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“Has Java peaked? ” : What we learnt at JAX London day one

JAXenter Editorial Team

JAX London day one: Dealing with Java’s mid-life crisis, big questions on Big Data, and some seriously cool Raspberry Pi implementations.

JAX London kicked off this morning with a talk by James Governor titled, “The Upswing: How Java got its Mojo Back”. If that brings to mind images of middle aged guys pulling themselves out of a midlife crisis with a new attitude and a jaunty new car, you’d be about right. As Java nears forty, like everyone else, it’s definitely starting to show its age. Younger developers clamour for newer JVM interlopers like Ruby and Scala, and naysayers such as Tim Bray, who recently claimed that Java isn’t relevant, abound.

The point that  these critics are missing though, is that Java isn’t just a language – it’s a platform, and a terrifically robust one at that. Has it peaked? According to Governor, maybe. But then, so have the US and Europe – and they don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. After all, as Governor crucially pointed out, when web companies grow up they turn into Java shops. To date, Linkedin, Google, Twitter, Yahoo, and Facebook, among a host of other web powerhouses, have all turned to Java in recent years to power them into maturity.

Looking to the future, Governor said that web frameworks are the best way to understand language adoption. After all, Ruby was just a curio until Rails came along, and Django, and Node.js have led adoption of their respective languages. Despite a tonne of options, Java still has yet to develop a leading framework – and Governor reckoned that to see explosive growth once again, it will need one.

Afternoon refreshment came courtesy of Simon Ritter, who served up a zesty slice of Raspberry Pi. Starting off with a rundown of the inspiring history of the little single-board computer and its ARM architecture, he moved on to a demo of just what can be achieved with a little bit of creativity, a dose of JavaFX and a specially tuned Java ME Embedded (3.3). As well as showing off a cool talking Raspberry Pi, he displayed a very impressive mind-controlled unit. Although JavaFX has its detractors, if this demo of its capabilities was anything to go by, we’ll be seeing a lot more of it in the months to come.

Tricia Gee spoke about what she learnt while developing MongoDB’s new Java driver, which she compared to an epic journey such as in a fantasy game. To achieve consistency throughout the driver, the team used static code analysis tools to scan every check-in – as well as more low-tech tools like committees and spreadsheets for discussion.

The second keynote of the day was by MongoDB founder Dwight Merriman. He made two excellent points about how improved hardware has changed the way we treat data:firstly, we can now “store first, ask questions later” thanks to larger storage options, and secondly, that we can “default to real-time” with modern SSDs and cheap RAM.

Returning for his fourth (or is it fifth?) appearance at JAX London, Arun Gupta spoke about the new features of Java EE 7, particularly in its embracing of HTML5 features like WebSockets and JSON processing. Demonstrating massive swathes of code cut down with JMS 2.0, Gupta managed to back up his claims that EE 7 lowers the bar to “jumping on the Java EE bandwagon”.

Finally, “What Makes Groovy Groovy?” was the tongue-in-cheek title of Guillaume Laforge’s talk on the increasingly popular JVM language. Between memes and silly animations, he covered some of the best features of Groovy, such as its clean syntax, clever shortcuts and the ?: Elvis operator.

And that’s just a taste of the insights to be found at day one of JAX London. Check back tomorrow for our coverage of day two.


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