In-Depth

JCP: A watched pot never boils

The Java Community Process (JCP) is the group that shepherds all Java technology improvements, specs, reference implementations and so on. It has been around since 1998, and today has more than 700 individual and corporate members.

When someone wants to request a change or update in a Java-related technology, the first step is to create a Java Specification Request (JSR). This is to ensure that the change has not already been made or is not already in progress.

Currently, there are more than 230 JSRs in development, with about half in the final stages.

For each JSR, there is an expert group and a spec lead. There is a series of steps, votes and review processes -- akin to a standards group like the W3C.

Over the years, there has been some criticism leveled at the JCP, from things taking too long to various pieces of the Java pie being dominated by a few large vendors (notably Sun and IBM). The JCP is aware of these issues and is working to help smaller companies and individuals take on leadership roles.

And so in March, a new set of rules took effect. They are intended to allow more public view of the specs in process much earlier than before, to solicit a wider range of opinions, and to shorten the overall time it takes to make something into a final JSR. The end result, it is hoped, will yield specs that are accepted in and implemented by the Java community much more quickly.

Among the specific changes in JCP 2.6 (as the new version of the rules is known): fewer ballots required by whichever Executive Committee is overseeing the particular JSR; more drafts that are available to JCP members and the public; more time for public comment on JSRs; and making public more information about why the Expert Group makes the decisions it does.

Floyd Marinescu, longtime EJB implementer and industry watcher, said the JCP process pretty much works. “Having a steward is important. With an enterprise platform, you can’t have 30 different, mutually exclusive innovations.

It needs to grow in a consistent, straight manner that enterprises can keep up with,” he said.

He calls the JCP a “happy medium” between the uncontrolled (yet productive) chaos of the open-source world and the much longer time associated with most standards groups. “This way we have both an open process and a steward,” said Marinescu.

Please see the following related stories: “Simple EJB: Is it ready yet?” by Johanna Ambrosio

“Vendor tool approaches to easing EJB development” by Rich Seeley

About the Author

Johanna Ambrosio is a freelance writer based in Marlborough, Mass., specializing in technology and business. Contact her at jambrosio@earthlink.net.

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