Sun's Java-Liberty moves risk industry scuffles

It's a trust thing

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

A potential dispute is opening over proposed integration of Sun Microsystems Inc-backed web services security specifications with Java,

writes Gavin Clarke.

Sun is lending support to inclusion of Liberty Alliance Project specifications for federated single sign-in to web services in future versions of the Java platform.

Jonathan Schwartz, Sun software group executive vice president, said the goal is to "Liberty-enable the client and server." Schwartz spoke as he announced Liberty-enabled Sun directory and network servers yesterday.

With specifications embedded in the Java platform technologies like Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) for example, products like J2EE-based application servers could theoretically ship Liberty-enabled.

This would minimize development efforts for ISVs and end-users as developers would not need to add Liberty-compliant APIs to Java products and applications. And with APIs shipping in popular products like application server, Liberty could also achieve pervasiveness virtually overnight. Sun's decision, though, risks re-opening old industry wounds.

IBM told Computerwire it will not support addition of Liberty specifications unless they are first passed to an independent standards group, like the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS). IBM - like Microsoft - remains a non-Liberty member having promoted the alternative WS-Security model.

Bob Sutor, director of e-business standards, said: "IBM will not support this until the work Liberty does is moved to a real standards organization."

IBM is also concerned at the degree of control Sun wields over the Java Community Process (JCP), a 300-member body that debates and approves Java specifications. Sun has constitutional power to veto changes to the Java language. IBM is a JCP participant.

This issue risks perpetuating the schism that impeded the write-once run-anywhere concept of Java. Java vendors are free to implement APIs to their version of Java that are outside of the core specification. IBM could potentially ensure its own implementation of Java in popular products like the WebSphere application server remain Liberty free, while Sun adopt specifications in its application servers.

Key to the battle are application server vendors BEA Systems Inc and Oracle Corp who have yet to declare for Liberty.

Sutor said if the JCP does adopt Liberty, then IBM would wait to see how Liberty developed before it too adopted the specifications. "It really depends on what the charter is and how Liberty is fleshed out," he said.

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