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False start for Java tools interoperability

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An initiative driving interoperability across rival vendors' Java application development tools has been launched without support from the two largest Java application development players. The lack of co-operation between the industry's big companies raises concerns over the possible effectiveness of the venture.

Borland Software and IBM are missing from a line-up of nine ISVs, led by Sun Microsystems, which on Tuesday unveiled the Java Tools Community (JTC).

Instead, JTC has received backing from, among others: Oracle, which has been instrumental in building JTC since last summer; BEA Systems; Compuware; SAP; and SAS Institute.

The absence of Borland and IBM, though, meant JTC supporters were left to downplay concerns of increased fragmentation between competing Java tools frameworks - the opposite of JTC's intended goal. For its part, Borland believes the JTC is "premature", as the organization's relationship with the standards-setting body the Java Community Process (JCP) hasn't been adequately defined.

The JTC will work within the JCP submitting Java Specification Requests (JSRs) and comment on JSRs and resultant APIs it believes are suited for Java tools. However, a Java test compatibility kit is not on the table, which is something that could help ensure vendors who do implement JTC-backed APIs do so in a standards-based format.

JTC is the latest in a number of ongoing attempts to drive interoperability across different Java vendors' runtimes and tools. These include a set of APIs for common programming of some features in the competing WebSphere and WebLogic application servers announced in November, and JSR 198 published by Oracle in November 2002.

The absence of IBM from the JTC, in particular, will raise questions over the motives for JTC's formation. Sun in December rejected an offer to join the IBM-dominated Eclipse, which is building an interoperable framework for application development tools around IBM's WebSphere Studio IDE.

Concern also centers on why Sun and others have created the JTC, when JCP efforts such as JSR 198, are already underway for interoperability between Java IDEs. Many believe this is simply the latest round in a long-running battle between Sun and IBM to establish their dominance over the Java community.

This article is based on material originally published by ComputerWire.

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