Oracle In The Driver's Seat For Java Development

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Solution providers who work with Java generally express confidence in Oracle's stewardship of the technology. "The fact that they are a big Java user themselves and are tackling the tough problems – that will help the platform," said Comframe's Riley. Comframe works with Java, as well as with Microsoft's .NET (widely seen as the alternative programming framework) and other development platforms.

"I don't know anyone who's really concerned about it," said John Molinaro, a partner at Rolta TUSC, a Chicago-based solution provider and Oracle platinum partner, when asked about the dustup over the direction of Java SE 7.

While Molinaro acknowledged that Oracle and other companies represented on the board that governs Java's direction (the Java Standard Edition/Executive Edition Executive Committee of the JCP) all have their own agendas, Molinaro doesn't see any one company dominating the discussion. "I trust the process, to some degree. It's worked so far."

"Oracle has picked up the ball and is getting things moving again," said Craig Muzilla, vice president of Red Hat's middleware business unit, in an interview earlier this year. While expressing disappointment that Apache resigned from the JCP, he said he is "cautiously optimistic" that things are moving in the right direction. "The JCP has moved forward and taken the initiative."

Oracle, to be sure, will be a major driver of Java's direction. While Sun pursued a broad agenda for the technology, including its use within desktop and mobile devices and embedded systems, the Forrester report concludes that Oracle will emphasize Java's development for enterprise middleware. While Oracle will develop Java virtual machines for desktops, mobile devices and controllers, the company will likely leave it to others to adapt those JVMs to other systems.

"The exception is cloud, which Oracle's Java SE road map addresses, albeit over a relatively long time," the report said.

Most Java-based production systems today are based on Java SE 6 or earlier and, as often happens with new releases, adoption of Java SE 7 will grow slowly. "We have a couple of clients who want to move to it, but they don't want to be first," Riley said. "People will start kicking the tires, checking out the features and using it in development" before fully embracing it for a runtime environment.

The new release's JVM support for dynamic languages such as JRuby, a Java implementation of the Ruby language, Python and JavaScript will improve Java SE 7's attraction as a development platform, Riley said. He also praised the improved asynchronous I/O for boosting the platform's performance.

The new multicore-ready API in Java SE 7 helps developers break down computational problems for processing in parallel across multiple processor cores. The release also offers new networking and security features, expanded support for internationalization capabilities such as Unicode 6.0, and updated versions of numerous developer libraries.

In April Oracle launched a new release of its NetBeans integrated development environment that supports Java SE 7's Java development kit (JDK). NetBeans is widely seen as the most popular Java IDE after Eclipse, according to IDC analyst Al Hilwa. Before the Sun acquisition Oracle's primary Java development toolset was JDeveloper: Oracle is now aiming that toolset toward developers who work with the company's Fusion-based applications while NetBeans is geared toward the broader Java community.

Some solution providers worry about a fracturing of the Java standard, given the proliferation of vendor-specific JVMs. "It's not 100-percent of what I expected in terms of portability," said Molinaro, whose career includes stints at both Oracle and Sun Microsystems. But in a follow-up e-mail he added: "The reality is that Java is still core" and the issue isn't a threat to expanded use of Java.

While recent efforts focused on completing Java SE 7, the Java Community Process also has been working on Java SE 8, the next generation of the platform specification that's currently expected in October 2012. That release will include a number of features and enhancements that were originally planned for Java SE7, but were deferred to get that release out the door.

One of those is a modularization of the Java SE platform and JDK under what's known as Project Jigsaw, an effort to make Java easier for developers to work with. Another is providing lambda expressions to the programming language to support programming in a multicore environment. And Java SE 8 will include some small language changes developed under Project Coin that didn't find their way into Java SE 7.

Questions also remain about other facets of the Java platform, including the Java Enterprise Edition and Java Micro Edition frameworks for enterprise and mobile applications, respectively. The Forrester report expresses "low confidence" that Java EE and ME "will continue to play a dominant role in business application development" with more development shifting to such programming environments like Ruby on Rails or SpringSource Grails.

Likewise, the report notes that few developers use Java today for client-side user interface development, preferring instead to use Adobe Flex, AJAX, HTML and Microsoft Silverlight.

Next: With A Little Help from Oracle's Friends

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