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Long-time industry rivals rallied together in San Francisco today to salute a Java enterprise milestone, J2EE 1.4. The launch had actually come and gone recently, but without the required degree of unanimity. You could tell what the theme of the day was when an open source representative described IBM's recent call to open source Java as "opportunistic."

These rivalries might be deep and bitter, but most of the assembled here managed to emphasize the positive. In truth, where else is there for Sun, Oracle, IBM, BEA and Borland to go? If Java didn't exist, they'd have to invent something to counter Microsoft's frameworks and tools, and they're happier with J2EE than without it. In fact, Microsoft's expertise at providing good developer tools won praise from all quarters, including the open source corner.

J2EE Sun describes the J2EE 1.4 milestone as the web services release: it includes support for SOAP and Web Services Description Language (WSDL), and an interface for doing RPC over XML (JAX-RPC), and a messaging standard. Parts of it are already appearing in products and fully-compliant tools are expected to be available from all quarters by the end of the year. Sun itself released a validation kit for enterprise developers and NetBeans 3.6.

Closing the gap

IBM sounded best pleased that 1.4 gave it ways of building connectors so developers could access their legacy systems. Borland sounded pleased that it could create developer environments which include the slick features it has sold on Windows for years. BEA echoed this, but Benjamin Renaud, deputy CTO, said that through acquisitions, it had hired a hundred or so ex-Microsoft tools developers - so it could do that properly. "We're not there yet," he said, "but we are closing the gap at an impressive rate."

Borland's George Paolini, who had launched J2EE while at Sun, said the company wasn't out to convert the seven million or so Visual Basic developers. "You're not going to convert the vast majority. They're comfortable in the Microsoft world, Microsoft is very good at providing tools to be productive," he said.

Marc Fleury, who leads the open source J2EE app server company JBoss, had only nice things to say about Sun this time, even though the slideware called him "Mark". JBoss had been involved in a protracted spat with Sun over the cost of J2EE certification. "The model is stable now, which is a good thing," he said. JBoss business is booming, and earlier this year the company got an infusion of capital, and there are other fish to fry.

"Microsoft's goal is to eliminate the middleware market," Fleury warned. He was then asked when JBoss would have a compatible implementation. JBoss wasn't the only open source J2EE presence. French non-profit ObjectWeb has submitted its LGPL app server JonAS for certification. ®

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