FRAMINGHAM (01/06/2004) - Oracle Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc. and BEA Systems Inc. head a list of 10 Java tools vendors that today are announcing the formation of a community that they say will create and promote standards-based efforts to ease the building of tools that easily interoperate.
By doing so, the Java Tools Community (JTC) also hopes to ultimately ease development for users of the technology. Ever cognizant of the threat posed by Microsoft Corp.'s .Net development environment, Java vendors have been pushing for much of the past year to make their tools easier to use.
In addition to Oracle, Sun and BEA Systems, founding members of the JTC include Compuware Corp., Embarcadero Technologies Inc., Iopsis Software, JetBrains Inc., Quest Software Inc., SAP AG and SAS Institute Inc. The community isn't restricted to vendors, however. Sprint Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc. also have signed up as founding customers.
Despite the creation of the new community, major Java vendors have yet to present a unified front on the most effective approach to achieve their ultimate goals. Two of the largest Java tools vendors -- IBM Corp. and Borland Software Corp. -- didn't join the JTC.
Bob Sutor, director of WebSphere infrastructure software at IBM, said that he has nothing bad to say about the JTC and that his company is "always happy to chat with anybody in the industry on these topics." But he also noted that IBM intends to keep its focus on its Eclipse development framework, which he views as "really the compelling industry effort."
One of the main benefits users get from Eclipse is the ability to work from a single interface with any tools, spanning multiple languages, that plug into the framework. IBM donated its Eclipse code to the open-source community and plans within the next 30 to 45 days to spin off an independent, nonprofit organization to manage the growth of Eclipse.
Similarly, George Paolini, Borland's vice president and general manager of Java products, said his company is concentrating on the "ecosystem" that has developed around its PrimeTime development framework. He said Borland has had many discussions with the vendors pulling together the JTC and is very supportive of any efforts to address issues related to Java and Java tools -- particularly in the area of design, since the Java Community Process (JCP) Sun established has tended to be server-focused.
Paolini said Borland will take a "wait-and-see" approach on the JTC until it knows how the group is structured and how it will interact with the JCP.
"We're on the executive committee for the JCP. We fully believe (the JTC) needs to be part of the JCP. It needs to be an organization that's working within the JCP," Paolini said. "To date, there isn't a clearly defined process for how that will happen."
Ted Farrell, chief architect and director of strategy for application development tools at Oracle, said there is no formal arrangement yet as to how the JTC's work will flow into the JCP, but "at the end of day, everyone is committed to the JCP." He said the JTC is "really a support organization for the JCP" and its work "will feed the JCP." By making today's announcement, the JTC hopes that more companies will be to participate.
Farrell said he doesn't see the lack of participation by IBM and Borland as a major problem. "It would be great if they were fully behind this effort now instead of partially behind this effort," Farrell said. "But this isn't critical. IBM and Borland are building tools off the same standards as the rest of us, and JTC is an organization that is going to help shape those standards."
"JCP is a good forum for all members of the Java community to come together and work on things," said Joe Keller, vice president of marketing of Java, Web services and tools at Sun. "...There wasn't a working group to get together to talk about things -- standards, designs types of issues and requirements -- specific to tools vendors. JCP has a much broader charter."
He said the JTC is modeled after a community of more than 80 vendors involved in the telecommunications industry that have a special interest in developing Java application programming interfaces for integrated networks (JAIN). The JAIN community uses the JCP for their standards work, he said.
Keller said he doesn't believe the lack of a formal link between the JTC and the JCP will be a barrier to progress. He expects within six to 18 months to see the tools community submit new specifications to the JCP and make changes to those now being worked on with a focus on making tools interoperable and easier to build.
Sutor said that IBM will see the trickle-down effects of the work of the JTC through the JCP.
"Most of what they talk about will end up in the Java Community Process, and IBM will continue to work there on things we decide have business value to our customers," Sutor said. "So in the long run, we don't feel left out in any way."
Sutor said Eclipse and the JTC are "different animals." Eclipse is actual code, similar to frameworks such as Sun's open-source NetBeans, Borland's PrimeTime and Oracle's JDeveloper framework. But the JTC is focusing on the creation of interfaces to the frameworks, and its work will be turned over to the JCP for standardization, he said.
The possibility exists that the Eclipse Foundation could join the JTC. But that decision will be up to the board of the independent Eclipse Foundation once it is established, according to Skip McGaughey, an IBM official who will soon relinquish his post as Eclipse chairperson.
In the meantime, McGaughey said, "Eclipse wants to support any industry activities that promote tool integration and interoperability, much like we support other standards groups. Eclipse implements standards. Eclipse is all about code, whereas the Java Tools Community is all about requirements and trying to influence the Java Community Process."
SAP and SAS noted today that they are core members of both the JTC and Eclipse. Michael Bechauf, vice president of standards for SAP's NetWeaver development framework, said it's important to SAP that Eclipse take part in the JTC. SAP plans to be a board steward of the new independent Eclipse Foundation, according to a company spokesman.
Rich Main, director of Java development environments at SAS, added that Eclipse and JTC are not mutually exclusive entities. He said that, over time, he thinks Eclipse will recognize the value of the JTC, particularly as a forum for getting input from customers.