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Special Report: State of the Java Art

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Catching the Java Wave
Industry experts jump right into open sourcing Java and the current state of the platform at the 2006 Java Technology Roundtable
Moderated by Simon Phipps

May 31, 2006

Sam Pullara, Chief Architect, Borland Software: "I absolutely believe that Java will see a large resurgence."
Bob Blainey, Distinguished Engineer, IBM: "I would agree that interoperability and the existence of multiple programming models is inevitable."

The JavaOne opening keynote provided the answer that many in the Java community were hoping to hear: the revelation that open sourcing Java was, according to Rich Green—Sun Microsystems' executive vice president, Sun software—and Jonathan Schwartz—Sun's president and CEO—not "a question of whether, but a question of how." The news certainly touched off considerable discussion among attendees during the rest of the conference about the possibility of a second wave for Java.

As both executives noted, the desire to completely open Java with complete access is clearly there, but considerable challenges are ahead to maintain the compatibility imperative and thwart divergency as Java continues its evolution. Of course, other factors also contribute to the challenges: other languages and open source technologies, enterprises' heterogeneous environments, and matters of governance and compliance.

It was no surprise then that the issue at hand and the impact of these other factors for the Java platform were among the first topics addressed by the group of industry experts participating in the 2006 Java Technology Roundtable during the second day of the conference. Take a look at the Roundtable's initial discussion thread and their collective take on the second wave of Java and all that it entails.

The Next Wave
Simon Phipps: I have been talking to a lot of people around JavaOne, and there's a certain sense that we're about to see a second wave of Java. They're suggesting that the ease of development for Java EE means that there's going to be a resurgence of interest, that the open sourcing of the code in the future is going to open up new markets, and the availability on Linux is going to unleash a torrent of new opportunities. What do you think is the main highlight of the Java platform in the preceding year? What's the big deal that's starting the second wave, or is there not really a second wave? Sam?


Sam Pullara: I absolutely believe that Java will see a large resurgence. I started Gauntlet Systems last year, and we built almost entirely on open source software 90 projects for the dependencies when we got acquired [by Borland Software]. And one of the things we bonded to were all of the new Java EE 5 APIs, everything from JPA (EJB 3 at the time), to JAX-WS, to JAXB, and the thing about these new technologies on the Java platform is a lot of it was driven by what was perceived as a threat. Ruby on Rails, things like that are perceived threats because of the mind share that they garner, not necessarily market share.

The Java community has shown again and again that it can turn on a dime and adopt the good things that you see in other products, apply them very quickly, and get them adopted in the marketplace. I think that Java EE 5 will be adopted two or three times faster than the previous enterprise specs because of the ease of development.

Mike Milinkovich: One of the things I should have mentioned in my biography is at one point I [held] the lofty title of VP of TopLink, so I was pretty familiar with this whole area of persistence. My comment on the Java community "turning on a dime," is that's one hell of a big dime! That's more like trying to turn a super tanker.

Phipps: He didn't say how many times it would turn on a dime.

Milinkovich: Yeah, it's the whirling dervish turn on a dime, I guess, but I think getting POJO persistence into Java EE is something that is probably the big news for this year. I certainly agree with you on that. The only thing I change slightly is that I think it was a long time coming.

Ari Zilka: I would suggest that the JVM is really what enables people to turn on a dime. The community's a great community; no fault to anyone out there, and [I'm] not trying to say anything but. At the end of the day the JVM can do amazing things—absolutely amazing things. The notion of bytecode, what folks here helped build and what folks built back in the mid-'90s with this core concept, some stuff from Smalltalk, things like that have allowed us to basically [provide] the two stages of compile and then bring it down to the physical machine.

Obviously my company leverages techniques around this stuff, but what it means is that the developer's job is getting simpler. And what's happening is, Java EE is basically a response to the development community saying, "Hey, make my life easier," and what we haven't seen in the history of computing is a platform that can actually do that inside the infrastructure. As platform-level services we can subsume more and more from the developer's day-to-day responsibility. And, I think that's a huge thing.

I would add though that I don't agree that we have POJO persistence yet. I will go on record anytime, anywhere and say we fell short this year, and that there's going to have to be something more done. I have been to a lot of conferences this year where the same question comes up from the audience all the time when you talk to folks: "who's going to make my application simpler?"

Old News
Larry Cable: Well, I chime in to Sam's comments regarding J2EE… sorry, Java EE 5 (you can tell the vintage where I operate from). I really believe that Java EE 5, the usability initiative that's ongoing in there, is really going to develop a new level of applications and adoption in that platform. I kind of take issue with it being a response to Ruby or Ruby on Rails. All of the ease-of-use initiatives predate that technology by a good four or five years. There was a well-understood issue with the technology of separating out the declarative programming model.

I was part of the core architecture team for J2EE 1.2, and we did some radical things like inventing containers and bringing our declarative programming model to the platform, but we realized that there were some shortcomings with that. I think we finally solved that with the introduction of annotations that enabled us to kind of move back closer to a more developer-friendly platform.

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