The Java Community Feel Downgraded

JavaOne Retrospective

Jessica Thornsby

Oracle’s first JavaOne conference has drawn to a close – but was it a success?

Let’s get it straight from the very beginning: the first JavaOne under Oracle’s leadership offered few new insights into the future of Java. Certainly, the future was a hot topic amongst the conference attendees, but Oracle itself offered only a few official announcements. So, my following conclusions are based on my own impressions and observations, and the numerous conversations I was able to run with Oracle insiders – but not on verifiable facts.

The Java Community Feel Downgraded

Oracle’s decision to hold JavaOne not as a conference in its own right, but as an extension of Oracle OpenWorld, was strongly criticised by many participants. With the relocation of JavaOne from the traditional conference location, the Moscone Center, to a nearby hotel, there was the sense of a conference being pushed to one side. Although the organisers reported an impressive 41,000 participants, there was no information on how many of these people visited JavaOne. Given the size restrictions of the Hilton Union Square, we can assume that the number of participants was well below that of previous JavaOnes.

Pragmatic planning

At this year’s JavaOne, Oracle proved that they are working hard to provide solutions to specific problems in order to win back the community’s confidence at the technical level. Announcements regarding Oracle’s plans for GlassFish and NetBeans, definitely fall into this category. Their decision to accelerate the development of the next version of Java (JDK 7) (albeit with a reduced feature set) reflects their pragmatism and determination. Sun was debating about this release for many years, but was never able to present a clear roadmap, and ultimately delayed many necessary innovations from year to year.

Behind closed doors

The way Oracle handles its planning does nothing to calm the Java community – a community that has become used to being kept to-up-to-date. Oracle’s mills grind differently. Here, we have a strongly process-orientated organisation, which likes to plan major steps in advance and behind closed doors, and then make dramatic revelations to the public.

And, it seems that Oracle is doing the same with Java. Practical technology roadmaps: Yes. Strategic Announcements: No. Oracle takes its time planning quietly in Redwood Shores, and is not moved by the nervousness of the community.

Between The Lines

If you try to read between the lines of the JavaOne announcements, it is still difficult to distinguish where Oracle stands. On the one hand, there is an open-mindedness regarding Java projects that are not developed in Oracle’s own labs and are not driven by the JCP. It seems that Oracle views languages such as Groovy and Scala as important players in the Java ecosystem. And Eclipse and OSGi are no longer viewed as disturbing elements, as was the case with Sun.

What was remarkable though, was a statement made by Oracle’s chief in charge of product development, Kurian, during the opening keynote. In regards to Java EE, he claimed that for Dependency Injection you no longer need a “proprietary third-party DI framework”. What he referred to, inter alia, was Spring. Spring as a proprietary framework: slip of the tongue, or an indication of Oracle’s attitude?

As we all expected, there was no comment regarding the current legal proceedings against Android at JavaOne. The future of the Java Micro Edition also remained unclear. Besides the statements that Oracle will provide future innovation for the three billion Java-powered mobile phones worldwide, and that Oracle is working with JavaME.Next on a new generation of mobile Java, there were no further details within the mobile arena.

Is openness the right thing for Oracle?

Oracle has won favour with the community be presenting clear roadmaps, and has succeeded in showing the community that a new wind is blowing in the areas of product and release planning. Also, it has become clear that the Constitution of Java in Redwood Shores is not considered a Community affair, but an internal company issue.

We should bear in mind that although Sun’s openness to community participation, open source and transparency was popular, it brought little concrete progress to Java. The long ordeal of JDK 7 is just one example. If Oracle succeed in managing the Java platform competently, through tight organisation and performance, it will satisfy many partners and the pressure on Oracle will lessen.

Maturity Java community

We must not forget, that the Java community has developed considerably during the last five to six years. During the mid-2000s, when Sun and the JCP weren’t able to give new impetus to Java, and only offered impractical responses to the current challenges, the community ensured the survival of the Java platform with Spring, Hibernate, Groovy and many other open source tools. Given the enormous proliferation of Java and, given the investments we have made in Java over the years, these activities are not about to grind to a standstill.



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