Oracle Drives Java Technology Forward at Annual Conference
October 10, 2011 Alex Woodie
One of the side benefits of Oracle‘s acquisition of Sun Microsystems was it gained control over Java, and therefore gained a wedge against its Java-loving rival IBM. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison declared victory over IBM Power Systems in the Java performance category at its Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco last week, while at the same time, Oracle and IBM teamed up at the nearby JavaOne 2011 conference to discuss the future of the world’s most popular programming environment.
Java doesn’t command the level of respect and acceptance that RPG does on the IBM i platform, and it never will, frankly. And while there is still a lingering stigma for writing and running apps atop a generic virtual machine (as opposed to right down on IBM i’s virtual machine interface like RPG does, thankyouverymuch), the longevity of Java on IBM i has earned it a degree of credibility, particularly in the ISV community, and that cannot be dismissed. Besides, Java is the world’s number one programming language (ahead of Microsoft‘s C variants and PHP, according to the TIOBE Software index), and everybody wants a winner on his team. Oracle co-president Mark Hurd said this week at its OpenWorld extravaganza that there are over 7 million Java programmers worldwide.
Judging by the announcements that Oracle rolled out at last week’s JavaOne show, the future of Java will continue to be bright. Oracle shared plans for new releases of the three Java editions–Java Standard Edition (SE) 8, Java Enterprise Edition (EE) 7, and Java Micro Edition (ME) 7. It also announced the general availability of the JavaFX 2.0 client and made several other Java-related announcements.
But the biggest piece of news may be “Project Avatar,” which was revealed for the first time in the Java strategy keynote. Project Avatar, in short, marks a change in Java development strategy at Oracle toward more user-friendly compatibility between the various Java editions and HTML5.
There’s no timetable for the delivery of Project Avatar, which certainly sounds like a big strategic project that could take years to accomplish–sort of like Oracle’s Fusion application strategy (which is finally bearing fruit after six years and which took two years longer than Oracle expected). But in the meantime, the next major releases of the Java editions will bring useful features that keep the language and runtime current with advances in hardware and development trends.
Java SE 8 will also narrow the differences between Java SE and Java ME, which targets mobile devices and smart phones. Google, of course, is a big user of Java with the Android OS, which has resulted in Oracle suing Google. Oracle demonstrated an Apple iPhone running Java at the show, but it’s doubtful whether Apple will ever permit Java to run atop its proprietary iOS mobile operating system.
On the enterprise front, work on Java EE 7 is well underway, with 10 active Java Specification Requests (JSRs), including projects that address features such as persistency, context and dependencies, REST Web services, Java ServerFaces (JSF), Enterprise JavaBeans (EJBs), and EJB validation, Oracle says. Java EE includes all of the capabilities of Java SE, but adds additional capabilities required for running centralized applications on servers.
One of the big focuses with Java EE 7 is getting Java apps into the cloud, or, as Oracle’s vice president of development Cameron Purdy put it, the “formalization of cloud services” in Java EE 7. In particular, the new Java EE environment will gain new multi-tenancy and elasticity, or horizontal scaling, capabilities. Several cloud-related JSRs are under consideration for addition to the Java Community Process (JCP) for Java EE 7, including projects that address temporary caching, concurrency, state management, and identity management.
Oracle also submitted JavaFX 2.0 into the Open Java Development Kit (OpenJDK ) project, which appeased those concerned with Oracle’s open source husbandry. The software giant says it intends to contribute the new JavaFX release’s UI controls and related libraries first, with other components to follow. It’s worth noting that IBM relies on OpenJDK.
Oracle also deserves props for its work with the OpenJDK. In June, Oracle issued a stable release of the free and open source Java SE environment, an initiative that Sun Microsystems had begun five years ago. This won’t completely silence the conspiracy theorists. Oracle’s open source track record is still not the greatest. But at least it appears that Oracle is fully invested in keeping Java at the top of the language heap, which is good for the job security of Java developers. If releasing some of Java into the public realm keeps the Java community happy, then it’s no skin off Oracle’s back.
What’s yet to be seen, however, is whether Java will run fastest and best on Oracle Sparc servers. That is, whether Sun servers will benefit from optimization that’s unavailable to IBM’s Power Systems and IBM i. Ellison’s comments about Sparc server’s Java performance during his keynote at Oracle OpenWorld raised some eyebrows in that regard. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.