IBM, BEA Join In Pursuing New Java Specs

IBM and BEA Systems Inc. introduced specifications that would add consistency among Java-based infrastructure software, and make it easier to use the Java platform within a service-oriented architecture.

November 26, 2003

3 Min Read
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IBM and BEA Systems Inc. on Tuesday introduced specifications that would add consistency among Java-based infrastructure software, and make it easier to use the Java platform within a service-oriented architecture, a framework for what proponents claim is the next-generation of distributed computing.

The two rivals, who together dominate the market for Java-based infrastructure software, proposed three standards that they said would simplify the process of connecting business applications across application servers based on the Java 2-enterprise platform.

Current standards have brought some consistency among application servers that run Java applications and connect to data stores. However, there's still enough inconsistency among different brands of the infrastructure software to give developers headaches.

"There's core elements that are the same, but each vendor then adds stuff on top that's proprietary to that vendor's approach," Jason Bloomberg, analyst for market researcher ZapThink LLC, said. The proposals from IBM and BEA increases the consistency among Java-based application servers by offering specifications for technologies that would sit on top of the Java platform."

IBM, based in Armonk, N.Y., and BEA, San Jose, Calif., are publishing the specifications on a royalty-free basis and are seeking industry feedback. They also plan to submit the technology to the Java Community Process, the industry group formed by Java-creator Sun Microsystems Inc. to set standards for the platform.One of the proposals, called Service Data Objects, provides a layer of abstraction above heterogeneous data sources, including relational databases, data stores based on extensible markup language, content management systems and applications accessible through emerging web services standards.

SDO is a programming model that helps in building loosely coupled connections between multiple applications, as opposed to less-flexible integration provided by software adapters available today. The technology, therefore, opens up the Java platform further for use in a service-oriented architecture.

A SOA is essentially a collection of services, which are functions that are well-defined, self-contained and do not depend on the context or state of other services. Communication between services can involve either simple data passing or it could involve two or more services coordinating some activity.

Proponents of SOAs claim they can solve many of the problems of connecting business applications across networks by separating the integration layer from the application, which makes it possible to change the application without breaking the connection with other software on the network.

The other specifications, Work Manager for Application Servers and Timer for Application Servers, make it possible to perform asynchronous tasks within the infrastructure software. That enables a developer to build applications that could, for example, take an order from a customer over the Internet, and then perform multiple tasks concurrently, such as a credit card validation, inventory check, shipment scheduling and other activities. This flexibility can help in providing faster service to a customer, officials with IBM and BEA said.Besides introducing new technologies, the joint announcement shows a flexing of muscle by the two leading Java vendors, which have begun to overshadow Sun in their influence in directing the development of the Java platform, Bloomberg said.

"With this announcement, we now have the two undisputed market leaders in the Java world getting together and saying we're going to use the JCP, but we're going to use it in a way to help our customers," Bloomberg said. "They don't even mention Sun. Sun is irrelevant to what IBM and BEA are doing."

IBM and BEA acknowledged that the companies were offering the technologies based on requirements from enterprise customers, which also want to see more standardization.

"Our customers, given our leadership roles within the Java community, expect to see these innovations standardized within the Java process," Rod Smith, vice president of emerging technologies for the IBM software group, said.

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