Last week was full of Java related product releases. First of all, Sun decided to do a big coordinated release throughout the week. Starting with Glassfish V2, the next version of the reference Java EE application server. You may remember the "old" J2EE days where Sun also provided a reference implementation, which was horrible and stupid and not suited for production use at all. The Glassfish project is a complete makeover and does hold its own when a real application runs on it. The biggest "new" feature in Glassfish V2 is clustering support. In the environments I work in, clustering is a must have, so this finally means this server can be considered an option now. The console is even nicer, better admin and monitoring features, and the setup is simpler. Shorter startup times and better performance are also always welcome. 🙂
All in all, the Web Service stack of Sun improved tremendously too. Part of the Glassfish release is "Metro", a Web Service library specifically designed to do all kinds of WS-* interop with the Microsoft .NET 3.0 Web Services. Sun and Microsoft engineers worked together to make this experience smooth and easy. Metro can be used in every JAX-WS based stack, and it really should be on your shortlist when you want to do some interop with .NET.
Related to this is the OpenESB 2.0 beta release. Also using the Glassfish v2 server, it provides a JBI platform and all kinds of integration and configuration features. It works together with the latest (preview) releases of the SJS Access Manager, OpenPortal and OpenDS products. OpenESB is kind of not a really visible ESB player to me, but Sun is doing some more aggressive development on it lately.
A lot of this stuff is supported by tooling in Netbeans 6, which also hit the beta 1 milestone. Netbeans 6 has a ton of improvements over its predecessor. The Java editor finally feels like a real modern editor, and it just got faster and very important, a little bit more stable. I loaded up some pet projects and still do see a stack trace rolling about from time to time, but hey, it's still a beta right. 😉 I really love the Netbeans Profiler. It's very usable and not that performance hungry, much better than what TPTP offers in Eclipse.
Netbeans basically goes head to head with Eclipse, the other open source Java editor. Eclipse has a lot more market share, but it has a "platform first" focus: something to build tools on. Netbeans choose a "tool first" focus, and this hits Eclipse where it hurts. Up until now Netbeans is still playing catch-up: most of the new features in version 6 are things Eclipse already has. With the resilience and productivity they have shown so far, it will be even more interesting what Sun will do in Netbeans 7. Even though I won't switch from using Eclipse anytime soon, I am very happy with Netbeans. The competition will keep Eclipse on its toes and innovate more in the "tool" space and the overall end-user experience.
And that's just what Sun did.
On the IBM side, a really noteworthy release was the Lotus Symphony beta 1 release. This OpenOffice 1.x based tool is a new competitor in the office space, and provides support for ODF. It runs on the new Lotus platform, which is Eclipse/Java based. It has a cool tabbed interface and looks much better than OpenOffice. However because it is based on a 1.x version, it is a lot slower than the current release of OpenOffice: 2.3. With Symphony, IBM wants to support the ODF market and make the new Lotus release more interesting as a plug-in platform. You need to have a free IBM devworks account to download the beta. This is incredibly annoying for me, as I have three different accounts on various parts of IBM and keep forgetting which is which, but I managed.
The Eclipse 3.4 development is coming along as well, and hit M2 last friday. Some new tools for plug-in development, which is very nice for me as I am doing that a lot lately. I started at the Dutch Railways (NS) a couple of weeks ago, you can read more on this project in this article. Note that the Eclipse Europa maintenance should be around next week, so expect minor updates on the various releases there as well.
I think last week really shows the IT industry as a whole and Java in particular is innovating more and doing it faster. What I also like is that all the releases are trying to hit real needs. Products that work better and better together. Prettier pictures on the web sites and easier installs. And all releases mentioned are free to use. The only problem I see is: how are we going to keep up?