Web services migration to mobile devices tough: panel

SAN FRANCISCO — Sun Microsystems Inc. is pledging to bring Web services to the wireless world.

At the JavaOne opening keynote Monday, Rich Green, vice-president and general manager for Java and XML software, said Sun is committed

to bringing the world of the “consumer client” into Web services. This will happen, he said, through submission of Java Specification Request #172 to the Java Community Process, a multivendor group set up by Sun that works to gain consensus on new Java standards.

“This technology is designed to extend Web services standards to wireless handsets,” Green said. Included in the specification will be APIs and other technologies that provide a standard way for delivering Web services applications to portable devices.

However, there’s still much debate as to what vision of Web services will come out on top.

In one corner of the ring, there’s Sun with various flavours of Java. These include J2EE (a platform for building Web-based enterprise applications. J2EE services are performed in the middle tier between the user’s browser and the enterprise’s databases and legacy information systems), and J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition, a version of Java 2 for small devices such as PDAs and consumer appliances). At the other end, there’s the promise of Microsoft Corp.’s .Net platform.

Bringing Web services to the mobile world presents a number of challenges, agreed a panel of experts discussing Java tools for Web services.

“It’s not about writing an application that just runs on a handset,” said Ted Shelton, senior vice-president of business development and chief strategy officer at Borland Software Corp. “It’s about writing an application that runs across an entire infrastructure.”

Borland offers development tools for a number of different platforms, including JBuilder for Java.

“Web services is an integration point for the enterprise,” said Peter Young, vice-president, Forte tools, at Sun. “Web services provides that end-to-end glue.”

Developing Web services for a reliably connected environment is much easier than in a disconnected world, said Adrian Mitu, marketing manager, WebSphere

Studio, at IBM Corp. “When you get to PDAs … you have to start dealing with unreliable networks.”

The key challenge is one of deployment, said Tyler Jewell, director, technical evangelism for BEA Systems, the only firm on the panel that did not sell its own development tools. “Any framework that you put together has to take into account whether it’s a connected world, partially connected or disparate disconnected world.”

Everyone on the panel agreed that have community of participants contributing to the development of open standards is a good idea, but that open standards is not the same as open source. Sun’s Java Community Process, for example, is designed to allow members to contribute to the development of standards.

“I don’t look at (open source) so much as a technology but as a way of doing things,” said Young.

IBM has its own forum, called Eclipse. Launched last November, the Eclipse Platform is an open source environment for creating, integrating and deploying application development tools for use across a broad range of computing technology. Through the platform, seamless integration of tools from several different vendors will be possible on Windows, Linux and QNX developer workstations.

“It’s very important to be able to support the entire development life cycle,” said Mitu, “and it’s very important to partner.”

IBM has worked with Microsoft to develop Web services standards such as SOAP and UDDI, notes Mitu, while Borland recognizes that customers will want to applications in a heterogeneous environment, said Shelton.

“It’s myopic to think that we won’t have .Net in the enterprise,” said Mitu.

Shelton believes that Microsoft will use its strength in the desktop space to work it’s way into the enterprise, while J2EE, which is already strong in the enterprise, will work its way down into the desktop.

“It’s a lot easier to go down,” added Jewell.

In related news Monday, Waterloo, Ont.-based Research In Motion announced a Java 2 Platform developers’ environment for its BlackBerry handheld device.

According to Sun, there are now three million developers building applications in Java.

JavaOne continues through Friday.

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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