Live from JavaOne

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Generally speaking, I’m not a big fan of birthday events for technology products, believing them to be more than a bit silly. But this morning’s JavaOne keynote, which celebrated among other things Java’s 10 year birthday, was actually rather interesting. I don’t mean the actual birthday celebration itself, which was in fact sort of silly, but the actual substance to the presentations. There were several key news items, among them:

  1. IBM’s committed to Java for another decade
  2. IBM’s committed to supporting its applications on Solaris 10
  3. Sun open sourced (under the CDDL license) its application server
  4. JSR 208 (AKA Java Business Integration) Specification 1.0 went final
  5. Sun’s implementation of said specification has been open sourced
  6. Sun’s making developer workstations free to those who sign up to $29.95 a month plans (including the entire package of Sun’s development software)

In short, while today was partially a celebration of where Java has been, it was also as much about where Java is going. I was a bit surprised that there was little ironic reflection on the fact that Java has grown up to be something dramatically different than was originally intended – a major enterprise technology foundation – but the attendees didn’t seem to care. The 8 thousand or so folks here (there are supposed to be around 15K by the time the week’s out) made no secret of their pleasure at successes past and present (particularly the Brazilians in the crowd ;). But in looking at the news, here were the morning’s highlights, from my perspective:

  • IBM / Sun: In a refreshingly candid moment, Jonathan Schwartz admitted that the relationship between IBM and Sun had been strained over the past few years. While the once frosty relationship is not likely to be thawed overnight, despite today’s announcements, the public niceties will go a long way PR-wise – for both vendors. There was much ado last year about the distinct lack of an IBM presence at JavaOne, which likely contributed to suggestions by some this year that IBM’s Zend partnership was a precursor to IBM decommitting to Java. As absurd as such suggestions were, they’re somewhat understandable given the depth of the public sniping between the two vendors in recent months and years.

    With WebSphere’s Robert LeBlanc here physically and IBM Software Group’s Steve Mills here virtually, the message from IBM is clear: Java is still our future every bit as much as Linux is. Personally, however, I didn’t find this news particularly surprising – and therefore interesting – given the near ubiquitous presence of Java within the IBM SWG portfolio (and the initial reactions to the embrace of PHP).

    More interesting – though treated as an aside in the actual presentation – was the news that IBM is now supporting Solaris 10 across its applications. Guess there was some demand there after all.

  • Free and Open Source Software: Although Sun is often described as the Rodney Dangerfield of open source, not without reason (see GNOME, OO.o, and most recently OpenSolaris for starters), it’s also true that some of the hostility is the result of mixed messages from Sun on issues of great importance to th F/OSS folks (see exhibit A, the GPL). Today’s keynote was not only devoid of such inflamatory rhetoric, but actually included strong support of at least the concept of free, if not the GPL along with it.

    I was asked by someone following the Q&A following the keynote how I thought today’s announcements – specifically the open sourcing of the application server – affect the Free & Open Source communities. My glib response was: it can’t hurt. And really, I think that’s the point. While in some areas I think multiple instantiations and competitive implementations can hurt, or at least are unhelpful (see Eclipse v NetBeans), I don’t see the contribution of a rebuilt application server product hurting the open source community at all – quite the contrary. Lost in the shuffle of the finger pointing for and against Sun as it pertains to open source are the simple facts that a.) Sun has some really, really smart developers, and b.) Sun is inclined – for a variety of reasons, not least of which is self-interest – to take the work of some of those developers and make them open source. While some may see these contributions as attacks on current open source projects, I see it as competition. And competition, to me, is usually a good thing.

  • Pricing: Almost a footnote to this morning’s presentation was the announcement that Sun would be taking their new Opteron powered workstations and making them available for a telco-style subscription. For $10 less per month than you might pay for DirecTV, developers can obtain some pretty good tin with all of Sun’s dev tools preinstalled. While the logistics might need some work (I understand the need for it, but the “Request a Call” requirement is still a bit of a put off), the pricing is intriguing. For about what base mobile plans go for, developers can get a solid machine to work with. One might assume that the such a model is a bit of financial trickery to obscure a huge markup by ammortizing it over a three year period, but the economics aren’t that bad: the machine brand new is $895, while the total cost of a three year sub is $1078.20. The tradeoff won’t be worth it for everyone, but is likely to be of interest to some.
  • Eclipse: There were a few subtle signs that there may yet be a thawing in the Eclipse/NetBeans divide. While the focus was on NetBeans during the actual presentation, Jonathan cited Eclipse (before NetBeans) as an example of a vibrant community, and a demo from Research in Motion featured an Eclipse based dev environment. Small things, true, but the journey of a thousand miles etc etc.
  • DTrace and Java: DTrace has deservedly received praise from anyone who’s seen it work – even Linux advocates – but to date one of its biggest limitations has been the non-observability of Java based applications. If you’re working in a language such as C or C++ it’s been a tremendous resource, but to date it’s been of little value to Java developers. Today, however, John Loiacono demonstrated the ability to observe some of the in-VM specifics, meaning that DTrace may yet prove to be a huge addition to the Java developer’s toolkit. Worth watching, and while they’re at it, how about Python for the folks like Ryan?

All in all, today was an interesting day, and as the saying goes the day ain’t over yet. There are three separate cocktail hours ahead, so blogging of this evening’s festivities will most certainly be light. Will also get my thoughts on yesterday’s NetBeans day (which was very well attended) as schedule allows. Incidentally, if there are folks that aren’t able to attend but wish to get questions or comments across to Sun, feel free to either leave them here or drop me an email: I’ll be sure to relay them.


  1. Actually, DTrace can be used on Python; see Sean McGrath’s blog entry on the topic:


    It’s not a perfect solution, but damn is it cool…

  2. I don’t know why so many people want Sun to adopt Eclipse – I love NetBeans, it’s faster and more productive, and for all the religion and politics aside, Sun’s driving in a great direction. Eclipse is so filled with conflated agenda, I can’t see the road ahead. Community development has a downside, at times. And today’s NB demos were smashing…

  3. Well, I guess it’s come to this for Sun. Never found a way to get customers to actually pay money for the application server (I was PM on the core for awhile) so they might as well more or less admit it and take this route.

  4. Arun: it's not necessarily that i want Sun to adopt Eclipse; it's that i feel that having two different design points for small, resource constrained ISVs is not helpful. i don't have anything invested in either approach, but see Eclipse having more momentum amongst ISVs at the moment. for your purposes, it sounds great – in which case, i'd say keep on keeping on.

    Bill: well, that's not entirely true given that they are selling the app server via JES, but otherwise is a fair if harsh criticism of a product lagging in marketshare. let's see what opening does, though. could be interesting.

  5. Bryan: I’d read that, and then somehow forgot it when I wrote it up. thanks for reminding me, and for the pointer.

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