From Jigsaw delays to the Eclipsocalypse

JAX’s Review of the Year 2012: Part Two

Elliot Bentley

The second half of the year was as eventful as the first: here’s the most important and interesting events from July through to December.

Following on from yesterday’s retrospective from to halfway through 2012, here’s the most important and interesting events from July through to December.


The second half of the year was as eventful as the first, beginning with the highly controversial proposal by chief architect of the Java platform Mark Reinhold to defer Project Jigsaw to Java 9. “Significant technical challenges remain[ed]” in implementing modularity, said Reinhold, and there simply was not enough time to get the job done properly. The developer community was split down the middle, some arguing it was the right decision, while others proposing that OSGi be implemented instead.

Elsewhere, Springsource founder Rod Johnson left the company after ten years at the helm. “I’m ready for some different challenges,” wrote Johnson – but it would be a few months until we found out exactly what those challenges consisted of.

At JAXconf in San Francisco, the JAX Innovation awards saw Restructure 101, Jetbrains, Adam Bien and Charlie Nutter pick up coveted awards for innovation and overall contributions to Java.


Java’s reputation took a bit of a knock in August as the platform’s browser plugin was alleged to have dangerous security vulnerabilities. Even worse, they hadn’t been patched despite being reported to Oracle months earlier. And if that wasn’t bad enough, when Oracle issued an emergency patch, the security researchers said that it didn’t even solve the problem. In an op-ed, we said: “The importance of Java in the browser may be diminishing rapidly, but it’s still part of the brand. If end users feel they can’t place their trust in Java, how long until this uncertainty spreads to the enterprise world?”

Android, too, began to feel the heat, facing general disgruntlement by developers over the operating system’s apparent fragmentation. Figures from Google revealed that 60.6% of devices were still running the 20-month-old ‘Gingerbread’ update, and five months down the line the picture doesn’t look any prettier. In comparison, the recent iOS 6 was installed on 25% of all compatible devices within 48 hours – even despite the whole maps debacle.

In more positive news, a new real-time data-crunching tool, Apache Drill, was donated to the Apache Software Foundation. Inspired by Google’s Dremel, Drill is a distributed system that scales across 10,000 servers and processes petabytes of data from trillions of rows in seconds. Well, apparently, anyway. We’ll find out for sure when it leaves Apache’s incubator.


After the lull of the summer, it was good to get the community’s blood circulating at JavaOne 2012, which was considered by many to be the best in recent memory. News included the announcement of Java ME Embedded 3.2, further insight into Nashorn and GPU optimisation project ‘Sumatra’ and the open-sourcing of JavaFX. While some were underwhelmed by the lack of any truly game-changing news, the strong focus on celebrating the Java community saw most attendees going home satisfied. To top it all off, James Gosling himself made a surprise appearance at the community keynote to discuss his new career in building marine robots.

In cloud computing, OpenStack crossed a significant milestone as the project was officially passed from Rackspace to an independent foundation: reflecting not just the maturity of the open-source cloud software, but also the fact that it now belongs to a wider set of contributors, including Red Hat, IBM, HP and VMware.

Google’s engineers gave us a glance of what the future may hold for the trusty relational database, publishing a paper about a next-generation system called Spanner. Using GPS receivers and atomic clocks, Spanner ensures that databases’ timestamps are exact, allowing them to scale globally. With current open source darling Hadoop based on a previous paper, it’ll be exciting to see whether the community will be able to adapt the ideas in the Spanner paper so they can be shared by all.


October began with bang, as Rod Johnson finally revealed his post-VMware plans with a move to Typesafe, the company behind Scala, Akka and Play. With Scala considered by some to be “the next Spring”, Johnson’s appointment to the board of directors is an interesting development that will likely lead to further announcements next year.

However, even that news couldn’t overshadow JAXenter’s sister conference, JAX London, now on its fifth year and bigger and better than ever before. Keynote speakers included Doug Cutting, Patrick Debois and the organisers of the LJC, while popular sessions included Tim Berglund’s NoSQL Smackdown and Arun Gupta’s talk on WebSockets. Stealing the show, though, was Brian Goetz’s keynote on Lambdas in Java 8, which was accompanied by into a second technical session and a sell-out hackathon.

The month also saw the 1.0 release of both asynchronous framework Atmosphere and web-centric IDE Eclipse Orion. Atmosphere “works everywhere and with every framework”, wrote creator Jeanfrancois Arcand, and just as well considering its four-year development period. Still, its capabilities and polyglot approach left us so impressed that we put it on the cover of the October edition of JAX Magazine.

Eclipse Orion, meanwhile, represented a new frontier for the IDE, focusing exclusively on writing web applications within a web application (even Orion itself is written in Orion). While it took over a year for the team to bring it to a 1.0 standard, we’ll likely see a lot more numbers in the future: they’ve now switched to a browser-style rapid release cycle with a dot release every four months.


JSR 107, the temporary caching API, finally reached early draft review – over a decade after it was started. Spec lead Greg Luck recounted the epic tale in one of JAXenter’s most popular articles of the year. Despite being repeatedly abandoned and bogged down by JCP beaurocracy, the spec is now close to being included in Java EE 7.

Speaking of EE 7: having been announced at JavaOne 2011 and teased at JavaOne 2012, it was a relief to finally see Project Nashorn – the new JVM JavaScript engine replacing Rhino – open sourced. With 100% compliance with ECMA test 262 already in the bag, all that’s left is tuning the engine’s performance, though the real excitement is due to the fact that it’ll allow node.js scripts to be run on the JVM.

Outside of the Java space, Amazon made waves at its first ever AWS re: Invent conference, with VP Andy Jassy revealing some mind-boggling numbers such as the 1.3 trillion objects stored on S3 by the end of Q3 2012. By far the biggest surprise was the announcement of Redshift, a new data warehousing service. It particularly shocked new startup BitYota, who were also launching their AWS-hosted own data warehousing service at re: Invent.


December was, rather unintentionally, a month of NoSQL madness on JAXenter, as we visited the offices of both MongoDB creators 10gen and Riak creators Basho (the latter published in JAX Magazine’s December issue).

Then in the news, two NoSQL products were upgraded to version 2.0: Couchbase Server and Oracle NoSQL Database. Whilst Oracle’s ambiguously-titled spin on Berkeley DB saw mostly closer integration with the company’s other products, Couchbase took version 2.0 as an opportunity for reinvention, adding a document data model to their standard key-value system.

OpenStack’s excellent year was rounded off with the news that memory giants – and owners of VMware – EMC had joined the OpenStack Foundation as Corporate Sponsors. In a great blog post, Marketing CTO Chuck Hollis explained that they see clear parallels with the rise of Linux and want to make sure they don’t miss out (even if it means snubbing VMware).

Finally, the Eclipsocalypse took place on December 21st as the Eclipse Foundation made its outdated CVS repositories read-only in an attempt to switch to Git. If you’re reading this, it means we survived. Phew!

Photo by Dan Taylor.
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