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December 10, 2006

Sun releases Java SE 6

Sun Microsystems Inc has let the latest version of Java SE officially out of the bag. Java SE 6, previously code-named Mustang, enters general release today.

By CBR Staff Writer

The new version includes baby steps towards accommodating developers who are increasingly opting for dynamic scripting languages like, ironically, JavaScript.

Java SE 6 includes a new engine or framework that lets you plug in any of the newly popular client side scripting languages. The result is that, while you code the rest of the application in Java, you can develop what would in traditional terms be called subroutines in the scripting language of choice.

For starters, Sun has made available a plug-in for JavaScript. Other popular web scripting languages, like Perl, Python, or Ruby will require third-party plug-ins that have yet to be developed. According to Danny Coward, Sun’s Java SE platform lead, the JCP will consider adding engines for Ruby, Python, or Beanshell, an emerging lightweight scripting language for Java itself in the future Java SE 7.

In many cases, the ease and flexibility of these dynamic scripting languages has stolen much of the thunder form Java on the client side. The popularity of Ajax-style rich Internet clients, for instance, does not require any client side Java. Consequently, Java SE 6’s addition of scripting frameworks is clearly a strategy of, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em

SE 6 also includes most but not all of the web services features developed for Java EE 5. They include JAX-WS (web services), which replaces the older JAX-RPC with more declarative approaches to exposing Java classes as web services through use of Java annotations. In effect, JAX-WS closes the gap with .NET, which introduced a declarative webmethod command for exposing classes or components as services over five years ago.

Additionally, SE 6 adds support for JAX-P, the XML parsing API; and JAX-B, which binds data to XML, both of which were introduced with Java EE 5. However, as a client side framework, Java SE 6 does not include the JAX-R interface to XML (or UDDI) registries, because that is a task that is typically performed on the server.

Java SE 6 adds incremental enhancements in other areas, including the ability to dynamically insert the application probes (introduced by SE 5) in an application that is already in production. Before, it was feasible only activate the probes, which check for parameters like object or memory allocation, while in development stage.

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An improved Java installer that no longer looks like it came from the UNIX world has been introduced.

Additionally, the compiler that converts JSPs to servlets has been made more efficient, while the performance of the VM (virtual machine) has been tweaked so it can adjust configurations on the fly. In other words, you can have the VM optimize initially for startup, and the application executes, it readjusts to optimize settings such as garbage collection to improve performance.

Finally, new APIs have been introduced to make it easier to interface with external security measures, such as Kerberos authentication or PKI encryption, using their native interfaces in place of the standard Java SE API.

Reflecting the impacts of open source and expectations in the developer community for the development process itself to become more transparent, Java SE 6 was the first version of the client side framework where binaries and source code were made available to the community from the get go. And to spur Java SE 6 take-up, Sun is offering 60 days of unlimited online technical support.

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