Sun Microsystems will incorporate an important specification with the next version of its enterprise Java platform that is designed to ensure interoperability among Web services applications.
Version 1.4 of Sun's Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE), which is due for release mid-year, will incorporate the Basic Profile specification developed by the Web Services Interoperability Organization. The WS-I is a multi-vendor group founded by IBM, BEA Systems, Microsoft and others to help define standards for the emerging Web services model.
The Basic Profile defines a standard method for employing a handful of technologies that have become central to Web services. They include XML (Extensible Markup Language) and SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) for messaging, WSDL (Web Services Description Language) for describing services, and UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration) for looking them up on a network.
Some developers have used those technologies already, but without the programming and data models laid out in the Basic Profile they have had no assurance that their applications will interoperate with those of other developers. Adding the Basic Profile to the next version of J2EE is intended to provide that assurance, said Ralph Galantine, a group marketing manager at Sun.
Java licensees including Sun, Oracle, IBM and BEA are expected to release certified J2EE 1.4 products soon after the standard is finalized.
As a member of the WS-I, Microsoft is also expected to back the Basic Profile, in a rare example of cooperation between Microsoft and its rivals in the Java camp. A Microsoft spokeswoman noted that the specification has yet to be finalized, but said Microsoft will support it in software products when it's completed. A draft of the WS-I Basic Profile was released in October, and at that time the group was shooting for completion early this year.
Microsoft has "a duty to its customers" to support the profile, according to Ted Schadler, principal software analyst at Forrester Research, in
The Web services model provides a way for linking different types of business applications together, either within an organization or, it's hoped, among partners, suppliers and customers for streamlining commerce. More ambitiously, proponents say, Web services can be used to "expose" business programs, such as a retirement plan application, as services that can be used by other companies.
After a year of steady hype, however, the model has taken off only gradually and in a limited way, analysts have said. Concerns have been raised about security, a lack of clearly defined standards and the sheer complexity of the development work involved. Adding the WS-I Basic Profile is intended to go some way towards meeting some of those concerns.
"It's hard to implement this stuff and so having a standards process for certifying products -- in this case for J2EE -- is a big deal," Forrester's Schadler said.