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Java spec waits for Web services

Sun Microsystems delays a much-anticipated Java specification by three months to comply with guidelines designed to keep Web services interoperable.

A revision to a much-anticipated Java standard will be delayed about three months in order to comply with guidelines designed to keep Web services interoperable.

Sun Microsystems, which controls the widely used Java standard, said Tuesday that it will push out the delivery of the Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) 1.4 specification until this summer. The J2EE 1.4 specification, which gives Java licensees the blueprint for building Java programming tools and server software, was set to debut in the current quarter.

The forthcoming J2EE specification incorporates Web services protocols, a set of standards and a programming method for connecting disparate computing systems. Adoption of Web services is accelerating as companies look for ways to lower the cost of sharing information.

Sun representatives said the company chose to push back the finalized J2EE 1.4 specification in order to comply with interoperability guidelines set forth by the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I).

The WS-I is a consortium of about 160 companies that examine existing Web services standards and provide guidelines and testing tools to assure compatibility of Web services products. The majority of the WS-I's members are IT providers, including industry heavyweights IBM, Microsoft, Sun and Oracle.

Analysts said the delay of the specification could dismay some cutting-edge companies that exploit the latest Java enhancements, but it is unlikely to bite into the sales of Java software from companies like Sun, Oracle, IBM and BEA Systems.

"These specifications are way ahead of most users," said Shawn Willett, an analyst at Current Analysis. "Most customers are not using all that's in the current standard. The process takes years."

Sun has already introduced Web services add-ons and developers are already writing Web services with Java. The J2EE 1.4 specification codifies the Web services support in an effort to ensure compatibility across purveyors of Java tools and application servers.

Although IT providers and businesses can build customized applications using Web services, minor differences in Web services products can cause glitches. The WS-I's basic profile, set for to be finalized in the second quarter, is intended to clarify ambiguities in the different Web services standards to assure that products work together. The organization is now expanding its focus to Web services security.

"We thought that this change was important for the industry, so that there was no conflict between J2EE 1.4 and the WS-I," said Ralph Galantine, group marketing manager for Java Web services at Sun. "We thought it was worth taking out to the summer."

Sun expects to have its own Sun ONE application server and associated tools comply with J2EE 1.4 by the fourth quarter, Galantine said.