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Java EE 5 and SOA: The vendors strike back

IBM, Oracle, Sun, BEA and JBoss are unanimous in disputing the Burton Group report predicting that the Java EE platform is dying of its own complexity and is ill-equipped for the emerging SOA world.

Bill Roth, vice president for the BEA Workshop Unit, summarizes the position of the major vendors supporting the Java Enterprise Edition, with a witty rebuttal of the Burton Group's report that the platform is dying of complexity and is ill-suited for SOA.

Building SOA on Java EE is completely different from building it with Java EE.
Mike Lehmann
Director of Product ManagementOracle Application Server

"J2EE is like the Mark Twain of enterprise software," he said, "reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated."

Roth, along with spokespersons for IBM, Oracle Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc. and JBoss, now a division of Red Hat Inc., do not all dispute Burton senior analyst Richard Monson-Haefel's argument against the complexity of the platform, but none of them agree with him that Java EE's case is terminal.

"Yes, there are problems with complexity, but it doesn't mean that platform is dead," said Jim Knudson, IBM Java EE architect.

While he agrees that the Java EE platform is complex, he says some of the complexity came about as the result of customer requests and to that extent customers are getting what they want. He said IBM customers contemplating SOA implementations are planning to build them on Java EE 5.

"Customers we've talked to are anxiously looking forward to the delivery of 5," the IBM architect said.

Ram Venkataraman, director of product management for JBoss, seconds the contention that the Java EE platform necessarily has complexity built into it because it is designed to handle everything from simple Ajax-style Web applications making calls to relational databases to financial services applications handling high-volume transactions.

However, he does agree that the programming model in J2EE was overly complex, but he disputes the Burton contention that instead of simplifying it, Java EE 5 makes it worse.

"JBoss as a member of the JCP (the Java Community Process responsible for the platform's specification) took a close look at what the open source community had done with Hibernate and POJO-based programming and really brought that concept into the Java EE programming model," Venkataraman said. "Without sacrificing any of the enterprise-grade characteristics of the J2EE platform, Java EE 5 tremendously reduced the barrier to the development of enterprise applications, all the way from the simple to the most complex applications."

Karen Padir, vice president for Enterprise Java platform at Sun, asserts that two issues are getting mixed up in the debate over Java EE 5. In her opinion, the acknowledged complexity of the platform is confused with the programming model, which she also argues has been made easier in the latest release.

"The platform is certainly complex," said Padir. "It's a specification for application servers. And yes, application servers are very complex." Thus she said that complexity exists primarily for developers working on application servers, but developers of applications do not necessarily have to deal with that complexity because they can use only the tools required to get their job done. "Developers can ignore what they don't need," she said.

Mike Lehmann, director of product management for Oracle Application Server, agrees that there is confusion between application development and the platform it is running on. "Building SOA on Java EE is completely different from building it with Java EE," he said.

For more information

Analysts see Java EE dying in an SOA world

Inside the Java API for XML Web Services

While Java EE may be a complex platform, he said, developers have other language choices such as PHP and Perl, for developing SOA applications that will run on the platform.

"Complexity creates a business opportunity to make things easier," says BEA's Roth. So BEA and other vendors are focused on offering tools that bridge the gap between the complexity of Java EE and the developers need for simple ways to build the applications that run on it.

Opening the Java EE world to language other than Java is the key to its survival, according to Michael Cote, a Red Monk analyst, who isn't ready to sign the platform's death certificate quite yet.

"Sure, if Java EE were frozen as it is now and never changed, it'd become obsolete," he said. In his view it then might be replaced by simpler and lighter-weight platforms, such as Ruby on Rails, once those alternative platforms evolve more of the functionality required for enterprise development. "However, if Java EE continues its goal of simplifying and adds in support for more languages than just Java -- such as JavaScript, PHP, Ruby, Python, and/or Perl -- it can keep its position as platform for developing enterprise applications and services."

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