Comment: The Future of Java

Dirk Weil

On 27th January, the IT world sat down and watched Oracle’s five hour long webcast, hoping for the answers to questions we’d been debating for nine months. How would Oracle manage the obvious overlap in their own portfolio, and that of the newly-acquired Sun Microsystems? How would they propose to handle two popular Java Virtual Machines – Hotspot and JRockit? And what of their two application servers – GlassFish and WebLogic? In this article, Java EE expert Dirk Weil gives an in-depth analysis of Oracle’s statements and whether, in his opinion, Oracle was able to lay some of our questions to rest……..

On the 27th, Oracle presented its roadmap for the technologies
it has acquired with its takeover of Sun Microsystems. Oracle took
great pains to stress that it could now deliver a complete stack of
integrated hardware and software, from the processor, operating
system, language platform, to the database, middleware and business
applications. After nine long months of fevered speculation, debate
and scaremongering, Oracle made a visible effort to ease the IT
world’s collective mind. Besides promising a range of improvements,
it pledged unwavering support for the community of Java developers
and users. But are all these promises realistic, considering that
Oracle, in one fell swoop, has purchased an entire portfolio of
competing products?

Development of the Java Runtime

In his presentation, Thomas Kurian discussed the roadmap for the
Java SE Runtime. Alongside many promises of optimisation, the two
things that struck me were the disclosure that Hotspot and JRockit
were to be merged, and Oracle’s pledge to continue supporting all
the leading operating systems. The consolidation of Oracle’s two
JMVs is the only reasonable way of guaranteeing continued
development of the platform. Since the JVM specification will
continue, the impact of the Hotspot/JRockit merger on planet Java
will be negligible. The ‘leading’ operating systems in this context
are, of course, the ubiquitous Windows and Linux systems, and the
in-house Solaris Unix derivative.

Which application server for which

Later in his presentation, Kurian moved onto Oracle’s two Java
Application Servers. Under Oracle, GlassFish will continue to be
supported as Java EE reference implementation and will keep to the
same release model and road map. Meanwhile, WebLogic will continue
as a strategic product for enterprise applications. A technology
exchange is planned between the two servers. Because of the
conceptual proximity between WebLogic and GlassFish (Admin Console,
domain model, etc.) this shouldn’t cause any problems.
Unfortunately, more details cannot be gleaned from the
presentation, which leaves room for speculation. It would be
conceivable for GlassFish to serve as a ‘community edition’ of
WebLogic, which would support Kurian’s vision of GlassFish as a
target server for smaller departmental applications. It is
questionable just how much ‘enterprise capacity’ will remain in
GlassFish. For example, for EE-reference and departmental
applications it would be possible to renounce the GlassFish
monitoring, which is weak compared to the WebLogic anyway. Even the
clustering could be renounced in extreme cases. The problem is,
that with so many strong open source competitors, there isn’t much
room in the server market.

Coherent Whole

With the integration of Sun products and technologies, Oracle
has filled the spaces in its integrated hardware and software
stack. The combination appears coherent and allows for optimal
matching of all Sun/Oracle components. This will bring its
advantages. Unless this is realised at the cost of the platform
neutrality of Java SE / EE, it’s difficult to object to this part
of Oracle’s plan. But it still remains to be seen how the
integration of the competing middleware components could be

Dirk Weil
Since 1998, Dirk Weil has worked as a Java consultant. As a managing director at GEDOPLAN GmbH in Bielefeld, he is responsible for the design and implementation of information systems based on Java EE. Years of experience in the development of sophisticated business solutions have made him a competent partner and recognised expert on Java EE. He is the author of trade magazines, lectures, and delivers seminars and workshops based on his own Java curriculum.
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