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Is the new Java SE 6 more SOA-friendly than Java EE 5?

In the ongoing debate over the value of Java Enterprise Edition and SOA, some analysts say the Standard Edition is all most developers need.

Releasing Java Platform Standard Edition 6 (Java SE 6) this week, Sun Microsystems Inc. touts its SOA capabilities and two analysts say it may be all developers need for service-oriented projects, creating another wrinkle in the debate over the viability of the Java Enterprise Edition in a Web 2.0 world.

It's important for Java to remain as lightweight as possible and simple to code with.
Raven Zachary
Senior AnalystThe 451 Group

Sun says developers can use Java SE 6 with "enhanced functionality for Web services" alongside the new NetBeans Integrated Development Environment (IDE) 5.5 for service-oriented architecture development.

Java SE 6 is also being promoted by Sun for "building Web 2.0 applications and services," according to Rich Green, executive vice president of software at Sun. Java SE 6 includes a new framework and developer APIs to allow mixing of Java technology with scripting languages, such as PHP, Python and Ruby as well as JavaScript for the trendy new Web 2.0 collaboration applications, such as corporate wikis. Sun said Java SE 6 also supports Web services specifications, including JAX-WS 2.0, JAXB 2.0, STAX and JAXP.

However, Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst with ZapThink LLC. is less than impressed. "There's not all that much to say here," the analyst said. "The XML technology in Java SE 6 now supports the W3C DOM APIs, parsing of XML documents and transforming XML documents via XSLT, important nuts and bolts XML manipulation capabilities that will ease developers' XML tasks. But these new capabilities are not Web services-specific and don't have much direct relevance to SOA."

While Bloomberg is underwhelmed, Raven Zachary, a senior analyst and head of the open source practice at The 451 Group in Minneapolis, says Java SE 6 may be all that most SOA and Web services application developers need for their projects. In Zachary's view developers can go with the standard edition and leave the more complex enterprise edition alone.

"In the Web-centric world you want as simple a programming model as possible for developers," he said. "For a lot of new developers, enterprise edition Java is quite daunting. It's simpler to move to the use of standard edition. There's not a lot they're going to miss if they decide to go with the standard edition deployment. They're going to get the features and functionality that they need for a robust application with standard edition."

ZapThink's Bloomberg agrees. "Java EE really doesn't have much to offer developers in the context of a SOA implementation, beyond the basic Java capabilities in Java SE," he said.

But while Bloomberg is in the same camp as Richard Monson-Haefel, senior analyst with the Burton Group, who has said the enterprise edition is not what SOA developers need, Zachary sees a middle way.

"I'm not doom and gloom on the future of enterprise Java," Zachary said. He notes the enterprise edition is already in place in large corporate applications that require its functionality. But, he said, the standard edition may be better suited to the Web 2.0 world where Sun is positioning it.

For more informatio
Special report: Java EE 5 faces the SOA test, part 1

Learn about the Java API for XML Web Services

"In a Web-centric world where you're looking at rapid development, Java is already facing a lot of competition from below with scripting technologies like Ruby on Rails and PHP," Zachary said. "So it's important for Java to remain as lightweight as possible and simple to code with."

In his view, the enterprise and standard branding may become irrelevant as developers working on projects in the Web services/SOA/Web 2.0 world use standard Java and then as needed plug in technology, including Enterprise Java Beans, currently in its EJB 3.0 incarnation, which supporters of Java EE 5 point to as one of the platform's greatest strengths.

"Will we see the nomenclature of standard edition and enterprise edition five years from now?" he asks rhetorically. "I'm not sure. Maybe EJB functionality is simply a module that one plugs into standard edition Java."

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