Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Java Year Focused on Tools

Java Year Focused on Tools
It was a year for tools, and nothing eclipsed the open-source platform underlying IBM’s WebSphere application development and deployment platform.

In February, Big Blue liberated the platform by turning it over to a separate nonprofit corporation with five membership levels. The new Eclipse Foundation would no longer be led by an IBM employee, nor by an employee of the other strategic developers, Intel and QNX. In June, it named Oracle’s former vice president Mike Milinkovich as executive director.

Having opened the foundation for its platform, IBM used the political capital it earned to demand that Sun open up Java itself. By year’s end, Sun had partially acquiesced, making the source code to the J2SE 6.0 libraries available for noncommercial use.

Eclipse itself received an upgrade, featuring a user interface that can manage more than 100 plug-ins. As a result, many smaller application vendors that build stand-alone applications, from testing tools to interface designers to full-fledged development environments, converted these to become Eclipse plug-ins.

Sun attempted to create its own star with the Java Tools Community, but it was a white dwarf compared to the Eclipse red giant. The group did not lay out a road map for its efforts, but said it intended to work with toolmakers and customers to make the Java platform easier for creating tools; it dubbed this capability “toolability.” It would take these efforts to the Java Community Process.

While Sun’s JTC did not shine, the Java owner did make progress with some of its own tools. In April, the company released a renamed version of its tools. In addition, it released a new tool called Java Studio Creator intended for business programmers not as experienced with the intricacies of Java development.

Hearing the same drumbeat of simplicity, Oracle released a version of JDeveloper with a graphical interface that the company claimed even nonprogrammers could use.

For its part, BEA tried to advance its tools platform by giving portions of it away. The company in January released a toolkit to help port Page Flows to other application servers and submitted its XML Beans to Apache.

In June, it followed up by launching what it called Project Beehive, an application framework that sits between the WebLogic application server and the application itself. So far, the server will work with the Apache Tomcat container and is scheduled to work with the Apache Geronimo server, but does not work with other application servers.

However, one significant project, called Pollinate, will enable the Beehive framework to work with the Eclipse framework. That way, developers would be able to use Eclipse tools to build applications that run on the WebLogic server.

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