Java Tools Community Effort Back on TrackBy Darryl K. Taft | Posted 2003-12-31 Email Print
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According to sources, the plan to build an ecosystem of Java tool frameworks based on open standards appears to be finally gathering steam with new support from tools vendors.The effort to build a tight-knit organization to support advancements in Java development is set to take off next month, and possibly as early as next week, sources said.
The effort, initially reported in eWEEK and originally known as the Java Tools Community (JTC), will feature several leading Java tool vendors working to link their frameworks together. The vendors, including leaders BEA Systems Inc., Oracle Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc., hope the creation of an ecosystem of Java tool frameworks based on open standards will battle more effectively against Microsoft Corp. and its .Net Framework and Visual Studio .Net integrated development environment (IDE).
The effort was to launch in September, but stalled as the nascent organization pressed to get more companies involved. Now, with increased support, not only of technology provider companies, but also of user organizations, the JTC is ready to launch, sources said.
Meanwhile, Sun, which recently declined an invite to join the IBM-led Eclipse Java development environment effort, is heavily involved with the JTC, which now could become larger than Eclipse, some said.
Rich Green, Sun vice president of developer tools and Java software, said that during lengthy discussions related to joining Eclipse, the company "moved from how does Sun join to how do we coalesce the two communities and platforms."
Yet, in the end, Sun decided "we couldn't do it equitably or evenly...and we decided to keep distinct and going forward," he said.
However, Green said Sun believes "tool and plug-in interoperability is good stuff," but the industry needs to unite at a broader level.
Though he would not be more specific about Sun's plans, Green said: "My hope is everybody should participate in thisand my hope is we can get every tools vendor and open source group to contribute and participate."
According to sources, other companies involved and invited to participate include Compuware Corp., SAP AG, Sybase Corp., SAS Institute Inc. and Telelogic Corp.
In addition, invitations went out to Java tools heavyweights Borland Software Corp. and IBM, whose participation could make or break the effort. But sources said as yet neither company has moved to join. Officials from both companies said they are still considering whether and how to participate.
"The group is looking to tackle fragmentation in the Java market from the tools perspective, not the platform perspective," said a source at one of the companies involved.
"It obviously makes sense that tools vendors, who see the benefits in increased interoperability among various Java tools, would be interested in coming up with some sort of a plan that wouldn't necessarily call for the extreme nature of Eclipseand largely commoditizing it and removing the IP [intellectual property] equation, yet significantly increasing interoperability," said Mark Driver, an analyst with Gartner Inc., Stanford, Conn.
According to a source familiar with the group's plans, although the effort is supposed to build a broad Java ecosystem for everyone, "really it is an effort for the industry to agree on a level of commoditization for Java tools and to ensure that IBM Eclipse does not steal everyone's thunder."
At the same time, part of the group's plan would be to have the Eclipse organization join and support this effort.
Said another source: "Sun, Oracle and BEA are basically playing catch-up and they want to put Eclipse in its place."
Yet, a source close to the JTC said: "This is not an initiative perceived to be confrontational to or opposed to Eclipse."
And although IBM and Borland appear poised to participate in the JTC, they both have less to gain in joining such an effort, as both companies have thriving Java tools businesses.
Borland already has an ecosystem around its JBuilder tool due to its open tool API platform that helps developers and independent software vendors (ISVs) develop additional functionality.
"I think that Java IDE [integrated development environment] interoperability would be good for the developers in that it will drive down the cost of IDEs and would allow developers to pick and choose the IDE components that best suite their needs," said Nader Karimi, chief information officer at the Screen Actors Guild Producers Pension and Health Plans in Burbank, Calif.
Joe Lindsay, chief technology officer at eBuilt Inc. of Costa Mesa, Calif., supports the effort. "My philosophy is to enable and empower whoever is closest to the problem as best you can, and this often means letting developers use whatever tool they feel most productive with," he said.
Michel Genard, product manager of the hardware-assisted and standalone tools division at Wind River Systems Inc., based in Alameda, Calif., and a relatively new member of the Eclipse consortium, said tools users need more options.
"The market is growing and customers need more options to be able to provide more interoperability between different types of tools," Genard said.