2EE 1.3 as one of the biggest advances of recent times.
"There are already 12 licensed implementations of JMS that take advantage of its loosely coupled communication features," he said.
In order to gain compliance to the 1.3 specification, application server vendors must submit their software to a battery of 15,000 tests. "It is a rigorous process," said Jorn Larsen, director of marketing for Trifork, an application server vendor in Denmark.
But other companies found the process easier to digest. "Most of the tests were for application server compliance," said Nicole Nunn, director of brand management at Computer Associates in Islandia, N.Y. "We hope that J2EE 1.4 will include more tests for application tool developers."
Looking to the future, Mark Hapner, Sun's J2EE architect, said the upcoming release of the J2EE 1.4 standard would boast more support for Web services in the J2EE base platform.
And that attitude struck a chord with one IBM executive who voiced support for the potential of Web services. Leslie Givens, program director for Websphere marketing at IBM, said that although J2EE 1.3 is a great foundation for Web services, it is only the beginning. "We hope to see SOAP [Simple Object Access Protocol], UDDI [Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration], and WSDL [Web Services Description Language] in Version 1.4. Sun has been a little vague about this."