What if Sun released a Java Specification Request (JSR), and the two biggest names in the Java community declined to support it?
That's what happened with this week's early draft release of the Java Business Integration (JBI) specification, also known as JSR 208. JBI has the backing of plenty of Java heavyweights, like SAP AG, Oracle Corp. and recent sign-ups JBoss Inc., Iona Technologies and the Apache Software Foundation. But IBM and BEA Systems Inc. remain on the sidelines, content to throw their substantial weight behind the Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) specification.
JBI is essentially a set of interoperable software development kits that create a development environment on Java to help developers build a service-oriented architecture (SOA) based on business processes, said ZapThink LLC founder and senior analyst Ronald Schmelzer. Developers could create Java code that could run on multiple systems.
"There are a couple of caveats," Schmelzer said. "The JSR is not relevant outside the Java community. It's only intended for use on Java to build SOAs. It doesn't help mainframe [developers], Microsoft or anyone else. And these two notable vendors [IBM and BEA] don't support the specification. They are two large parts of the Java community."
BPEL, meanwhile, is a broader specification and is supported by the JBI. The inverse is not true, Schmelzer said.
Therefore, the danger exists that IBM and BEA could develop their own Java business integration specification that would work on their respective WebSphere and WebLogic platforms, in addition to other Java environments, and further complicate the already crowded specification landscape.
IBM released a statement to SearchWebServices.com that its decision not to support JSR 208 will not impact its role in the Java Community Process, the group responsible for the development Java technology, specifications and standards.
"IBM continues to participate as a leader in the JCP process and IBM continues to participate either as spec lead or as expert group member on many JSRs," IBM said. "IBM is focusing efforts for business integration around other specs that are further along such as BPEL."
Roger Nolan, director of product marketing for Sun's integration products, said IBM and BEA were participants in the JBI development process until it was publicly released. He said neither vendor raised serious technical concerns about the spec.
"My take is that this spec is expanding the Java platform to encourage integration in an open way. IBM doesn't want to see the playing field level. They've got their product [WebSphere] and they don't want to see the market opened up," Nolan said. "I guess they figured the only way to get a peek at the specification was to join the group. The question is, do they want an open playing field, or do they want to continue their proprietary lock-in? It's pretty disappointing."
Sun, in an underdog role here, has lofty expectations for JBI.
"The goal of the Java Business Integration initiative is to do for the integration space what J2EE did for the field of Java application development and deployment. Namely, deliver the benefits of choice, flexibility, interoperability, code reuse, reduced complexity and lower cost", said Mark Bauhaus, vice president, Sun ONE Java Web Services, in a statement.
In addition to promoting the spec's potential for promoting code re-use and the organizational flexibility that comes along with implementing an SOA, Sun said the spec also defines the building blocks for implementing an enterprise service bus, essential to message exchanges in an SOA, using XML and Web services.
Still, the absence of IBM and BEA is glaring, Schmelzer said.
"There are many non-Java business process-based specifications out there [like BPEL]. Why would IBM spend its time and efforts supporting these specifications only in Java environments," Schmelzer said. "They will support wider specs like BPEL."
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