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

JCP Executive Committee Election Results

The race for the U.S. presidency has rightly grabbed the headlines, but the results are in for another election that should matter to Java jocks. The 2012 Fall Executive Committee (EC) Election of the Java Community Process (JCP) was completed last week. Java PaaS provider CloudBees and the U.K.-based Java user group London Java Community (LJC) beat out seven other nominees for two open elected seats on the committee. They join newly ratified seat holders Cinterion Wireless Modules, Credit Suisse, Fujitsu, and Hewlett-Packard.

The JCP is the group that certifies Java specifications, and the EC is charged with guiding "the evolution of Java."

This is the first election of members to a new EC that resulted from the merging of two committees -- one overseeing Java SE and Java EE; one overseeing Java ME -- which was finalized in September.

The JCP has been remaking itself for the past two years: In 2010, JCP chair Patrick Curran announced Java Specification Request (JSR) 348, an initiative focused on adding transparency and improving participation, agility, and governance of the JCP. A year later, Curran and company announced plans to combine ECs under JSR 355 ("JCP Executive Committee Merge").

"It seems like the right thing to do," JCP chair Patrick Curran told ADTmag in an earlier interview, "that we should have a single executive committee which will deal with all of the three platforms -- because it is one platform with three flavors."

The JCP EC now comprises 24 members, including 16 ratified members and 8 elected members, each of whom serve two-year terms. The terms are staggered so that 12 of the 24 seats are up for election/ratification every year. Oracle, as the shepherd of Java and owner of the Java trademark, is the only permanent EC member.

Ratified members are nominated by the Program Management Office (PMO) of the JCP, which currently includes the chair of the JCP, Patrick Curran, and three staff members. The nominees are approved or rejected by a majority vote. Any member of the community can run for an open seat.

About a quarter (23.7 percent) of the 1,131 eligible voters weighed in this year, according to the JCP. That's up from last year's 23 percent. The "polls" closed at midnight on Oct. 29. New members of the EC officially assume their roles on Nov. 13.

CloudBees and the LJC beat out five companies (Cisco Systems, Liferay, North Sixty-One Ltd, Software AG and ZeroTurnaround) one individual (Giuseppe Dell'Abate), and a user group (MoroccoJUG).

The responsibilities of EC members include: selection of Java Specification Requests (JSRs) for development, approval of draft specs for public review and final specs, review of TCK appeals and approval of maintenance revisions, among others.

Additional details of this year's election results are available on the JCP Program Office page here.

Posted by John K. Waters on 11/05/2012 at 10:53 AM0 comments

Zend to PHP Developers: 'Mobile First'

Today at the 6th annual ZendCon PHP developer conference, underway this week in Santa Clara, CA, Zend Technologies CEO Andi Gutmans plans to unveil his company's new "mobile first" approach to application development, along with an "end-to-end" strategy to help the PHP developer community move into mobile and the cloud.

"The thing to keep in mind," Gutmans told me in a pre-conference interview, "is that it's not mobile or cloud anymore; it's mobile and cloud. They are very much interlinked. I see mobile as the cause and cloud as the effect or enabler. And they're both crucial to the enterprise."

Gutmans said he will be urging attendees to adopt a "mobile first" strategy that addresses what his company sees as "the realities of modern enterprise app development" -- the spread of composite apps, the different requirements of mobile interface design, and the recognition that users are "an essential part of the design process."

"Today, most companies are outsourcing their client-side [mobile] development on Objective C and Java, because they don't have the internal skill set," Gutmans observed. "But as companies begin adopting a more ‘mobile first' approach, they're going to have to make that a core competency."

But the "mobile first" approach is fraught with challenges. Developers have to optimize their applications to individual device form factors and just generally create more collaborative and social experiences. And what developers need to build these kinds of apps is both a cleaner, cloud-services architecture and an agile, iterative development process.

And that's where Zend Server, the company's cloud application platform.

"There's going to be a big focus on the server side," Gutmans said, "because it's really the server-side that has all the intelligence and business logic to deliver a personalized experience to the user. And we need an agile, iterative development process. PHP is well suited to that, because it's user-centric development."

Attendees will also get an update on new and evolving integrations with Zend Server 6, Gutmans said, including Amazon Marketplace, IBM's PureSystems private cloud, Windows Azure, Google, SoftLayer, LogicWorks, and others. Zend announced a big partnership last year with RightScale, provider of an automated, web-based cloud management platform, on a jointly-developed platform-as-a-service (PaaS) architecture for PHP developers. News about an expansion of that partnership is also likely. In August, Zend partnered with VMware to integrate the vFabric Application Director with the Zend Server 6 beta. Gutmans is set to demo the results of that partnership during his keynote.

Earlier this month Zend announced a partnership with Red Hat to make Zend Server available on its OpenShift PaaS platform. The company also integrated OpenShift's client APIs into its Zend Studio IDE. Red Hat is scheduled to hold a Red-Hat-on-Zend-Server hackathon during the conference.

"With Zen Server 5.6 we evolved our product into the cloud, but we realized that, if we really wanted to go all the way [into the cloud], we needed to do some re-architecting," Gutmans said. "Big pieces of it have now been re-architected and Zend Server 6 is completely saleable in the cloud to hundreds of servers. It's also very API centric -- everything is an API; the UI talks to the server through Web services, so anything you can see in the UI can be fully automated and integrated. This enables us to work with these vendors and really embed it in a way that's seamless and native, whether is Red Hat or Amazon."

"We've taken a complete application server-centric view of the world in Zen Server 6," Gutmans added. "You shouldn't care which servers or how many are running your application. It's all about the app: how do I deploy it, make sure it performs, tune it, configure it? Whether it's running on one server or a hundred, you're managing it in exactly the same way."

I asked Gutmans to pick the "killer" new feature in Zend Server 6. He went with user roles in production. "Developers can log into production environments, see what's going on, see how the application is deployed and configured, see the monitoring event, but not be able to change anything," he said. "We really believe that this is going to help bring development and operations together and help them collaborate in an increasingly agile world."

The company is also set to preview the Zend Studio 10 beta at the conference, including such new features as Zend Framework 2 integration, full PHP 5.4 support, and a bunch of productivity enhancements (improves workflows, code assist, wizards, etc.).

Attendees will also get a look at some new client-side development features in the IDE, including "some really cool" drag-and-drop capabilities for prototyping mobile apps. Gutmans also said to look for features that "basically support" the PhoneGap open source mobile development framework. Expect to see drag-and-drop creation of cloud services on the server side, drag-and-drop creation on the client side, and then seamless deployment into the cloud.

"We believe that the web is the platform," Gutmans added. "We believe that the web is the future, and we're betting on web standards. We see a lot of companies putting a lot of effort into getting HTML5 and JavaScript to the right performance on mobile devices. The reality is that, for most apps today, web support on mobile through PhoneGap and these kinds of technologies is good enough. And we're seeing companies bringing mobile development back in-house, getting their mobile teams to focus on it, and making it a first-class citizen in the enterprise."

Zend Technologies is the Cupertino, Calif.-based creator and commercial maintainer of the PHP dynamic scripting language. Zend is run by Gutmans and Zeev Suraski, who are key contributors to PHP and the creators of the core PHP scripting engine.

BTW: The hot swag item at this year's show: a fluffy green elephant, 500 of which will be part of the "Elephant Hunt Challenge." Details were not available at press time, but I was told that if I wanted one, I'd have to join the hunt.

Posted by John K. Waters on 10/23/2012 at 10:53 AM1 comments

Embarcadero HTML 5 Builder for Native/Web Development

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg caused an industry-wide stir last month when he said during a press conference 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. His comment underscored a kind of tension between web and native app development growing among developers.

"This is really about choosing the right technology at the right time for what you want to achieve on the mobile device," said Michael Swindell, SVP of marketing and product management at app development toolmaker Embarcadero Technologies. "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 HTML 5 will be perfectly appropriate for a Facebook type of app on the mobile device."

In the meantime, Embarcadero has just released a tool for developers who want to use the same code base for Web and native apps. The company's new HTML 5 Builder is a complete integrated development environment (IDE) aimed squarely at app developers used to working with Visual Studio, C++, and Delphi.

"Many if not most of the HTML 5 tools and frameworks currently on the market are lightweight products for web/graphic designers," Swindell told ADTmag. "This isn't one of those. The tool includes visual designers, components, code editors, debuggers -- all familiar tools supporting web and mobile development. And it relies on three common, standards-based web technologies: HTML 5, CSS3, and JavaScript."

HTML 5 Builder is designed to allow developers to create end-to-end Web or mobile apps using a single codebase of these standard Web technologies. The emphasis in this first release is apps targeted for multiple mobile operating systems (Web, iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone), but the tool also supports server-side development based on PHP.

The apps built in HTML 5 Builder can be deployed to Web servers, in which case they are accessed and rendered through standard Web browsers; or they can be compiled and deployed to any of the app stores. And if the hardware allows it, they can be loaded directly onto a device.

HTML 5 Builder is available now as a stand-alone Web and mobile solution, or bundled with the company's new RAD Studio XE3 tool suite, also released last month. The new tool suite combines HTML 5 Builder Delphi, C++Builder, and Embarcadero Prism for developers building apps for Windows 8 (desktop, not RT) and Mac OS X Mountain Lion (and Retina display). The company plans to come out early next year with iOS support, native ARM-based compilation and Android support.

"These tools have been focused historically on the Windows developer," Swindell said. "But Mac is now a real entity in the enterprise, and just about every developer needs to think about Apple devices. In some of the organizations we work with, Macs make up 10 percent or more of the desktops. And certainly the mobile market has completely changed in the past five years."

More information about HTML 5 Builder and a trial download is available on the company's Web site.

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

Compuware Launches APM for Mainframes

They're not in the headlines much these days, but mainframes are still an enterprise mainstay. And yet, says Gartner analyst Jonah Kowall, managing the software that runs on big iron continues to present one of IT's trickier management challenges.

"As applications mature in order to be delivered on mobile, tablet, and new interfaces, many businesses still rely on tried and true mainframe processing for those transactions," Kowall said in a statement.

"Triage and trace of transactions across these discrete tiers is a complex problem to solve," he continued, "which is not helped by separate organizations, monitoring and other tooling ownership between these IT towers. This makes it difficult to determine the impact these transactions have on mainframe resource and application performance."

Compuware Corporation on Tuesday unveiled a new solution for that problem. The Detroit-based provider of application performance management (APM) solutions has combined its dynaTrace, PurePath and Strobe products to form Compuware APM for Mainframe, which provides deep transaction management "from the edge through the mainframe."

Compuware's dynaTrace on-premise suite of performance optimizing technologies was part of last year's acquisition of DynaTrace Software. The company's PurePath Technology provides an in-depth view of application behavior, as the company says, "from user click, across all tiers, to the database and back again." Strobe is the company's mainframe performance analysis solution.

Compuware is offering two versions of the solution: one that utilizes PurePath for z/OS, which supports mainframe CICS applications; and one that relies on PurePath for z/OS Java, which supports mainframe Java apps. Both use the PurePath technology to discover, map, and monitor all transactions automatically through distributed tier and mainframe apps with complete steps and timings.

In this release, Compuware is also touting: zero-configuration instrumentation, a feature that delivers automatic discovery, transaction mapping and "out-of-the-box dashboards for 100 percent deep visibility into mainframe transactions, with no code changes required;" one-click Hotspot analysis, which provides "faster mean-time-to-resolve (MTTR) with one-click hotspot analysis of mainframe applications," including long-running and highly distributed jobs; and one-click Strobe measurement requests, which provides reporting and analysis for profiling mainframe WebSphere Application Server, WebSphere MQ, Message Broker, Enterprise Service Bus, CICS, IMS, Batch, DB2, CTG, JMS, Web Services, and Cobol, PL/I.

APM tools monitor and manage the performance of applications, alerting IT staff in real time to availability disruptions and end user quality issues. Leading products in this category also notice trends and/or early warning signs of imminent trouble and provide automatic resolutions. Compuware is listed among the leaders in this market in Gartner's "magic quadrant." Also listed are IBM, BMC software, CA Technologies, New Relic, AppDynamics, Opnet Technologies.

In January, Compuware teamed with research and analysis firm Quocirca to survey 500 IT executives from organizations in the US, UK, Germany, and France about APM "problems and challenges facing IT executives." APM ranked as a top priority among the IT execs surveyed. Nearly 75 percent said their APM systems "should provide value across the application lifecycle in order to optimize performance of key transactions, reduce release cycle times, and improve the code being delivered to production." And 80 percent said their app monitoring systems should be more proactive to accelerate problem resolution and improve user experience.

John Van Siclen, general manager of Compuware's APM business unit, says he instigated the survey because he felt intuitively that something was changing in the APM market.

 "It felt like APM was moving from an IT tactical toolset for monitoring applications to something more strategic," Van Siclen told ADTmag in an earlier interview. "I seemed to be hearing a lot of executives talking about how they were going to manage the complexity that's exploding in the datacenter in the cloud and at the edge of the network. We wanted to see what the feeling actually was at the ‘C' level. What we found was that this is no longer tactical stuff deep in IT. APM is now seen as a system that needs to be layered in, not just in production, but also in Test and Dev."

"It's pretty clear now," he added, "that people all the way up to the C suite understand that the apps are driving their business and they need to take care of them."

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

JCP Ready for the Hard Stuff: Revising the JSPA

During the first Oracle-sponsored JavaOne conference in 2010, representatives from the Java Community Process (JCP), the group that certifies Java specifications, told attendees that changes were coming to the organization. That first year, JCP chair Patrick Curran said, would be about transparency, participation, agility and governance, all addressed in Java Specification Request (JSR) 348 ("Towards a new version of the Java Community Process"). A year later, Curran and company announced plans to merge the two JCP Executive Committees (ECs) -- the SE/EE EC and the ME EC -- under JSR 355 ("JCP Executive Committee Merge"). That plan was approved in September.

That's a lot to accomplish in just under three years, but during a Java Community Panel at this year's JavaOne event, Curran described (again) the issues addressed by those two JSRs as "low-hanging fruit." Now, Curran said, they're ready for the hard stuff -- namely, revising the Java Specification Participation Agreement (JSPA). JSR 358 ("A major revision of the Java Community Process"), which was announced in June, also seeks to modify the Process Document and the EC Standing Rules.

The JSPA sets forth the basic legal structure that allows companies and individuals to participate in the development and distribution of specifications, reference implementations, and technology compatibility kits (TCKs) within the JCP. The current version was created in 2002 through JSR 99. A lot changed in the decade that followed, and sponsors of JSR 358 argue that it's high time for the JCP "to revise this document to ensure that it meets our current needs."

But why does revising this document promise to be such a challenge?

"The JSPA was patched together from what we had at the very beginning," Curran explained, "and now it's this weird mishmash of old-style, Sun-centric [rules and procedures] and the modern way where everybody is collaborating. It's confusing legal spaghetti, and it needs to be revised to ensure that everyone understands the intellectual property flow, that the rights of people who contribute are protected, and that when people go out to implement they have confidence that they have the legal right to do so."

Among the issues being considered in this revision are: independent implementations, licensing and open source, transparency, compatibility policy and TCKs, the role of individual members, patent policy, intellectual property flow, and refactoring and cleanup.

This new JSR is part of what Curran called "a multi-year effort to reform and modify the governance and processes of the organization." What is striking about this ambitious enterprise is that it's being undertaken entirely through the existing procedures -- JSRs are filed to modify the group's governing documents, and the process changes the process.

Curran made no promises about when this JSR might be completed and approved. "This is a much more complex JSR that we've just started, and next year we'll probably still be talking about it," he said.

Posted by John K. Waters on 10/05/2012 at 10:53 AM0 comments

JavaOne 2012 Opening Night: Enterprise Java on Rise, Slew of New Releases, More

The annual JavaOne conference started early this year, staging its strategy, partner, and technical keynotes together on Sunday evening at the Mason Auditorium on San Francisco's Nob Hill. (The conference proper is being held at the nearby Hilton Hotel in Union Square through Thursday). The speakers offered a crowded auditorium updates and announcements on a range of Java technologies, from JavaFX to new Java ME-based offerings for embedded systems.

Hassan Risvi, SVP of Oracle's Fusion Middleware group, kicked off the show and introduced the conference theme: "Make the Future Java." He shared the annual Java Scorecard for 2012, which, among other things, indicated that adoption of the NetBeans IDE has been growing over the past three years. Risvi also underscored a new focus at this year's show on embedded Java. saying that he expects Java ME to become the lingua franca of the embedded world

Georges Saab, Oracle's vice president of development and chair of the OpenJDK, told attendees that there has been "a big uptake" of Java SE 7 in the enterprise. He added that JDK 7 had made Java available on more new platforms in the past year than in the previous 10. He also announced that Project Nashorn is being contributed to the OpenJDK. Nashorn is a JavaScript implementation designed to take advantage of InvokeDynamic for high performance with high interoperability with Java and the JVM. IBM, RedHat, and Twitter are planning to support Nashorn in OpenJDK, he said. Saab also called on the community to participate in the development of JDK 8 as "test pilots."

Dierk Konig of Canoo Engineering, a provider of Java-based business applications, (RIAs, linguistic morphology, and word analysis systems), joined Saab onstage to announce that his company is open sourcing its Dolphin remoting solution. Dolphin "bridges the world of enterprise and desktop Java," the company says on its website. The "Open-Dolphin" project is being licensed with an Apache 2 license, and hosted on GitHub.

AMD corporate fellow Phil Rogers took the stage to, among other things, announce Project Sumatra, a joint effort by his company and Oracle to build native support for Java in programs using Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) to improve performance. The project is a reaction, he said, to the evolution from multi-core CPUs to CPU+GPU combinations that use "a single piece of silicon and shared memory."

Nandini Ramani, Oracle vice president of engineering, Java client, and mobile platforms, updated attendees on JavaFX, which is now available on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. It's also fully integrated into Oracle's Java SE 7 implementation, she said. Ramani also announced that Oracle is releasing a JavaFX developer preview for the Linux ARM distro, which is available for immediate download. The preview, she emphasized, is intended for use with ARM-based devices together with Oracle's Java SE port for ARM. Oracle is also offering a developer preview of JavaFX Scene Builder 1.1, also available now.

Ramani was joined onstage by a representative from the Royal Canadian Mint to demonstrate an implementation of Java Card, a Java platform for smart cards and tiny devices. She characterized Java Card as the "most widely deployed and least known" Java technology. The Canadian Mint is using Java Card as the basis for its new MintChip digital currency.

Ramani also talked about two new releases that mark a major move into the mobile-and-embedded systems space: Java ME Embedded 3.2, a client runtime optimized for microcontrollers, and Java Embedded Suite 7.0, collection of services for developing apps for embedded systems in a range of devices, from home gateways and routers to healthcare devices. The two releases acknowledge that "the Internet of things" is the next IT revolution, she said.

Oracle vice president of development, Cameron Purdy, took on the Java EE portion of the strategy keynote. The evolution of enterprise Java will continue to be in the direction of modularity, he said, with the next planned release of Java EE 7 targeted for Q2 2013. The earliest release of the Java EE 7 SDK is now available via the GlassFish versions, he said. Version 4 of the open source GlassFish application server includes significant HTML 5 enhancements, he added, many of which were announced at JavaOne 2011.

Purdy made the case for Java EE's continuing popularity, citing increased developer adoption numbers (more than 50 million downloads of Java EE components) and the fact that 14 Java EE 6-compliant app server implementations are currently available from other vendors.

Purdy also noted that there are currently four new Java Specification Requests (JSRs) and ten updated JSRs in the works for Java EE 7. Among the planned enhancements Purdy discussed were new features designed to ease the building of scalable HTML5 apps, including support for non-blocking (event-driven) I/O Servlet 3.1 API, JCache, JSON-P, WebSockets, JAX-RS 2.0 Client API, JPA schema generation, and a better security configuration aimed at the cloud.

Also look for updates to the 2.0 version of Java Message Service (JMS), which Purdy said will provide improved usability through annotation and CDI support and the JMS provider API for implementation portability.

Purdy was joined onstage by Nike's Nicole Otto, who showed a video promoting her company's Java EE-based FuelBand activity tracking device. The device is worn on the wrist and tracks sports activities and everyday actions, and then sync that data to a "motivational web and mobile experience."

The Java EE portion of the keynote also included a presentation by oceanography Robert Ballard, best known for his discovery of the wreckage of the Titanic. Ballard talked about using Java EE in his research technology, and made a compelling pitch to encourage young people to get into science and engineering in an "era of personality" by "selling the scientist, not the science."

The partners keynote was presented by IBM distinguished engineer and chief architect Jason McGee and IBM's Java CTO John Duimovich. McGee focused on "cloud challenges," and talked about the need to use patterns to describe cloud-based systems and "help us to deal with the diversity that has emerged in the application space." IBM's Liberty Profile, for example, is a lightweight WebSphere Application Server runtime for the cloud available on developerWorks. He emphasized the value of exploiting the evolution of hardware via "expert integrated systems of hardware and Java."

Duimovich talked about hardware during his presentation, including IBM's System z, and took up the pitch for the advantages of running Java on that system. He also took a moment to describe the relationship between Big Blue and Oracle: The two companies work together on Java, he said, "but compete head-to-head.

Mark Reinhold, the chief architect of Oracle's Java Platform group, led the technical keynote. This year's presentation was built around a single example application: a schedule builder populated with presentation and speaker data from this year's JavaOne conference. JavaFX team members Richard Bair, chief architect in Oracle's Client Java Platform group, and Jasper Potts, developer experience architect in Oracle's Client Java group, demoed the example app.

At one point, Brian Goetz, a Java language architect at Oracle, joined them onstage to explain the OpenJDK Project Lambda (JSR 335), which aims to support programming in multicore environments by adding closures (aka Lambda Expressions) and related features to the Java language. The project will help developers by giving them "better parallel libraries," he said.

During his presentation, Reinhold addressed Oracle's decision (first suggested by him in a blog post) to push Project Jigsaw back from Java 8 to Java 9, which is due in 2015. He used a "spaghetti" diagram to illustrate the complexities of implementing a standard module system for the Java SE Platform.

Oracle's Java EE technology evangelist Arun Gupta wrapped up the technical keynote, during which he introduced Project Easel, which enables NetBeans developers to create and manage client-side HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript applications. NetBeans 7.3 is expected later this week; the new version will include support for HTML5 as a new project type. He also discussed Project Avatar, development strategy that aims to help developers create hybrid applications for mobile devices with Java and HTML5. The project was unveiled at last year's JavaOne. 

JavaOne 2012 runs through Thursday.

Posted by John K. Waters on 10/01/2012 at 10:53 AM0 comments

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