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BEA spins XML into Java code

The software company launches an online tool that's intended to make it easier for Java developers to work with Extensible Markup Language.

BEA Systems on Monday will launch a service intended to help Java programmers better handle XML documents.

The free service, available from BEA's developer Web site, is based on XML Beans, software that the company is testing. The software converts Extensible Markup Language (XML) document definitions into Java code. By generating much of the Java needed to process an XML document with XML Beans, BEA intends to streamline the development process.

XML documents are fast becoming the agreed-upon method for formatting and exchanging corporate data. But traditional programming languages such as Java were not designed to handle XML documents easily. XML Beans is supposed to simplify Java programming with XML by automatically generating Java code from XML document definitions, or XML schemas.

A developer, for example, could be writing an inventory system and need to incorporate the company's purchase orders, which are represented as XML documents. Typically, developers would write Java code to route the XML documents through the inventory process to verify inventory amounts. Using BEA's XML Beans service, a programmer can send the XML document definitions to BEA?s developer Web site and get prewritten Java code in return.

The XML Beans initiative represents the company's ongoing effort to make Java development easier, particular when working with XML, said Byron Sebastian, vice president for WebLogic Workshop, BEA's Java-based development tool. XML Beans improves on existing Java-oriented tools for manipulating XML-formatted data, he said.

"We're trying to drive application development and integration, which are closely related," said Sebastian. "Application integration is relying more and more on XML, and application development relies more and more on Java."

Although the XML Beans technology promises to eliminate much of the Java coding required to incorporate XML into a Java application, one of the crucial questions for developers is how usable the BEA-generated Java files are, said Stephen O'Grady, an analyst at RedMonk.

Many initiatives have tried to accelerate the application development processes with automatic code generation, but have not caught on because the prewritten code they produced needed significant changes, O'Grady noted.

BEA sells server software based on the Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) standard for running customized business applications and corporate Web sites. Since introducing its Java-based development tool WebLogic Workbench, the company has made a strong push to build a BEA developer community to help drive sales of its flagship WebLogic J2EE application server.

BEA competes with IBM, Oracle, Microsoft and other software makers in the application server market.

The XML Beans technology will eventually be incorporated into the WebLogic Workshop programming application, Sebastian said. But the XML-to-Java conversion capabilities can work with any Java development tool, he said. BEA intends to launch more developer-oriented services from its dev2dev Web site, he added.