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Java Business Integration spec draft released, sparking controversy

After 18 months of "hard work," the proposed Java Business Integration (JBI) specification was released for public comment on Wednesday, Sun Microsystems announced.

Designed to provide a pluggable framework for Java developers working on integration projects, such as linking legacy systems to new Web services applications, JBI is officially part of the Java Community Process (JCP). Sun, as the lead developer, was joined by 22 vendors, including Oracle, Novell, SAP, Sybase, Sonic, Tibco, webMethods, and SeeBeyond, in working on the draft officially known in JCP as Java Specification Request (JSR) 208.

However, missing from list of JBI supporters are IBM and BEA, the major vendors of J2EE platforms WebSphere and WebLogic.

Roger Nolan, Sun’s senior director of product marketing for integration products, called BEA’s withdrawal from the JBI group earlier this month, on the eve of the specification’s release, "curious." "BEA had no technical objections to the standard while they were part of the process," he tells eADT.

He speculates that BEA and IBM are seeking to hold onto their J2EE platform customers, and that an open standard for Java integration is not in their best interests.

In a statement to eADT, IBM confirmed the company is not supporting the specification. "However," the statement read, "this decision does not impact the role IBM plays in the JCP process. IBM continues to participate as a leader in the JCP process and IBM continues to participate either as spec lead or as expert group member on many JSRs. IBM is focusing efforts for business integration around other specs that are further along, such as BPEL (the Business Process Execution Language).' In an e-mail to eADT, an IBM spokesperson says the company is not working on proprietary software, "as Sun claims," and notes that the BPEL is an industry standard.

BEA in a separate statement to eADT, confirmed that it has withdrawn from the JBI group. "At this point," the statement read, "we have determined that our efforts are better focused on application-developer focused initiatives such as BPEL, as well as providing enterprise-level qualities of service--areas not currently addressed by JSR 208."

The statement also noted: "In Java alone, there are more than 200 JSRs, and BEA will continue to sponsor and participate in those JSRs that we believe will be most beneficial to our customers."

Noting that politics is involved in all software standards work, Stephen O’Grady, senior analyst with RedMonk, tells eADT that it is difficult to predict how the absence of IBM and BEA will play out. However, he says Java developers he has talked with consider JBI a significant step in facilitating application integration in heterogeneous environments.

O’Grady calls JBI "a good approach" to the problem of connecting disparate systems, which he says is a high priority for enterprises heavily invested in multiple platforms for a variety of business applications that need to work together.

In those environments, he says, "this spec can make a significant difference for Sun and Java developers."

As for press reports and bloggings saying that JBI conflicts with the BPEL standard that IBM and Microsoft developed and support, Sun’s Nolan says the writers are confused. He insists BPEL is a complementary standard that would plug into JBI.

He points to Wednesday’s Sun announcement that states that JBI 'specifies standard interfaces for integration components like BPEL engines, transformation engines, or routing engines, to be plugged seamlessly into an integration container.'

"We’re totally supportive of BPEL," Nolan says.

While IBM and BEA are not part of the JBI effort, Nolan points to three new members -- Apache, IONA and JBoss -- that joined the committee working to complete the standard this week.

With the caveat that standard adoption in JCP is a democratic process subject to voters’ wills, Nolan says Sun hopes JBI will become an official standard that developers can begin working with by next summer.

The draft of JBI (JSR-208) is available at http://www.jcp.org/en/jsr/detail?id=208.

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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