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A group of leading Java software companies Tuesday banded together to create the Java Tools Community (JTC), with the notable absence of two major players: IBM and Borland Software Corp.

The JTC effort—led by Oracle Corp., BEA Systems Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc.—includes 10 founding companies intent on increasing Java “toolability” by promoting and developing Java Specification Requests (JSRs) that support interoperability in the design-time area. The group defined “toolability” as the measure of how simple it is to build tools around various technologies. In addition to the big three leaders, the JTC membership includes Compuware Corp., Embarcadero Technologies Inc., Iopsis Software, JetBrains Inc., Quest Software Inc., SAP AG and SAS Institute Inc.

In addition, the JTC announced founding customers including US Sprint and Verizon. The JTC officially announced itself Tuesday in a conference call with reporters and representatives from all 10 vendor companies.

See “Java Tools Community Back on Track.”

Joe Keller, vice president of Java and Web services at Sun, said the JTC will be like a sister organization to the Java Community process (JCP) and will push to enhance JSRs and to improve the JCP overall. Also, the JTC will work to promote interoperability in Java tools and will stand as a forum for communication by Java developers across the industry, organization officials said.

Dave Cotter, director of developer standards at BEA in San Jose, Calif., said there are three forms of participation in the JTC: core members that will make up a steering committee, general members whose ranks will come primarily from Java software companies, and community members who will provide customer input. Cotter said that as more customers come into the JTC, “we will see a migration of the customer setting the trend” for things in the JTC such as which JSRs to promote and other issues such as interoperability with Microsoft’s .Net. “The customer and the group at large will be the ultimate arbiter” of the direction the JTC takes on many issues, he said. Participation in the JTC is free.

Rich Main, director of Java development environments at SAS in Cary, N.C., said although Java is the premier software platform today, its successes have brought challenges such as a steep learning curve, increased costs and the need for greater interoperability in the design-time phase, and that the JTC will help with this. In addition, Main said the JTC will provide domain expertise to the JCP and will maximize the tools expertise on Java specifications and work to increase the commonality between tools, “possibly even a common build subsystem.”

Ted Farrell, chief architect and senior director of strategy for application development tools at Oracle, of Redwood Shores, Calif., said the success of the JTC will benefit the JCP. “The results of the JTC will be stronger specs in the JCP,” Farrell said. “We hope to have things like the JTC endorsement,” for endorsing certain JSRs for use in specific cases, he added.

IBM, Borland Missing in Action

Meanwhile, on the issue of the conspicuous absence of IBM and Borland, Farrell said: “The philosophy we’ve been working under is we haven’t been so much focused on the ‘who’ and the ‘how many’.” He said the group is announcing its effort today to get more people involved. In particular, “the voice of the customer is really important.”

Bob Sutor, director of IBM’s WebSphere software platform said: “IBM’s primary focus in the interoperable tools area is Eclipse. Our customers drive what we do, and they have told us loudly and clearly that they want an open tools implementation and infrastructure. Eclipse provides rich functionality today, and you can easily add support for new features or runtimes. For example, IBM’s WebSphere Studio is based on Eclipse and supports WebSphere as well as BEA’s WebLogic application server and Apache’s TomCat. IBM will continue to put its resources behind Eclipse as well as continue its leadership role in the Java Community Process. We’re happy to talk with others in the community about tools and interoperability, but we’re committed to accelerating the momentum behind Eclipse and extending its position as the number one open-source tools environment.”

Meanwhile, George Paolini, vice president of Java technology at Borland, in Scotts Valley, Calif., said that while Borland had participated behind the scenes in the formation of the JTC, “we felt it was premature to go out with an announcement before a structure was in place such as a structure between the JCP and the JTC for handling design-time elements. Design-time elements are not getting the attention they deserve. And the relationship between the JCP and the JTC is not baked to the point where we feel it appropriate to join.”

However, Paolini said this does not preclude Borland from joining the effort at a later time.

The group also addressed the issue of overlap with the IBM-sponsored Eclipse open-source development organization. Michael Bechauf, vice president of NetWeaver Standards at SAP, said, “The organization’s not mutually exclusive,” and added, “In fact we got a unanimous motion to work together with Eclipse… It will be important to us that Eclipse take part,” and Eclipse has had a positive response to overtures the JTC has made to Eclipse joining the JTC effort.

SAS’s Main said one initial benefit to developers from the JTC will be the ability to know that tools will be able to keep up with innovations in the Java space. “And people will be able to implement tools just as specs are being implemented,” he said. “It’s not about stifling innovation or creating a one-world development environment necessarily.”

Sun’s Keller said he expects the JTC to be successful because it is closely based on the Java Applications Interfaces for Communications (JAIN) model that Sun developed to create and promote Java APIs for the telecommunications market. “They’ve created 20 JSRs or so and have been very successful,” he said.

Prashant Sridharan, senior product manager of Visual Studio .Net at Microsoft, said: “It’s great to see the industry come on board with respect to providing productive tools and a consistent tools framework. Developers are the winners when this happens. Through the Visual Studio Industry Partner program, we have built a mutually-successful business model along with our partners.”

He added: “We’ve thought for years that a unified framework lends itself to a virtue that developers regard highly: that tools don’t stand in the way of creativity. This is the approach we take—and have been taking—with Visual Studio for years.”