BEA is hoping to leverage some of the work it's been developing through its WebLogic Workshop Web services development tool (previously known as Cajun), into a standard abstraction layer for Java J2EE. It wants to establish a framework that will help developers not skilled in Java.
At the JavaOne show this week, the company will be garnering support for its efforts, and plans to submit three standards proposals (officially Java Specification Requests) through the Java Community Process. The first, filed this week, concerns metadata annotations for the Java language.
Context Cajun was launched earlier this year as the WebLogic Workshop development tool. Its focus is on using basic Java to tie applications together without requiring a deep knowledge of object-oriented techniques, such as method and event invocation. It uses what BEA calls a 'conversational mode' to help developers build up complex applications using asynchronous messaging with just simple, procedural Java. The Workshop Controls feature hides the complexities of Java APIs, such as JDBD and JNDI, so that programmers don't have to learn them. BEA acknowledges that the tool can't replace full-function development tools from companies such Sun, Borland and IBM, but says it will still open up the development process to millions of new programmers more used to such tools as scripting languages, Visual Basic and PowerBuilder.
Last year BEA acquired Crossgain, a small development tools company that was working on .NET-compatible products for non-Microsoft platforms including Oracle, Linux and Java. BEA said it didn't pick up any existing products from the deal, but did take on both the people and the philosophy. Adam Bosworth, Crossgain's chief technology officer, now VP of engineering at BEA, has been evangelizing for BEA's new standardization effort.
Technology BEA says that "key innovations" from Cajun will be submitted as Java Specification Requests. The first is JSR 175 - Metadata Annotations for the Java language - which will be led by Sun and will provide a base mechanism for adding annotations. The annotations provide metadata that can be used for identifying such programming elements as classes, interfaces, methods and fields, so that development tools can recognize them. It should replace the various ad hoc metadata facilities in use today.
BEA's contribution is a specific annotation vocabulary for Web Services. It also plans two further submissions around the Workshop Controls and XML mapping technologies included within Cajun.
Separately, BEA has signed up various partnerships around Cajun on integration and technology development. Allidex, Flamenco Networks and Grand Central Communications are working with BEA on security, reliability, management and monitoring, TogetherSoft and WebGain are adding Java IDE support for Web services to their own products, and Altova, Borland, eXcelon, Ipedo, NeoCore and Systinet are promising Web services and standards support.
Conclusion Standards-setting can often be a messy business, and those making the submissions usually have their own agendas. BEA's agenda in this case appears to be to get more Web services business associated with its application server. Other tools developers that don't see Cajun as a significant threat to their core heavy-duty tools businesses, seemed supportive of the move when contacted by the451. Microsoft, traditionally strong at providing easy-to-use visual programming tools, is the main target here.