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Loosely Coupled weblog

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

J2EE: the gloves are off

The current chair of the Apache Web Services project foresees a future without J2EE, and has just launched a software startup with a mission to make it happen.

Davanum Srinivas, fresh from a leading role in web services strategy at Computer Associates, has teamed up with Sanjiva Weerawarana, until recently a leading light behind IBM's web services strategy. They have joined forces to found WSO2, which launched this week at OSCON, the O'Reilly Open Source conference.

Here's what the WSO2 website says about their mission:

"WSO2 is a Web services software platform company with a difference.

"We are creating an uncompromising middleware platform for Web services which treats Web services as first class components instead of as a facade to some existing platform like J2EE. Apache Axis2 is the first SOAP stack which espouses this design in its guts: we focus entirely on doing what's right for Web services first. We make no apologies for being XML centric instead of Java object centric. An add-on layer allows Axis2 to play by the, sometimes klunky, Java rules and regulations (like JAX-RPC) for those who want the comfort of (and are willing to pay the price of) those rules & regulations.

The best part is, all of our software is available free under an open source license.

The inherent implication is that a lot of J2EE is unnecessary (if not downright "klunky") when building web services integration. I'm intrigued, because it echoes the sentiments sounded by ActiveGrid CEO, Peter Yared, which I highlighted last year in my blog posting J2EE: no longer required. That posting riled a lot of slashdot readers, most of whom dismissed it as groundlessly provocative. OK, maybe it was provocative; but groundless? Now we have two eminent pillars of the Apache Foundation saying something very similar, which makes the position a lot harder to dismiss.

Indeed, the Axis2 project seems to put the full weight of the Apache Foundation behind the notion of casting out a whole load of J2EE baggage. Here are the three major changes from the current version of Axis as highlighted in the statement of "background and motivation" on the Axis2 homepage:

  1. "Axis2 has a more modular and flexible message handling pipeline, it focuses on the details of message handling and provides clear hooks for implementations of associated Web Services standards and protocols. This evolution will allow Axis to be a foundational technology for next generation Web Services."
  2. "Axis2 introduces a representation for SOAP messages called AXIOM (AXIs Object Model). AXIOM consists of two parts: a complete XML Infoset representation and a SOAP Infoset representation ... This approach allows Axis2 to support multiple levels of abstraction for consuming and offering Web services: using plain AXIOM, using generated code and statically data-bound data types and so on. Developers with demanding performance requirements will be able to use AXIOM to create highly scaleable Web Services."
  3. "A third shift in Axis 2 is the de-emphasis of RPC-oriented Web Services and a shift towards more document-oriented, message style asynchronous service interactions."

WSO2 launched on the back of a press release from enterprise open-source vendor Covalent, which is an investor in the startup. This is what the Covalent release has to say about WSO2:

"With offices in Boston and Sri Lanka, WSO2 is developing an open source, integrated Web services middleware framework and value-added services based on Apache Axis and supporting secure, reliable transactions and business processes. WSO2 was recently founded by Sanjiva Weerawarana and Davanum Srinivas, co-creators of the core Web services platform specifications and standards and the technical leads behind the Web services initiatives at IBM and Computer Associates, respectively. Weerawarana and Srinivas are key drivers in the Apache Axis Web services project as well as open source activities in Sri Lanka."

The name is the result of combining WS with the symbol for oxygen, and the company's tagline from its website is "Oxygenating The Web Service Platform." Certainly it sounds like a breath of fresh air — the first of many puns I'm sure on the company's name.

Despite the pedigree of its founders, this is still a small startup, and maybe I'm making a mountain out of a molehill here. But I feel obliged to draw attention to the fact that there is an alternative point of view to that put forward by the J2EE establishment led by IBM, BEA, Oracle and Sun. It's important to know that perhaps there is no need after all to base a service-oriented architecture on their heavyweight platforms. More will emerge about WSO2 when Sanjiva Weerawarana speaks alongside Covalent CEO Mark Brewer at OSCON on Thursday.

PS: [updated August 4] There have been several related news stories coming out of OSCON this week. Here's a short digest:

  • CNET's Martin LaMonica reported on the launch of WSO2.
  • He also reported the launch of WSO2 partner SourceLabs, which has packaged up a support offering for what it calls SASH — a combination of Struts, Axis, Spring and Hibernate, all popular grassroots tools for web application and web services development using Java.
  • Finally, reports that ActiveGrid announced the 1.0 release of its LAMP stack for powering enterprise-class application infrastructure, with particular support for XML and web services standards.

This cluster of releases puts tools into the hands of enterprise developers to enable the creation of a powerful services infrastructure based on lightweight Java servers rather than having to invest in the heavyweight J2EE platforms marketed by the established proprietary vendors. It's a sign of things to come, I believe.

posted by Phil Wainewright 10:34 PM (GMT) | comments | link

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