SAN FRANCISCO — The multi-vendor governing body that sets industry standards for Sun Microsystems‘ Java technology defended its record this week and committed to exploring open source directions for the programming language at the JavaOne worldwide

developer conference.

In a rare gathering of several well-known firms that participate in the 800-member Java Community Process (JCP), executives said they are well aware of industry criticism over the speed at which decisions are made. In his keynote speech Tuesday, Sun CEO Scott McNealy admitted the company’s stewardship of Java and the JCP was “”not mistake-free.”” He also offered his own report card of how well the standards body is responding to Java Specification Requests (JSRs), the projects that can eventually have a major impact on how applications are developed and used. Although his comments were mostly favourable, McNealy criticized the JCP for the number of JSRs that have been completed, and the time it takes to complete them.

Specifications completed through the JCP include two versions of J2EE, JAX for Web services and two versions of J2SE for desktops.

Onno Kluyt, the JCP’s program management office director, pointed out that two thirds of all JSRs are eventually wrapped up, and on average working through the process takes between 12 to 18 months. That ranks better than many other standards bodies, he argued, and in the group’s five-and-a-half year existence, more than 240 JSRs have been done.

“”I do think there’s a pressure in terms of timing — the market doesn’t want to wait,”” said Scott Jameson, director of Java standards strategy at HP’s software global business unit. “”I think what we’re trying to do now is to make sure that some projects don’t fall into black holes. You’ll sometimes come across projects and realize they’ve been dormant for a year.””

Donald Deutch, vice-president of standards strategy and architecture at Oracle Corp., added that speed is only one metric by which to evaluate the JCP’s progress. “”There are many forums that are more complete, but how many of those standards have been embraced by the community?”” he asked. “”We don’t want to put things out there that nobody cares about.””

Although the volume of JSRs has tended to ebb and flow, Sun vice-president and JCP program chair Rob Gingell said he’s noticed a decline in the last year. This could partly be a sign of Java’s maturity, he said, but it could also mean that developers simply don’t know where to take it next.

This year’s JavaOne has seen considerable discussion around one possibility, however — that more parts of Java code would be shared with the open source community, as Sun did with its Looking Glass interfaces earlier this week. Sun executives have indicated they are concerned that open source Java would trigger compatibility issues, but Gingell said the JCP is actively examining how it would function in an open source scenario.

“”Open source is about how people collaborate to make artifacts. The JCP is supposed to decide on what those artifacts should be so that consumers have a contract they can depend upon,”” he said. “”If we need to change to be a better servant of what, I think that’s what we ought to do. Even if that means us ceasing to exist, though I’m not contemplating that right now.””

McNealy also used his keynote speech to urge Microsoft and Red Hat to join the JCP, and Gingell said there was at possibility it could happen.

“”A lot of their applications run on the Java platform. I’m sure they want them to work well,”” he said. “”I’m sure they’re not going to join us because they suddenly think Java is wonderful . . . Hell froze over once. It’s not going to happen again,”” he added, referring to Microsoft’s 10-year partnership agreement with Sun formed earlier this year.

BEA vice-president of architecture and standards Ed Cobb said reaching out to other communities in the IT industry and recruiting new members is difficult because standards bodies are focused on technology problems, while most vendors right now say they want to focus on business problems. “”The people that don’t participate are the ones who end up actually using the stuff,”” he said. “”They complain an awful lot, but they don’t do anything to get involved.””

The JCP will be holding one of its international meetings at the end of next month in Toronto.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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