Greasing the wheels

Exploring the future of the JVM at JavaOne

When Sun Microsystems was acquired by Oracle three years ago, to say that the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) ecosystem was overgrown was to put it mildly. As Java Platform Group JVM architect, Mikael Vidstedt found himself faced with the unenviable task of pruning down seven JVMs down into a more manageable entity.

He’s been coordinating Oracle’s technical vision for the JVM ever since, and after a year that’s been eventful for mostly all the wrong reasons, faced up to a JavaOne audience with plenty of questions for where the virtual machine can go next.

This time last year, Vidstedt was content with Oracle’s progress. As far as he was concerned, JVM convergence was a mission accomplished – with Java Flight Recorder and Mission Control incorporated, and Permgen purged, and everything else ticking over nicely. Then wave after wave of security issues came to light – most of which Oracle would rather not mention in their triumphant keynote speech, thank you very much.

Even though the issue wasn’t addressed by the big guns, and swiftly batted down in the Java media panel, Vidstedt readily acknowledged the many problems that Oracle has faced over the past year due to vulnerabilities in Java – pointing out that the sum of these problems was very much demonstrable by the fact that this year’s event has its own dedicated security track.  

With this in mind, security will apparently remain a key focus area for future JVM projects. But that’s not the only big issue. As Vidsedt noted, from now on, with cloud computing here for good, situations where many, many JVMs are running (almost) the same application will become the norm. The focus will be on how best to share resources across machines, and sound distribution management will be critical.

Understandably, lambdas are a hot topic at JavaOne this year, and Vidstedt was keen to emphasise their benefit to future JVM developments. Oracle has invested literally centuries of man hours grappling with the issue of how to make non-Java languages run efficiently on the JVM. With the invokedynamic instruction addition to Java seven, real progress has been, but there is still considerable work to do. Going forward, lambdas will be key pivots for a language blind JVM.

In terms of serviceability, Java Flight Recorder (re-released earlier this month) continues to be a work in progress. The most exciting development in this area is the addition of automated data analysis in Java Mission Control, drawing analysis from events, and coming to high level conclusions.

Photo by William Warby.

Lucy Carey

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