J2EE 1.3 Released With New Tools for Web Services

Sun Microsystems (new window) unveiled the 1.3 release of J2EE this week. And while the new version doesn’t promise the world to the Web services community, it does offer some new features that make building Web services easier.

As part of J2EE 1.3, the Java Community Process has: added a number of connectors that enable integration with new data sources including ERP and CRM systems; released Enterprise JavaBeans 2.0; finalized an XML-based API (JAXP); and implemented new message-driven capabilities through a messaging API and iteration of JavaBeans.

The most promising enhancement for Web services probably is the addition of the Java Message Service API and Message Driven Beans. In conjunction, the message-oriented API and beans will make it easier to deliver on the coveted asynchronous characteristics of the Web services model.

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Vijay Sarathy, senior product manager for J2EE integration at Sun, says Message Driven Beans are unique in that they can be configured to respond to a message in a queue, whereas previous versions – namely the session and entity-driven beans – do not allow for such automated response mechanisms.

“The most exciting feature [of J2EE 1.3] is message beans,” says Silverstream CTO Steve Benfield. “…A message that’s passed along can be a piece of SOAP doing Web serving through message brokers rather than just through HTTP. That makes it easier to do more asynchronous stuff.”

Silverstream, which is one of 30 existing licensees of J2EE, has leveraged a large portion of its business model on the Java platform and Web services. “We feel J2EE is a very strong platform not only for building, but also deploying Web services,” says Benfield, who cites scalability and reliability as the biggest benefits of working with Java.

Beyond its new message-driven capabilities, J2EE 1.3 also gives the Web services community access to more data than it previously had. Building on the Java Database Connector offered under the 1.0 relapse, 1.3 makes data in ERP and CRM systems accessible in the same way that JDBC does for relational databases. “[J2EE 1.3] leverages data that exists and wraps around that the services that people are demanding today – Web services for example,” says Sarathy.

The building of these Web services wrappers Sarathy speaks of is aided by the JAXP API released as part of the J2EE 1.3 platform. JAXP is an XML-based API that is designed to process XML code and ease XML integration with legacy systems.

Sarathy says, although J2EE 1.3 aligns the platform more closely with the Web services community, it is more focused on business and application processes than it is Web services per se. According to Sarathy, later releases of J2EE will have more to offer the Web services developer, as the JCP is currently reviewing a number of Web services-centric APIs including one for ebXML and UDDI.

“There’s a lot of hype about the potential and promise of Web services, and I believe those things are all coming,” says Sarathy. “But first you have to wrap around the data that exists.” Sarathy suggests, before J2EE is used to build Web services that allow companies to communicate with their business partners and suppliers and distributors, these enterprises must first make Web services work internally between different departments.

Silverstream’s Benfield agrees with Sarathy, projecting that wide-scale implementations of Web services outside the firewall are still two or three years away. “We think where Web services will make its first big hit is inside an organization,” says Benfield. “…The outside benefits will still be there, but before you do that, you have to XML-enable the systems inside your organization.”

About the Author

Matt Migliore is regular contributor to ENTmag.com. He focuses particularly on Microsoft .NET and other Web services technologies. Matt was the editor of several technology-related Web publications and electronic newsletters, including Web Services Report, ASP insights and MIDRANGE Systems.