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Evolving JavaOne

As I mentioned to Sun’s Onno Kluyt this morning in our briefing, I’m fascinated to see what impact the release of Java as open source will have on the JCP. It’s the obvious center of gravity for the foreseeable future, but I think it unlikely that its status will remain unchallenged. With sea changes in perceptions of Java and its governance, its specifications body will undoubtedly be forced to adapt and evolve. Much as JavaOne itself has, in fact.

I’m not quite sure how long I’ve been going to this show – five years at a minimum, I think – but the show is a very different animal than it was the first time I was issued that gaudy oversized badge.

The obvious change is that there are more people. Haven’t heard yet what the actual attendance numbers are for this year’s iteration, but it’s huge, and seems to be drawing more people in every year – both officially and not. But that’s only superficial; the real evolution is about control, and the ceding of that control.

For example, several years ago James and I spoke to an irked customer of ours who was upset with the JavaOne presentation review policy. The issue, they argued, was that by vetting competitors presentations weeks in advance, Sun received an unfair advantage – they knew what was coming. This year? From what I’m told, presentations were reviewed by external parties.

But it is perhaps CommunityOne that betrays the fundamental changes at work in JavaOne most clearly. The argument many have made about Java in recent years has been that the bulk of attention devoted to Java the language has been misplaced; Java the platform, it’s argued, is more deserving. The conference organizers seem to have taken that message to heart, as JavaOne – in my view – is evolving into a meta conference. Or, more accurately, a platform conference: one that plays host to many smaller conferences just as the JVM can play host to different languages.

A good portion of the content of CommunityOne had little or nothing to do with Java – certainly this was true in our RedMonk track, where discussions of open source and bottom up marketing were more the norm. In the old days, this likely would not have flown at JavaOne, whose stated purpose, after all, is to be the Java conference.

Rather than fight the tide, and tighten the focus of the show, Sun’s instead gone with the flow. And as a result, folks from the PHP, Python, Ruby, or even Erlang communities can feel at home. They’re not, perhaps, going to receive equal billing but the implicit acknowledgment of “different tools for different jobs” is quite refreshing.

And if you remain unconvinced of Sun’s willingness to relinquish control of its flagship event, consider this: they gave us – a three person analyst firm – our own event. If that doesn’t convince you, I’m not sure what will.

Besides CommunityOne or presentation review policies, the party circuit continues to evolve at a geometric rate. There’s more to Java then the parties, obviously. Big announcements, a massive ISV presence, and who knows how many sessions and BOFs and tutorials and briefings. But it is nonetheless remarkable how much actual business gets transacted in between sips of Brown Bear Ale. I’m more or less convinced that next year RedMonk should just set up shop at the House of Shields each night at 11, and wait for the folks that can’t snag invites to the “popular” events. My fellow Google party rejectees and I had a fine evening there last night.

In any event, it’s refreshing to see that JavaOne is dynamically adjusting to changing conditions. It may not be doing so at a pace sufficient for some, but if it can continue down the platform rather than language path, I think it’ll be just fine. There’s a reason that this is the only show I’ll devote four days to.

Disclaimer: Sun is a RedMonk client, and comped T&E for the week.

Categories: Conferences & Shows.

  • http://scottmark.blogspot.com Scott Mark

    Definitely agree it will be interesting to see how open sourcing changes the JCP, as I think that organization (of which I’m a member) has become less and less relevant over the years. It’s certainly not the center of innovation in the Java ecosystem that I think it was once intended to be. Alternately, if it’s role will be to consume and solidify the emergent standards in the market it just might not be fast enough to be important. And there are now new models of integration such as SOA and mashups, so standard Java APIs as a means of maintaining vendor neutrality is, I think, again largely irrelevant.

    I would love to make it to CommunityOne one of these years, though – it does sound like it’s getting better and better.

  • http://daveshields.wordpress.com dave shields

    I’ve only been to one JavaOne, back in 1998, a time when open-source was just starting to emerge. Sun’s sense of ownership and control as evidenced there was palpable, so it’s good news to see some progress on this front.

    By the way, next time you are in the Westchester area, feel free to come have dinner at my own House of Shields.

    thanks,
    dave

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  • http://redmonk.com/sogrady sogrady

    Scott: it will be interesting, because it’s still the focal point of contributions from a vendor perspective.

    definitely recommend getting up to CommunityOne/JavaOne – great show.

    dave: hahaha – love the house of shields ref ;) but yes, the general progression towards more inclusion and openness is a very welcome development.