Special Reports

Moving the Enterprise Platform Forward

Just in time for JavaOne, the JCP approves the openly developed Java EE 5 spec unanimously. The latest platform offers ease-of-use features and an overhauled programming model.

In a unanimous vote by the Java Community Process (JCP)'s Java EE/SE Executive Committee, the Java Platform, Enterprise Edition (Java EE) 5 specification (JSR 244) was approved—paving the way for a big splash at this year's JavaOne conference.

Sun Microsystems' executives and representatives from key licensee vendors who contributed work on the platform's core technologies held a press conference less than two weeks prior to the 2006 JavaOne conference in San Francisco to announce the specification's approval. The announcement represents the most significant update of the platform's programming model since the launch of J2EE 1.2 in December 1999, according to Joe Keller, vice president for marketing and SOA at Sun Microsystems.

Among several enhancements, the Java EE 5 update offers "ease-of-development features and a radically simplified component model" for portable, robust, scalable, and multitier server-side applications as well as for creating and deploying enterprise applications and Web services, according to the announcement's press release. Keller underscored these enhancements in his opening remarks at the press conference, saying that the vote culminates a significant update to the enterprise Java platform and represents a major revamp to the programming model.

The overhaul to the programming model started last year, according to Keller, with the introduction of Java SE 5, which introduced a number of features pointed at ease of development. Now Java EE 5 takes advantage of those feature improvements and is applying them to simplify the Java EE programming model and the development of Java EE programs, especially for Web services, the Web tier, and transactional components. Keller said that the platform continues to evolve to support the latest technologies for building out Web applications, for implementing service-oriented architectures (SOAs), and for taking advantage of the new features around Web 2.0 technologies that are becoming increasingly popular.

Jeff Jackson, senior vice president of Java development and platform engineering at Sun, noted that this upgrade to the platform is particularly gratifying because of the joint open source development between the community and Java.net. Acknowledging the JCP and the licensee partners, Jackson said, "this is really monumental, how the JCP and open source can work together, and this is the big announcement at JavaOne in terms of ease of development for both applications and the platform to run those applications on."

Jackson briefly touched on the four main technologies that mark the significance of Java EE 5's evolution, though he said that there were many more in the platform. He said Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) 3.0 has a long history with Java EE 5, and the technology exemplifies the biggest area of change for the platform. It greatly simplifies the programming model by supporting plain old Java objects (POJOs), which can be converted easily to Web services with annotations or made persistent using the Java Persistence API.

Jackson also cited JavaServer Faces (JSF) 1.2, which "facilitates building Web 2.0 applications with Ajax and reduces the complexity of constructing user interfaces for Web-based applications by providing prepackaged components that developers and tools vendors can use for their applications and reduce the time to develop those applications." Jackson also mentioned the Java Persistence API, saying that it has a much cleaner approach to mapping Java objects to relational databases, and the updating of Web services to include JAX-WS 2.0 and JAXB 2.0, which support the latest WC3 and WS-I standards of protocol and transport-independent Web services.

"EE continues to lead the way in building enterprise applications through both the Web service-enabled [features] and using functions inherited from Java SE for ease of development," Jackson said.

Keeping It Simple
Ease of development was the predominate theme in comments from all the principals attending the press conference. Karen Tegan-Padir, vice president of enterprise Java platform at Sun, said that ease of development was the major enhancement for the platform specification and the SDK. "We have made major improvements for usability by relying on more simplified methods for reasonable defaults; when you create an application, Java EE has always allowed the developer to worry about their own business logic and not worry about the plumbing, and we've continued to advance that in this platform," Tegan-Padir said.

In rewriting the sample applications to make use of the ease-of-development features that were in the platform for Java EE 5, Tegan-Padir said they discovered that 60 percent fewer Java classes were used, 80 percent fewer XML files were used, and 30 percent less Java code was used, indicating significant simplification for developers.

"It gives you a flavor for folks writing new applications of the advances and the simplification you will get when you're writing to Java EE 5," Tagen-Padir said, noting also that compatibility matters too, and all the old applications that developers have written for the previous Java EE platforms will run unchanged in Java EE 5.

Tagen-Padir also noted that for the first time ever, the NetBeans Enterprise Pack 5.5 software preview will be available at JavaOne, and it binds the Java EE 5 platform with the NetBeans IDE. Developers will be able to immediately use the NetBeans IDE to develop applications to run on Java EE 5, and the software preview also provides tools for doing SOAs and UML modeling.

Tagen-Padir said that JavaOne attendees will be able to go around to all the Java EE 5 platform's contributing vendors in the pavilion and participate in a "treasure map" event that is intended to highlight the Java EE 5 licensees. The attendees can get their treasure maps stamped upon seeing a vendor's demo, then return their treasure maps for a giveaway after completing the circuit.

As noted by Jackson during his remarks, this Java EE 5 implementation was developed in a new way in the Java.net community under the open source Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL), as part of a project called GlassFish. The entire development project, done in plain sight with the community and serving as the basis for the platform's reference implementation (RI), will give rise to the Java EE SDK and Sun's future application server.

About the Author

Terrence O'Donnell is managing editor of Java Pro.

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