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JavaBeans for the mainstream

Sun is planning a spec that will make it easier to link Java components into server-based applications for building high-end systems.

Sun Microsystems (SUNW) says Java isn't just for building flashy Web pages anymore.

Sun is planning to launch a Java specification by month's end that will make it easier to link Java components, called JavaBeans, into workable, server-based applications for building high-end systems.

The Enterprise JavaBeans spec is expected to win the backing of major software vendors, including Oracle, IBM, and others. It will also give programmers one more reason to take a serious look at Java for mainstream business application programming, said analysts.

JavaBeans are reusable pieces of precoded software that can range from simple animations to complex logic for calculating sales commissions and averages, for instance. JavaBeans can be snapped together to create a larger, more complex application that runs on any system that includes a Java Virtual Machine.

The initial JavaBeans specification defined what a JavaBean is and how development tool makers, such as Sun, Symantec, Borland International, and IBM, among other companies, could build tools to develop JavaBeans. The spec also sketched out a rudimentary communications system between JavaBeans components using Sun's (Remote Method Invocation) interface.

Merv Adrian, an analyst with Giga Information Group, said Enterprise JavaBeans takes the next step by defining communications between JavaBeans and other types of components, such as ActiveX components and CORBA (Common Object Request Broker Application) components.

"Sun initially put two hunks of JavaBeans together using RMI. Now they need a way to let them talk, a service called introspection. That's what Enterprise JavaBeans provides," said Adrian.

Adrian said the communication to other component types "makes JavaBeans a more well-balanced citizen in a multi-vendor component architecture."

Enterprise JavaBeans also extends the technology to servers, allowing programmers to encapsulate complex transaction logic and operations into JavaBeans.

The server-based JavaBeans can then be managed by a new class of component transaction management software from Sybase, Kiva Software, and other vendors.

That's the important part of the spec, said Adrian. "This is definitely an important step for JavaBeans and is a step up for the architecture in the component world."

The spec also gives Java backers one more weapon against Microsoft in the battle to control component development.

While Microsoft's COM (Component Object Model) strategy--which includes ActiveX and the cross-platform version of COM, called DCOM--is mostly focused on the company's Windows operating system, JavaBeans is being tailored to fit in a multi-vendor world, claims Sun.

"Component models that exclude other models are not as useful," said Adrian. "Middleware vendors will need to work with C++, CORBA , JavaBeans, ActiveX?They have to, because end users will be trying different models, like COM on desktop and CORBA and JavaBeans on the back end."