Web services development on the Java platform is likely to get a whole lot easier. The Java Community Process (JCP) unanimously approved the Web services meta data for Java Specification Requests (JSR 181) last week, a move that's expected to simplify the process of using Java-based applications as Web services.
Web services meta data defines a series of annotations that allow Web services implementation details to be abstracted from Java code. Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE)-compliant tools will now be able to use a standard set of annotations to generate Web services artifacts.
"This standard will enable a more 'lightweight' type of Web services development," said Jim Marino, senior principal technologist at San Jose, Calif.-based BEA Systems Inc. "Instead of doing all the typical configuration around Enterprise JavaBeans, you can now write a simple Java object, annotate it and drop it into the middleware environment."
Previously, Java developers had to hand-code several different artifacts, such as Web Service Definition Language (WSDL) files and XML deployment descriptors, in order to expose their J2EE applications as Web services.
The new annotation-based programming model eliminates the need for Java programmers to write Web services "plumbing" code, allowing them to focus on writing business logic.
"What the annotations allow you to do is control the shape of the SOAP messages and [generate] the WSDL," said Chris Frye, lead for XML Web services on WebLogic Server at BEA. "In the server implementation, it allows you to reference policy files that might control things like reliable messaging and security configurations."
Frye said with the new standard, developers will only have to edit a single Java source file that takes care of generating the service end point, without having to worry about writing any XML, or even understanding what WSDL and SOAP are.
The final two "yes" votes for JSR 181 came from JCP technical committee members IBM and Fujitsu. The JCP is the Sun-led consortium that guides the evolution of Java, primarily through the creation of new API specifications.
JSR 181 builds upon JSR 175, which is a part of the latest Java 5 "Tiger" release. Whereas JSR 175 defines a broader application of meta data to the Java programming language, JSR 181 focuses solely on how annotations work with Web services.
BEA spearheaded the JSR 181 specification, which is already implemented in the Apache Beehive project, an open source, ease-of-use framework that is based on BEA's WebLogic Workshop Integrated Development Environment (IDE).
The Eclipse Web Tools Platform project , which is co-led by BEA and is slated for a 1.0 release this summer, will not support JSR 181 right away due to timing issues between the release cycles of the Java platform and the WTP, said Tim Wagner, senior manager for open source IDE and language tools at BEA.
As the WTP 1.1, which is slated for release in June 2006, looks to incorporate annotation-based tooling, some anticipate that there will be an overlap between the Eclipse Foundation's Pollinate project and the WTP.
Last July, BEA and Eclipse teamed up to create the Pollinate, which aims to build an Eclipse-based IDE and tool set that leverages Beehive.
Pollinate may eventually become a subproject of the WTP, said Dan Rubel, chief technology officer at Portland, Ore.-based Instantiations Inc., or a Web site for the dissemination of Pollinate-related information.
"Pollinate's approach is not to compete with the WTP, but to explore a tool set related to Beehive that may reuse WTP technology when possible," Rubel said.
In addition to the open source community, developers can expect to see broad industry support for Web services meta data from major tools vendors such as Oracle Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc. and IBM.