Sun links XML, Java for e-commerce site building

The company is taking the two of the most prominent Web development languages--the Extensible Markup Language and Java--and linking them, potentially expanding Java'a appeal as a tool for building e-commerce Web sites.

Sun Microsystems is taking the two of the most prominent Web development languages--the Extensible Markup Language and Java--and linking them, potentially expanding Java'a appeal as a tool for building e-commerce Web sites.

Sun, which created the Java programming language, today released an application programming interface, or set of instructions, that serves as a common interface to Extensible Markup Language (XML), a budding Net standard for data exchange, from Java applications.

The common interface, called the Java API for XML Parsing (JAXP) ensures that XML parsers, built by companies such as Sun, IBM and Microsoft, are all compatible. A parser dissects and reads XML text in an application, much like a Web browser reads HTML to generate Web pages on a computer. Previously, developers had to write software code that connected Java to the parser.

Anne Thomas Manes, an analyst at the Patricia Seybold Group, said Sun's efforts to tie Java and XML are important because most programmers developing with XML are using Java.

"Sun is trying to save developers time and effort by incorporating XML support directly into the Java language," Manes said. "XML developers, for the most part, are using Java, and now Sun is just making it that much simpler to do it."

XML is a Web standard for exchanging data that proponents say will allow companies to easily and cheaply conduct online transactions with customers and partners.

While HTML, the language for creating Web sites, has a predefined vocabulary, XML allows developers to define their own vocabulary for building custom systems that can exchange data, such as price and product information. XML is also being adopted by many industries to build customized business-to-business data exchange systems.

The final version of the Java-to-XML interface, previously available in a test version, can be downloaded today from Sun's Web site. Nancy Lee, Sun's senior product manager for XML, said the final version features a few minor bug fixes. "It's stable and solid enough for production," she said.

Lee said Sun is considering adding the interface as part of the core Java standard. In the meantime, the company is working on building more links between the two development technologies, she said.

Sun is working to add more XML support for a technology called Java Server Pages, Lee said, which let developers easily add Java code to their Web pages. More specifically, Sun will add support for the Extensible Stylesheet Language (XSL) Transformation standard, which will let programmers easily use XML to tie together their software.

XSL technology lets users define how a document is presented, specifying color and font. XSL Transformation lets developers easily map different documents together without having to write a lot of additional code.

Lee said Sun is also planning to support XML in Enterprise JavaBeans, a programming model that lets developers write applications using reusable pieces of code.

The company next quarter plans to release an early version of a technology that views the structure of an XML document and automatically generates the Java software code that can be programmed to perform a business function. For example, Lee said, if a business receives a purchase order in XML that then needs to be sent to the warehouse department, the technology, currently code-named Project Adelard, will automatically generate the Java code that can be programmed to tell the warehouse department to ship the product.

Sun is also creating guidelines that will detail how software developers can use Java and XML together. The framework will support the efforts of a nonprofit XML consortium called Oasis. The group, which includes Sun, IBM and Oracle, is attempting to create a uniform way for businesses to use XML to send data to each other. Microsoft, which has battled Sun over legal issues involving the use of Java in its products, has developed a rival XML framework, called the BizTalk Framework.

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