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Sun's Kitty Hawk aims high

Company plans to retool its back-end Java software and tools to enable system designs that are more modular and flexible.

Sun Microsystems detailed this week a plan called Project Kitty Hawk to redesign its back-end corporate Java software to be more modular and cost-effective.

At the JavaOne conference Monday, the company said it will rework its Java Enterprise System server software suite and Java Studio programming tools to simplify the process of building a services-oriented architecture, or SOA, a modular system design meant to reduce the cost of running computing systems. With a SOA, developers design applications so they can reuse a single "service," such as a product price check, for different applications.

The changes to Sun's software, which Sun will be rolling out over the next two years, will be coupled with consulting services, including a "SOA Readiness Assessment" program.

Sun said the product enhancements of Project Kitty Hawk will make it easier for software developers to write Web services applications using Java. For example, a product under development, code-named Project Disco, will give programmers a visual tool for assembling applications using a Web services language called Business Process Execution Language for automating business processes, according to people familiar with Sun's plans.

Project Kitty Hawk will let developers "find, assemble and deliver applications based on a services-oriented architecture using Java Web services," said Joe Keller, Sun's vice president of marketing for Java Web services and developer tools.

For example, Keller said Sun will introduce modeling based on the unified modeling language in the second version of Java Studio Enterprise, which will go into beta testing this summer and be available by the end of the year.

Sun will also update the Java Enterprise System, or JES, the Java server software needed to run business applications written in Java. The services-oriented architecture enhancements will enable customers to use a Sun-supplied service, such as authenticating a person's identity when they access a network, for many different purposes, Sun said.

The changes from Project Kitty Hawk are expected to be delivered next year. "By release 4 of JES (due next year), we'll have the first level of integration. Subsequent releases (will have) an entirely integrated package to combine middleware with all the developer products," said John Loiacono, Sun's executive vice president of software.

Sun's push into products that enable a services-oriented architecture mirror moves by its competitors. Java server software companies BEA Systems, IBM, Oracle and Microsoft are all building in the tooling and changes to their Java middleware to simplify the task of building a SOA.

CNET's Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.