Could Security Woes Eventually Kill Client-Side Java? Analysts Weigh In...

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Client-side Java has a big, bright bull's eye painted on it, and black hats just can't seem to resist shooting at it. Oracle was relatively quick to response to news of the latest critical vulnerability in Java 7 (revealed last Thursday; fixed by Sunday), but many security mavens have been unwilling to tell users that it's safe to enable Java in their browsers again. It didn't help that the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), which is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has issued a warning to Average Joe computer users to disable Java.

After more than a year of headline-grabbing revelations of new security flaws, is it fair to ask whether client-side Java is living on borrowed time? Some industry watchers think so.

Although Java will remain alive and well on the server, says Mike Gualtieri, principal analyst at Forrester Research, the steady surfacing of security vulnerabilities we're seeing today on the client side is likely to kill any chance that Java will play a bigger role on the desktop or mobile devices in the future.

"It's like all Java developers were just diagnosed with a devastating, incurable disease," Gualtieri said. "What are you going to do? Bite your tongue, keep your head down, and keep writing code."

Al Hilwa, program director at industry analyst firm IDC, points out that any add-on to a browser is going to increase the surface area for security attacks. And Oracle complicates things by bundling the Java browser extension with the Java runtime environment (JRE).

"Browsers are powerful gateways, and when they're used as platforms for extensions from other vendors (e.g. Java from Oracle or Flash from Adobe) the picture of management and accountability for security becomes complicated," he said. "This is why the industry is shifting to HTML5 for browser applications, so that the browser vendors own the security of the platform end-to-end."

Java has been gaining popularity as a target for a few years now, observes Jerome Segura, senior security researcher at anti-malware solutions provider Malwarebytes. It surpassed the Adobe Reader about a year ago, which had been the leading target, in part because of changes Adobe made to its sandbox, but largely because Java is now so widely deployed across so many devices and platforms.

It's also Java's inherent complexity that invites exploitation, Segura said, because that quality increases the number of possible bugs in the code, and thus, the number of potential vulnerabilities. Another problem is Oracle's tendency to leave the end users in charge of updates. Oracle's remedy for the current problem, for example, was to fix one of the two bugs behind it directly, and leave the users to update the default security settings to fix the second bug.

Sorin Mustaca, product manager and IT security expert at German security solutions provider Avira, applauds Oracle for acting quickly to fix the latest zero-day vulnerability, but says there's a downside to such fast action.

"When you fix such an important bug in such a short time under high pressure, the result is that you will see even more bugs like that in the future," Mustaca said. "But also, our feeling is that Oracle has gotten into the habit of reacting to a crisis -- to putting out fires -- instead of mitigating. And so this is why we have mixed feelings about this."

Mustaca agrees that Java's widespread deployment lies at the root of its recent appeal as an exploitation target.

"The number of devices has exploded in the past two to three years," he said. "And Java runs on almost all devices. Oracle says that it's on more than three billion of them -- everything from your computer to your car to your frig. And it's an accepted technology, even by Apple. So of course it's going to be a target, and of course we are going to react strongly when it is exploited. It has a much bigger impact."

Hilwa points out that Java has attracted the attention of the "malware industrial complex," which is evolving into a "fast moving, well capitalized underworld of software-for-hire available to anyone willing to pay." Automated kits that are now available to exploit any security hole within days, if not hours, after they become known.

"The ante is regularly upped by the malware industry," he said, "and companies who want to be in the plug-in business are essentially engaged in an arms race. And it's relatively difficult for end-users to verify the safety of all the different browsers they use. This puts the onus on Enterprise IT to create awareness for their users. So Oracle needs to step up their investment. No doubt the company understands this now."

Posted by John K. Waters on 01/16/2013 at 10:53 AM4 comments

2013 Challenges for Developers, Part II: Demand for Multiple Language Skills

By this time last year, the term "polyglot programmer" had entered the IT lexicon, and there was plenty of talk about the strategic advantage of learning to use a wider variety of programming languages, frameworks, databases, interface technologies and other development tools. Last year's strategic advantage may be evolving into this year's survival strategy.

"I would argue that developers need to be fluent in multiple languages now," said Forrester analyst Jeffrey S. Hammond. "I see that in my data: I've talked about the multilingual developer who programs in no single language more than 50 percent of the time, and that's definitely on the rise. I don't see how you get away with just being a C++ developer or a C# developer or a Java developer anymore."

Hammond is a leading expert on open-source software, next-generation mobile, open Web and client architectures, and software development productivity. He writes regularly on those topics for Forrester's application development and delivery blog. He believes that the need for multiple language skills may be one of the biggest challenges facing some developers in 2013.

"There's just a tremendous amount of stuff that developers have to learn if they want to keep their skills up to what the market is going to be demanding of them in 2013 and beyond," he said. "Think about all the things you've got to understand now to build modern applications. You have to be able to use either a cross platform tool or you have to pick up Objective C or Android Java or C#. You have to learn how to consume and use all these RESTful Web services. You've got to understand the ins and outs of Amazon Web Services and how to build a scale-out system that runs in the cloud. It's a hell of a lot of homework, but necessary if you want to limit the constraints on your career opportunities in the long term."

What additional language skills are codederos likely to seek in 2013? 

"I'm seeing the re-emergence for JavaScript," Hammond said. "I'm seeing lots of demand in the mobile space for Node.js skills, and a lot of these JavaScript frameworks. And I'm seeing more and more HTML5 development being done. But in some ways, this may be the year for developers who don't know JavaScript to learn it—and to really understand that it's not just for making things pretty on the client side."

Jay Lyman, a senior analyst at 451 Research who covers open-source software in the enterprise, application development, systems management and cloud computing, sees the polyglot programming trend "unfolding in parallel to DevOps," as more software developers and system administrators leverage more tools and languages for different advantages.

"For example," Lyman said in an e-mail, "while Java and .NET still dominate enterprise applications, we see more use of PHP, Ruby, Python and other languages for Web, mobile and enterprise applications; Erlang or Scala for concurrency on the back end; node.js for greater performance; HTML5 and JavaScript for user interfaces, etc. We also see use of a greater number and variety of database technologies, including NoSQL databases, Cassandra and Hadoop for 'big data,' and also use of a variety of infrastructures to develop, deploy and support applications, including traditional datacenters [and] public and private clouds."

Mike Gualtieri, principal analyst at Forrester, agrees that the demand for multi-language skills is likely to put more pressure on developers in 2013: "A polyglot programming norm means more homework," he said in an e-mail. "The trend towards using multiple programming languages including scripting languages is a constant challenge for developers. It means that they have more homework to do to keep up with all the new languages and programming languages."

He added: "Is this God's programming Tower of Babel to punish Sun for screwing up Java and Oracle for acquiring Sun?"

Posted by John K. Waters on 01/11/2013 at 10:53 AM0 comments

2013 Challenges for Developers, Part I: Mobile and Cloud

In 2013, life for developers is going to get interesting, say industry watchers -- which sounds great until you remember that old (purportedly) Chinese curse. Living in "interesting times" is likely to prove challenging to hard-working codederos.

Dana Gardner, president and principal analyst for Interarbor Solutions (and a must-read blogger) sees 2013 as the time for developers to make strategic bets on both mobile and cloud, but he also advises caution.

"Sorting out the Web-vs-native development equation (and how to best target the most devices) gets trickier in 2013," he said. "Selling software as native apps is costly and high-stakes. Web-only is lower in costs and may get better adoption, but with really low margins, usually. The bottom line is that developers need to be better at forward-looking business development and micro-economics, no matter how good they are at their coding crafts."

If you want to see where this particular debate is headed, Gardner said, keep your eyes on current trends in game development. He points to cross-platform PC-based virtual environments with cloud services, such as Steam, vs. proprietary consoles, or more pure SaaS games, such as Minecraft.

While you're sorting out "Web-vs-native," you're also going to have to think carefully about picking cloud partners, both in terms of the technology and the relationship, Gardner said. Start by asking yourself a lot of questions.

"PaaS strategies and making the right choices about them have huge implications for next five years," Gardner said. "Losing control to a PaaS may be advantageous in economic and risk terms, but it's still a big bet. Are there ways to hedge? Should a multi-PaaS approach hold for the near term? If tools and IDEs are nearly the same, what not chose a multi-PaaS approach? Write once, PaaS anywhere? Will enterprises also go for multiple sources on PaaS or pick one? Developers should have a say in these decisions, as ISVs and as enterprise dev players."

"The good news," Gardner added, "is that CIOs and enterprise strategists are sorting this out too, and a developer with strong insights can rise quickly by reducing uncertainty and bringing clarity to the planning process. So developers should raise their hands and be heard, not sit back and wait for the dictates from above at this dynamic stage in the business."

Randy Heffner, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, is a leading expert on architectures and design approaches to building enterprise applications (and another blogger worth reading). He agrees that 2013 will a big year for developers defining their mobile strategies, but he argues that those decisions need to be made within the context of "cross-channel interaction."

"It is easy to be all about getting a mobile app out there and to forget that what your customers and employees really need is to be effective across mobile, Web, voice, e-mail, social, and other channels," Heffner said. "Even if today's challenge is focused on mobile, if you don't consider how today's mobile app will, in the future, grow to be cross-channel, you're building in significant rework."

Heffner goes into this point in detail in his November 2012 report, "Use a Reference Architecture to Speed Cross-Channel Digital Experience Delivery."

Heffner also believes that finding a new way to think about integration is going to be a critical developer challenge in 2013.

"The old mindset for integration is that its purpose is to connect and reconcile among siloed applications," he said. "When you add to this the proliferation of integration technologies and patterns (SOA, BPM, CEP, business rules, etc.), you start adding technology silos on top of the application silos. What we need is an integrated view that focuses on the real goal of business technology: building an effective, agile business. Rather than putting siloed applications at the center of the design model, we need to put the design of our business at the center.

Heffner calls this idea "digital business design," and he blogs on the topic here.

Al Hilwa, program director for IDC's application development software research, believes that the biggest challenge facing developers in 2013 boils down to effective navigation of their platform choices.

"The world is quickly shifting to one where applications, both on the client and the server, have many choices of platforms competing for developer affectations," Hilwa said. "For applications targeting consumers, and even for those targeting enterprises in the age of BYOD, choices have to be made about which platforms to support and which to leave behind or defer until a later time. For each of the major platforms, like iOS or Android, the developers are aware that their potential users are making selections between ecosystems of content and services, and so they must make choices that are similar to target those users. Once a platform is chosen, then decisions have to be made about whether to approach the application development with native tools or with Web tools targeting mobile browsers, where much of the code can be leveraged for supporting other platforms."

"However, targeting HTML5 involves compromises in functionality and performance that also require careful navigation," he added. "On back-end platforms, developers have to choose cloud services, whether to operate on IaaS and spin their own machines or whether to use more curated models which support certain programming languages in a more intimate fashion. Fundamentally, 2013 is a year of developer choices to an even greater degree than any other which preceded it, and with these choices come a lot of anguish and agonizing."

Hilwa's latest research reports are available on the IDC Web site.

Mike Gualtieri, principal analyst at Forrester Research (and no-nonsense blogger), offers a succinct New Year's recommendation for developers:

"Write a mobile app already," he said. "You gotta have mobile app development on your resume. Even if it just means you downloaded the Android SDK or Apple Xcode and hacked out a test app. Carve out a Saturday afternoon and just do it. That's all the time it will take if you are already a pro Java, C# or C++ developer. Now you can talk with some authority about mobile app development because your next job will probably depend on it."



Posted by John K. Waters on 01/07/2013 at 10:53 AM1 comments

Developers Create Mobile Facebook App with HTML 5

I should probably send Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg a thank-you note. Ever since he told reporters that the biggest mistake his company had made so far was "betting too much on HTML 5 rather than native" in its mobile software development strategy, I've heard from a lot of interesting and creative HTML 5 users with, as you might guess, a slightly different view of the latest incarnation of the venerable markup language. Last week I sat down with two developers who took Mr. Zuckerberg's comment as a challenge.

"We don't want to dis the Facebook team," Jacky Nguyen told me. "The Facebook app is hard, and there are a lot of things about it that make it difficult to build an awesome app that these guys grappled with. But they threw HTML 5 under the bus instead of facing the fact that this was a difficult programming problem that's just as hard to do on native."

Nguyen is lead architect for a Redwood City, Calif.-based company called Sencha, which makes standards-based Web development products, including some HTML 5-based frameworks. He and Jamie Avins, who leads the company's graphics team, were "irked" (their word) by the fear, uncertainty, and doubt Zuckerberg's comment seemed to spread about HTML 5. And they set out, in their spare time, to prove him wrong.

"We got a little mad," Avins admits. "There are a lot of us who believe in this technology, and we don't like it when people say it sucks. We actually saw [Zuckerberg's comment] as a real problem. I went to Jacky and I said, OK, what's it going to take to do this thing? We spent some time researching exactly what they were doing [at Facebook] and what the challenges would be, and Jacky went at it head on."

The two looked under the hood of the FB mobile application, where they say they discovered that most of the so-called native iOS app actually used Web technologies. But the news feed -- the hardest part from a technical standpoint -- was definitely native. That's the part Nguyen rebuilt in HTML 5. He used his company's mobile app framework, Sencha Touch, which is the cornerstone of the Sencha HTML 5 platform. Nguyen matched the look and feel of the FB app, though he didn't build in every feature. In addition to the news feed, he built a multi-touch photo viewer (including pinch, pan, zoom, etc.); the user profile page; the overlays for notifications, friend requests, and messages; and sliding menus.

On Monday, Sencha unveiled the fruits of Nguyen and Avins' labors: "Fastbook," an HTML 5 app for iOS and Android, built entirely in HTML 5, which mimics Facebook's native app, including real FB data access via Facebook's API. A video demo of the app is available on Video. Nguyen and Avins also blogged on the release.

I got to see a demo of the new app on a basket of Apple and Android phones -- including my own iPhone 4S. It performed as advertised.

One of the problems with the public perception of HTML 5 in general, says Paul Kopacki, Sencha's VP of marketing, is that many people think it's just a markup language that's little better than HTML 4.01. But HTML 5 introduced new elements and attributes, full CSS3 support, new audio and video support, 2-D and 3-D graphics, local storage, a local SQL database, Web applications and APIs that can be used with JavaScript.

"When people go wrong with HTML 5, nine times out of ten, they're thinking of it as Web-dev technology," he said. "But it's really a set of app-dev technologies designed to make the browser a legitimate app runtime."

Kopacki also reminded me that there was a bit more to Zuckerberg's now infamous comment than typically gets talked about. He went on to say that "…it's not that HTML 5 is bad. I'm actually, on long-term, really excited about it."

"HTML 5 doesn't have a marketing department," Kopacki added. "Just folks like us, who don't own it, but who love it and believe in it. And we think 2013 is going to be a big year for HTML 5."

On Monday, the standards-setting Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) announced that HTML 5 and the Canvas 2D specification are now feature complete.

"The broader the reach of Web technology, the more our stakeholders demand a stable standard," W3C CEO Jeff Jaffe said in a statement. "As of today, businesses know what they can rely on for HTML 5 in the coming years, and what their customers will demand. Likewise, developers will know what skills to cultivate to reach smart phones, cars, televisions, ebooks, digital signs and devices not yet known."

About 63 percent of Web and application developers are actively using HTML 5, the W3C said in the announcement.

Sencha also announced the "HTML 5 is Ready App Contest," which invites Sencha developers to build their own apps that "prove the power of HTML 5." The company is offering $20,000 in cash and "cutting edge devices" as prizes. The contest is open now. Details are available here.

Posted by John K. Waters on 12/20/2012 at 10:53 AM2 comments

JVM Language Kotlin Hits Milestone 4

Kotlin, the JVM-targeted programming language developed by software development toolmaker JetBrains, passed its fourth milestone this week. The big upgrades in Kotlin M4 (besides the 128 "closed issues") are its improved compatibility with JDK 7 and the introduction of KAnnotator, a tool for automatically annotating developer libraries.

Kotlin project lead Andrey Breslav announced the latest milestone release on the Project Kotlin blog post. Breslav, who is also serves in a Java Community Process expert group for JSR-335 (Project Lambda), said the milestone was released from "under snow," with a link to photos of the Prague street where the company is headquartered buried under the white stuff.

This milestone release improves on the type argument inference (its faster), tweaks the code completion feature, and makes it possible to copy and instance of a data class (data classes were introduced in Kotlin M3) and selectively change some of its properties while keeping the object immutable.

Breslav waxed poetic about the addition of the KAnnotator tool in this release: "A programmer is a lazy creature, and by virtue of our laziness, we want to automate as much as we can," he wrote. "And today, along with Kotlin M4, we roll out KAnnotator: a tool that annotates your libraries automatically (the tool is written in Kotlin, of course)."

Developers simply tell KAnnotator to infer annotations from their jar files, and it then writes them to XML. Breslav shows an example of annotations for methods and fields that can be added to projects and are visible to both the Java IDE and the Kotlin compiler. He adds that this new tool "will grow much smarter" in future versions.

The Czech maker of the code-centric Java IDE, IntelliJ IDEA, began developing Kotlin in 2010 and released it in July 2011 for distribution under Apache 2 Open Source License. Kotlin is a statically typed language similar to Scala, Gosu, Ceylon, and Fantom. It compiles to both JVM byte code and JavaScript. The company has claimed that the language will be more stable at runtime than Java, because it can statically check weak points and it supports things like variable type interface, closures, extension functions, and mix-ins.

"We know that Java is going to stand long, but we believe that the community can benefit from a new statically typed JVM-targeted language free of the legacy trouble and having the features so desperately wanted by the developers," Breslav said at the time.

The company released the first Kotlin milestone (M1) in April 2012 with a plugin for the JetBrains IntelliJ IDEA dev tool suite. The second milestone release, Kotlin M2, was released in June with the added ability to compile Kotlin code to JavaScript within the IDE. The Kotlin plug-in requires the IntelliJ IDEA. Running Kotlin on Android requires the Android SDK.

According to Wikipedia, Kotlin is the name of a Russian island located near the head of the Gulf of Finland, 20 miles west of Saint Petersburg in the Baltic Sea. One of JetBrains’ development offices is located in Saint Petersburg.

Kotlin is currently under active development, More information is available on the Kotlin Web site, and the Kotlin issue tracker. The source code is also available on GitHub.

Posted by John K. Waters on 12/12/2012 at 10:53 AM1 comments

VMware Spinoff: Analysts Weigh In

Last week's announcement that VMware is spinning off a new organization called the Pivotal Initiative under parent company EMC to manage its application development and deployment products, including SpringSource, Gemfire, and Cloud Foundry, is probably a good thing for developers. Among other things, says 451 Research analyst Matt Aslett, it will better enable both VMware and EMC to tap into the developer-led adoption of cloud and big data technologies.

Aslett points to 451's survey of storage professionals (through its TheInfoPro service), which indicates that those responsible for purchasing traditional data storage technologies are not currently engaged in big data purchasing decisions. "[O]ur research indicates that adoption of technologies such as Hadoop is being led by functional and departmental business unit development teams rather than strategic corporate IT projects," said Aslett in an e-mailed interview.

The Pivotal Initiative will also manage Pivotal Labs' agile software development tools and services and EMC's Greenplum big-data analytics group. Greenplum in particular will benefit from being part of the Pivotal Initiative, Aslett said, because it will be able to exploit closer relationships with the vFabric, Spring, and Cetas teams.

"EMC has already attempted to bridge the gap with programs focused on engaging with 'data scientists' through its Greenplum, business," he added. He cited an example of potentially "developer-friendly technology" that the Pivotal Initiative might produce: EMC Greenplum Chorus, the collaborative data science and analysis platform originally started by Greenplum prior to its acquisition by EMC. The platform was completed thanks to a joint engineering effort that involved EMC Greenplum, VMware's vFabric Data Director team and Pivotal Labs prior to its acquisition by EMC, Aslett pointed out. 

IDC analyst Al Hilwa says that the spinoff came as no surprise to industry watchers. Paul Maritz, who led VMware for four years, passed the reins to incoming CEO Pat Gelsinger in August at the annual VMworld conference, and rumors of a reorganization have been circulating ever since.

"I think the idea of grouping all the application development and deployment related technologies in one division and separately from virtualization is sound and healthy for developers," Hilwa said. "It has the potential to bring a lot more focus on developers. Placing it with EMC allows VMware to maximize its virtualization opportunities with other platform players, which is, after all, how it is used in customer data centers today. Maritz has the skill, knowledge, and passion to drive this new division, though making money may still be a challenge. Going to market with the broader Pivotal portfolio allows the more marketable and monetizable back-end software and services to essentially pay for developer technologies."

Dana Gardner, principle analyst at Interarbor Solutions, also likes the spinoff plan, but he says the move needs to be about more than development efficiencies.

"It's interesting that EMC and VMware are pooling these specific resources into a new entity," Gardner said. "Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) is a next big opportunity for cloud, but it needs to be more than appealing to just developers. PaaS needs to provide a consolidation function between various cloud models, and that includes automation for accessing Big Data and analytics resources regardless of where they reside. PaaS also needs to be integral to hybrid computing as an operations model enabler [and] an ongoing lifecycle function…"

Gardner sees VMware and EMC recognizing a larger role for PaaS, and therefore a larger opportunity for the Pivotal Initiative. "Data has long been thought of as a by-product of applications," he said, "but data resources and their business value are the application, increasingly. PaaS entwined with data integration and management functions can, in a sense, redefine applications."

"I'm seeing enterprise IT planners now recognizing that their IT transformation efforts, their Big Data efforts, and their cloud development ambitions all need to be synched and organized in conjunction," he added. "So if EMC and VMware can automate and organize that to a significant degree, it could be a very appealing adoption path for developers, enterprise operators, and cloud service providers alike. And it places them ahead of Amazon, where they need to get."


Posted by John K. Waters on 12/10/2012 at 10:53 AM0 comments

Do Devs Need Custom Linux Laptops? Dell Thinks So

Rumors began circulating earlier this year that Dell might be developing a laptop specifically designed for developers. Then Barton George, Dell's Web Vertical Director, began blogging about Sputnik, a "scrappy skunkworks project" that would combine the XPS 13-inch laptop with the Ubuntu 12.04 Linux distribution.

About a week ago, George blogged that "Sputnik has landed!" The Austin, TX-based computer maker is now offering a Developer Edition of the machine based on "community input" that "pushed it from an exploratory project to an official product."

I talked with George recently about Dell's decision to create a developer-focused Linux laptop using their popular XPS-13 Ultrabook. He first clarified what Dell means by "Web vertical," his bailiwick.

"That's everybody from the startups in the dorm rooms to the Facebooks and the Googles who use the Web as a platform," he said. "In that space, we believe the developers are the ones who really call the shots. And we asked ourselves, what can we do to make their lives easier?"

George credits Stephen O'Grady, principal analyst and co-founder of RedMonk, for giving him the idea to build an Ubuntu-based laptop. He initially doubted that the idea would fly at Dell (he couldn't come up with big sales predictions for such a targeted device), but it happened that Michel Coté, O'Grady's former colleague at RedMonk, now director of cloud strategy at Dell, was involved with an intra-company incubation fund. George pitched him the idea, and they were off and running.

Dell worked closely with Canonical, the chief commercial sponsor of Ubuntu, on the project. Canonical added the idea of connecting the laptop to the cloud, so that users could develop on LXC containers, replicate the environment on the actual client, and then jettison it to the cloud via the JuJu service deployment and orchestration framework. (Ubuntu's LXC is a userspace tool that controls the kernel namespaces and c-group features to create system or application containers.)

George liked that idea too, because Dell has stepped into the cloud via OpenStack, an open source project made up of several interrelated projects focused on delivering components for a cloud infrastructure solution. Dell is on a list of 145 participating companies that includes AMD, Cisco, Citrix, Intel and Microsoft.

"We suddenly saw this as an end-to-end solution, rather than a point project," George said.

The company unveiled the Sputnik Project in May at the Ubuntu developer conference in Oakland, Calif.

"We were blown away by the response," George recalls. "My blog post, where we announced it, has drawn 63,000 responses -- it normally gets about 500. We could see that we had struck a nerve."

When the company announced the beta program six months ago, it received 6,000 applications from around the world, George says.

Last week Dell officially launched the Dell XPS 13 Laptop, Developer Edition in the U.S. The company is billing it as a "client-to-cloud" laptop. It comes bundled with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, "augmented with the necessary hardware drivers and basic tools and utilities that support building, testing and producing applications." There's also a beta version of a JuJu cloud launcher and a profile tool meant to provide access to a library of profiles, such as Ruby, Android or JavaScript, "to quickly set up your development environments and tool chains." Both are community projects posted on GitHub.

"A lot of what we're trying to accomplish here with these tools is support for DevOps," Coté said. "To me, DevOps is largely about making development more efficient and getting to production sooner, and tightening that feedback loop developers have between idea, code, and deploy."

George added that Sputnik is not intended to be a "Mac killer." Apple's pricey laptop is a favorite among codederos. But there is in this market a certain amount of low-hanging fruit, he said -- developers who would prefer to be working on open systems, for example, but opt in to proprietary technologies to get something they don't have to fiddle with.

"For that segment, we're offering a compelling alternative," he said.

Much more information about the Sputnik Project is available on the Dell Web site and George's blog.


Posted by John K. Waters on 12/05/2012 at 10:53 AM4 comments

Java-Based Jelastic PaaS Integrates with Eclipse IDE 

Java-based Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) provider Jelastic has released a new plug-in for the Eclipse integrated development environment (IDE).

The plug-in is designed to allow developers working with the Java Platform Enterprise Edition (Java EE) to manage their deployments and hosting environments from within the popular IDE.

Jelastic is a Java and PHP cloud hosting platform designed for hosted service providers. It runs any Java application in the cloud, the company says, without code or language changes, and without the need to write for specific APIs. It supports any JVM-based application, including apps developed with Java 6, Java 7, JRuby, Scala and Groovy. The Jelastic platform supports three SQL databases: MariaDB, MySQL and PostgreSQL. It also provides non-SQL database support for MongoDB and CouchDB. And its list of support app servers includes Tomcat (6 and 7), GlassFish and Jetty. Jelastic provides its users with developer tools through plug-ins for such build systems as Maven, Ant, Hudson and Jenkins.

The Jelastic Plugin 1.0, available now from the Eclipse Marketplace or installed automatically from Eclipse, makes it possible for developers to "pick and choose the features you want to use from the wide open-source world of plug-in options," Jelastic PR manager Marina Sprava wrote in a blog post. "Also, Eclipse has some of the best tooling available for JEE projects. Eclipse is more than a Java IDE, it serves a wide variety of purposes -- from Java, AOP, Web, to C/C++ development."

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Jelastic was founded in 2010 by Hivetext, a Zhytomyr, Ukraine-based startup focused on Java application development in the cloud. Ruslan Synytsky, founder and CEO of Jelastic, says that his company’s flagship platform is the first Java PaaS to provide "full application compatibility and developer control," and "the only choice for Java developers" who want to avoid lock-in. The company claims more than 1,500 registered Jelastic developers have deployed nearly 1,000 applications since mid-2011.

James Gosling, the creator of Java, mentioned Jelastic in a recent talk about his new role as a software engineer for Liquid Robotics. It was posted on YouTube by Marakana TechTV, the open-source educational content initiative; he gave the platform a glowing review. 

The company said it plans to offer additional plug-ins for integration with other IDEs in the future.

Posted by John K. Waters on 11/28/2012 at 10:53 AM0 comments

Survey Says: HTML5!

Telerik, the company that makes the Kendo UI framework, recently published a survey of more than 4,000 developers, whom they contacted in September about their usage of HTML5. The developers ranged from PHP and Ruby coders to Java jocks and .NET codederos. Among the more noteworthy findings: 82 percent of developers say HTML5 is "important for their job immediately, or in the next 12 months."

"We think that's a pretty un-ignorable stat," says Todd Anglin, vice president of Telerik's HTML5 Web and Mobile Tools group. "In a lot of enterprises we're seeing a shift away from Silverlight and Flash and a rise very quickly in the popularity of HTML5. They're going to have to find a way to adopt these technologies without disrupting the flow and the productivity of their teams."

This survey also suggests that HTML5 adoption is on a faster track than widely believed. Sixty-three percent of respondents said that they are using the technology today.

The folks at Telerik also worked in a question about Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's recent comment that the biggest mistake his company had made so far was "betting too much on HTML5 rather than native" in its mobile software development strategy. Survey respondents said that Facebook's decision to rewrite their HTML5 mobile iPhone app using mostly native code "has had minimal influence on either adoption, or attitude toward adoption, of HTML5. In fact, according to Telerik, 73 percent of the developers surveyed said Facebook's decision had "little to no impact" on their confidence on future HTML5 adoption.

I get a lot of surveys, and clearly, the results of this one are good news for the surveyors, who sell a framework designed to allow .NET and Java developers to use their existing tools and skills to build HTML5 and JavaScript apps and webpages. But it is further evidence that HTML5 is gaining ascendance.

This subject also came up in a conversation I had recently with Embarcadero's Senior Vice President of Product Management Michael Swindell. "This is really about choosing the right technology at the right time for what you want to achieve on the mobile device," he told me. "The mobile devices themselves have limited performance runtimes for things like WebKit and JavaScript. You really have to think about that today when you're building an application. I believe that eventually HTML5 will be perfectly appropriate for a Facebook type of app on the mobile device."

Embarcadero makes a tool designed to allow developers to use the same code base for Web and native apps called HTML5 Builder, so I guess a grain of salt is appropriate here, too -- though I have to add that Swindell is a real veteran of this industry who has seen many changes since his days at the original Borland.

In a long blog post, Jeremy Allaire, CEO of Boston-based online video hosting firm Brightcove, argued that Zuckerberg's "recent public flogging of HTML5" and statements made by the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs "lashing out at Flash" are actually hurting developer productivity. He advocates a hybrid approach:

…With no single company dominating across all categories of devices, app publishers must build for multiple consumer device platforms -- PCs, smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs. To take advantage of these consumer devices and to provide the best user experience and functionality, developers should be building hybrid apps that fuse HTML5 and native code, providing maximum cross-platform leverage, while going native where it counts."

I've been thinking about the tension building among developers around this Web-versus-native argument as just the inevitable stress and strain of evolution. Allaire sees it as potentially more of a religious war. "This is surely an epic time in our industry," he writes.

I think he might be right.

Posted by John K. Waters on 11/16/2012 at 10:53 AM0 comments

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