Oracle's Georges Saab on the Impact of Faster Java Releases

Oracle announced the general availability of JDK 12 last week, which is the third release under its still newish accelerated release cadence. JDK 10 was the first feature release of the new cycle; Java 11, which was released six months later, was the first long-term support (LTS) release. The next LTS release will be Java 17, scheduled for release in September 2021.

Three releases into the new cycle seemed like a good time to touch base with Georges Saab, VP of the Java Platform Group at Oracle and chairperson of the OpenJDK governing board, about the impact of the faster Java release cadence on the developer community and his own team at Oracle.

We last talked about the new release schedule back in 2017 when Mark Reinhold [chief architect of Oracle's Java Platform Group] publicly proposed the idea. But you had already been laying the groundwork with Java 9. You said at the time that you felt "the time is right for the Java ecosystem to make this work." Were you right about that?
Back before we started this, before they actually experienced it, people were understandably skeptical. But in the past few months, especially since Java 11 came out, the developers I talk to are saying that, once they did the hard work of getting up to Java 9 , they were able to move forward with almost no difficulty at all. Java 9 was the last of the major disruptions. For people who have something running on Java 9, moving to 10, 11 and 12 are small steps that are akin to what we used to call "minor releases."

But people still have to make their way from Java 8 to Java 9 to experience all this easy-upgrade goodness.
A couple of years ago, I heard a lot of people saying, well, maybe Java 8 is good enough, and we should just stay on that forever. But now I hear from a lot of people who are very excited about the roadmap we have, because they're seeing concrete evidence on a regular basis that we're making good on that roadmap. The things we're talking about -- Valhalla, Panama, Loom, Metropolis -- are coming into releases. Those projects are exciting, and they understand that getting on a modern release train is going to put them in a great place to take advantage of those things as they come out.

So, you'd say the new release cadence is achieving the goals you originally had for it?
You have to keep in mind what our goals are, and where we were coming from when we decided to do this. In the past, we would work on one of these major releases for two to three, even four years. And we would have a bunch of changes and improvements that landed as a major, disrupting release, which was very hard on everyone. What we've done is found a better way of improving our processes and the way new versions of the spec are revved, so that we can get those changes out in smaller chunks to people much more rapidly. What this is really about is making sure we keep Java relevant and that we're able to deliver functionality into the hands of developers quickly.

This is a big change, and I think lots of people are still having to stop and remind themselves that the latest release isn't going to be this massive, disruptive challenge. Do you think your decision to rev the major release number each time has caused a bit confusing in this regard?
I do, actually. Because we chose to streamline the numbering, eliminate "major releases," and not use, say 11u20, 11u30, 11u40, there is that automatic expectation that these are major disruptions coming every six months. But, of course, our intention is the opposite. We're providing small, evolutionary steps forward and incremental change that is easy to adopt but getting you the functionality you need. And we're continuing to evolve the language and platform so that Java continues to be relevant for another two decades.

But another advantage with this approach, which I've heard you talk about, is how these incremental changes often will constitute pieces of a bigger picture.
A really good example of that is Switch Expressions [which was included in JDK 12]. People are very excited about this feature. It's small, it makes your code easier to write, and more importantly it makes your code easier to read. We're including it as a preview so we can get feedback and make sure it's as good and solid as it can be when it's finalized, and informed by real, live use cases.

But if you look at JEP 325, way down at the bottom of the page, you'll see under "Dependencies" it says "Pattern Matching (JEP 305) depends on this JEP." It's not an end in itself, but a step toward a much larger and more ambitious improvement to Java. This is something that we would have done previously in one of those large, disruptive releases, all at once. The faster cadence allows us to do this kind of thing in small improvements across multiple releases.

But the faster release cadence also makes it easier to leave features out of a release, as you did this time around with Raw String Literals.
That's right. This is a good example of a key advantage of this model. If this had been a two-to-three-to-four-year major release, the pressure to keep it in would have been extremely high, because if it didn't, you'd be waiting for it for years. The stakes of leaving it out were much, much higher.

How has your team adapted to the faster release cadence?
They've adapted wonderfully. Having the predictability of knowing when features come out means we can reduce the overhead of producing them tremendously. We're not constantly having to shuffle different schedules, planning and re-planning when a feature drifts out of scope. So, for the team, it has been quite liberating.

Any doubters in the bunch?
It has been a bit of a cultural shift. Some people on my team were apprehensive about [the faster release cadence] before we moved into it. But now they've seen how it's actually making their lives much easier. Our end game for releases has never been calmer than it has been in the last year and a half. And people love that.

One thing people worried about before we got started was what we would do if we had a release where there wasn't anything ready -- no new JEPs came in? We went through that thought experiment before we introduced the six-month releases. And we realized pretty quickly that the minor updates we did in the past were effectively on a six-month cadence. They sometimes involved quite significant implementation changes or improvements, but they always included a bunch of bug fixes. So, we decided, even if we don't have any JEPs come into a release, we're always going to have somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,500 to 3,000 bug fixes. That in and of itself is worthy of a release.

When the new six-month cadence was announced there was some talk about "release fatigue." Have you seen that in the Java community?
It's sort of like asking, if your kids had Christmas twice a year, do you think they'd experience "Christmas fatigue?" The parents might, I guess. What I'm hearing people say now is that they are seeing so much evidence that updating to 9 and finding the move to 10 and 11 so smooth, they're excited about the new cadence and what's coming down the pike.

Posted by John K. Waters on 03/26/2019 at 1:15 PM0 comments


Q&A with Heather VanCura, Chair of the Java Community Process

I last sat down with Heather VanCura, chair of the Java Community Process (JCP), in 2017, roughly a year after she'd stepped up to head the Java language and platform standards organization. A lot has happened in the Java community since then. (I mean, a lot.) Now that some of the dust kicked up by all that change has settled, it seemed like a good time for another conversation.

You're about two years into the job now. During that time, the Java community has seen a remarkable amount of change. I'd argue more than at almost any other time in its 20-plus year history -- Java EE moving to the Eclipse Foundation, Oracle's amped up release cadence, etc. How has the JCP managed to keep pace without losing its footing?
To be clear, the organization has been evolving throughout its history, even if that evolution was often pretty slow in the early days. But there's no doubt that things have sped up in recent years. I think the key for us has been constant communication with the community.

When you say "communication," what do you mean?
I mean presenting and interacting at conferences, trade shows, and events, as well as showing up, on-the-ground, to support Java communities around the world.

It's kind of an understatement to say that you travel more than your predecessor.
I like to say I've been to every continent on behalf of the Java community except for Antarctica. Actually, I said that in a tweet and then was actually invited to submit for a kind of tech-conference cruise event that does go there. It's a 10- or 12-day thing, which sounds kind of exhausting, but if it was a Java community event, I'd definitely do it.

Why is this kind of hands-on interaction with the community so important?
We're getting back to our roots, back to solving real-world problems for real-world developers. But there are many different kinds of developers using Java all over the world today. It used to be that most of our base came from the U.S. and western Europe, but we really see it diversifying, and people have different problems in Nigeria, Morocco, and Ivory Coast than they do in Belgium and the Netherlands. It's important to nurture these communities, and often the best way to do that is to show up at their events when it's possible to do so.

You're talking about Java User Groups (JUGs)?
Right.

What do you do at these events?
I talk about changes that are happening, of course, but also about how they can participate in this community and why they should.

I understand that, in addition to showing up for events in person, you interact with these communities virtually.
Yes, I do a lot of virtual JUG visits. I've found that it's sometimes useful to do virtual events in advance to give the groups ideas of how to engage with their own communities. I encourage them discuss things among themselves. What are your particular interests? What technologies are most important to you? What kinds of activities would you like to participate in? And then maybe, if they plan something like a hack day, I come in person for that. For example, I finally made it to Israel for the first time last year, but they had participated in a virtual hack day a couple of years ago. It sort of sets up things up for a productive visit.

And this is what you mean by "constant" communication?
We try to interact with the Java community wherever and whenever we can, and as much as we can. If I'm at a conference, I always try to engage with the local Java user group, to see if they want me to come and speak -- which they usually do. These communities are already invested in the platform; I want them to also feel connected to the process, to feel like their needs are being addressed by it, and that they can be valuable participants in it.

The message is, the process is community driven?
That's right. We want them to understand that their input is actually very important. But sometimes they need help understanding how to provide that input. That's sometimes the missing piece I try to provide. There's the infrastructure, the projects are there and they're open, now exactly what do I do to get my input in?

This strategy must provide you with lots of feedback on what's happening on the ground in the Java community.
It does. We get questions and comments right after a presentation, of course, and that's useful. But also, I keep in contact with the user group leaders and ask them what sort of feedback they got from a particular presentation, and they also keep me informed in terms of what they plan to do. For example, the London JUG let me know that they wanted to do a Valhalla workshop, and I was able to coordinate my travel so I could be there for that.

For several years now, the JCP has been working to improve itself, most recently under JSR 387 (Streamline the JCP Program"), the latest release of which (2.11) was announced last December. Where are you now in this process?
We've been looking at the JSR lifecycle, which was really based on an artifact of the waterfall development methodology. That's just not how spec leads are using the development process anymore. So, we've been modernizing that process with fewer discrete milestones. We're keeping the open development period that's transparent and the community review followed by a vote by the EC. But we're definitely moving to more of a continuous delivery model.

What do you think about the faster release cadence implemented by Oracle last year?
I think there are two sides to that story. Faster releases mean you get innovation quicker. You're putting new technology into the hands of developers every six months instead of every three years -- which is the expectation of developers using other languages, tools, and frameworks these days. The faster release cadence combats the perception that Java is for an older generation of developers.

But for some it's been hard to adapt to this new pace of change. It's kind of entrenched in the Java culture that we do this only every three or four years, and when we do it, it's a huge project involving 100-plus changes. With the faster releases, it's only, say, 15 changes. People are having to adapt to a different way of migrating between versions.

What about Oracle's new subscription model?
Choice is the whole foundation of the JCP. I talk about the compatibility triangle. We have the spec, the reference implementation, and the TCK. That's the structure the JCP provides. It's what creates the whole Java ecosystem. Oracle's offer is the reference implementation, but other vendors can have their implementations, and that's what creates the choice for developers. Obviously, Oracle provides a strong foundation, but I think having other choices helps to solidify Java's position in the market, because you're never tied to any single vendor.

How has Oracle's decision to move enterprise Java to the Eclipse Foundation affected the JCP?
It's a big change in some ways, but the platform is the foundation, so we definitely still have a lot to do. We continue to adapt the JCP program itself to meet the needs of developers. We continue to support the spec leads who are developing the core platform through the JCP, as well as the stand-alone JSRs. We continue to run the Executive Committee. And we're committed to the ongoing engagement with the community that I've talked about.

Which is not to say that we're not watching the progress of Jakarta EE closely and responding to questions about it from the community. The transition is actually still ongoing. The Foundation is still defining all the process that will take place. But it's clear that they recognize the value of multiple implementations and the importance of standards.

How is the JCP addressing the demands on developers of the rise of AI and machine learning?
We are addressing AI in a couple of ways. There's Project Panama in the OpenJDK, which addresses big data and machine learning, and there's JSR 381 [Visual Recognition (VisRec) Specification], which is a community-lead effort. The approach is to talk a specific piece of the AI/ML space -- visual recognition -- and create a Java API for that as a stand-alone JSR not as part of the platform.

In all your travels, what's the number one concern you're hearing from Java jocks around the world?
People are wondering about all the changes and how they're going to impact them. They want to know if Java is still a good choice for them. Am I with the right technology? What can I expect going forward? People are using multiple tools these days, and they need to be constantly learning, so I think it's fair to ask whether the investment you're making in Java is the right one.

It is, of course.

Posted by John K. Waters on 03/13/2019 at 1:06 PM0 comments


Q&A with JCache Spec Lead Greg Luck

The JCP Expert Group in charge of JSR 107, the specification for the Java Temporary Caching API, better known as JCache, recently submitted the maintenance review for JCache 1.1.1. This is just an errata release and not particularly newsworthy, but it marks something of a milestone for the longest running spec request in the history of Java. And it seemed like a good time to talk with its co-author.

Greg Luck is the CTO of Hazelcast and co-spec lead on JSR 107 with Oracle software architect Brian Oliver, who works on the Coherence team. Hazelcast develops, distributes and supports a leading open source in-memory data grid (IMDG), also called Hazelcast. Oracle was the original submitter of the JCache spec, and Luck is the creator of Ehcache, a well-known version of that spec.

How did you become involved with this JSR?
I was doing some work for a big online share-trading company at the time, and they wanted me to create a JCache adapter for Ehcache. I tried to do it, but the spec wasn't complete, so, I told them that, and they said, well, can't you do some work on the spec? And that's how I got roped into it, though I didn't really have time to work on it until I was at Terracotta.

When you started working on caching technologies back in the day, it had sort of bad reputation, didn't it?
At the time, people felt, in the Java community, very, very strongly, that caching was a dirty trick, that if you were to do that, there was something wrong with your architecture. It was the very strong prevailing view. One of the reasons engineers felt that way is that caching is very seldom black and white. It's probabilistic in nature, a bit like AI techniques using statistics.

But it's a completely different era now. People came to realize that anything done at Web scale must be done with caching. Every single cloud provider now has, as a standard component, a caching service along with the different implementations they provide. It's now well understood that caching has a purpose.

Do I have it right that JSR 107 was the longest-running spec request?
It was, but I think it was worth the wait. It's now considered one of the most -- if not the most -- successful stand-alone specs, ever.

How do you measure that success?
In terms of the number of implementations. There are 13 now, and we recently saw IBM implement JCache for its eXtreme Scale API. It really has been enormously successful. The spec has been implemented now by so many people that it's a standard that can just be used and leveraged in all these different products.

One of those implementations -- Blazing Cache -- was created by the travel Web site Trivago. These guys actually created a cache for their own purposes for that huge site.

At Hazelcast we actually have some of our biggest customers using us for our JCache. I get in trouble if I say who these companies are.... In fact, our biggest production cluster in the world, which is an online store that services billions of people, uses us for our JCache.

At this point there is only one significant implementation in the caching world that has not adopted it: Pivotal's Gemfire, and its open source variant, Apache Geode. I don't entirely understand why. The guys tend to be Spring-centric, and Spring itself has got good support for JCache. I guess you could say that JCache is ubiquitous with one exception.

What's going on with this release?
It's a self-serving comment, but I have to say that 1.0 was pretty well done. There were a few things found in 1.1. And now 1.1.1 is really just an errata release. This thing is pretty mature and stable, and I think it's enormously important to the Java community. It's been out there now for four years, it can be used as a foundation.

I understand that you'd like to see JCache implemented in Jakarta and MicroProfile, both of which are now at the Eclipse Foundation.
If you look at the surveys, JCache is the number one thing people are asking to be included in the Jakarta spec. And I've been personally lobbying the MicroProfile people to add caching, because it's incredibly important. We [Hazelcast] joined MicroProfile, and I wrote a specification to include JCache in MicroProfile. Tons and tons of Hazelcast gets used with microservices, so it's clear to me that having the framework directly support it would be great. But the MicroProfile guys don't currently see caching as a priority, so nothing has happened yet. Jakarta has become energized under the stewardship of Eclipse, so we'll see what happens there.

What's your pitch to the MicroProfile folks?
With microservices, you take a monolithic application and you break it into pieces. You essentially have a container that you started from Java, and it's probably running in Docker. If it's a busy microservice, you'll want to scale it. With microservices, you can easily scale just the bit you want. Let's say you started with three and you want to scale it up ten or fifteen. If you pop an in-memory data grid (IMDG) in there, it can run in process, so it's in each of the nodes. And then, as you scale the thing, the IMDG scales along with it, literally.

So, IMDGs, through their embeddable nature in Java, are the perfect fit for microservices. If someone wants to build a microservice, if they use JCache, they can use their IMDG and they can use a first-class annotations library that's in JCache, and they can swap the IMDG at a very low cost.

The MicroProfile people are just leaving this as something the implementor has to deal with. But having caching as a first-class citizen inside the MicroProfle framework would be very useful for a lot of people.

And yet, one of the relatively unique qualities of JCache is that it's a stand-alone spec.
That is true. Because it's one of the few stand-alone specs, people can very easily just plug it in and use it. If you use a caching API in your code, if you use JCache, you can swap out implementations at no cost, which is always the promise of these things.

Posted by John K. Waters on 02/13/2019 at 9:53 AM0 comments


Apache NetBeans 10.0 Release Adds Support for JDK 11, JUnit 5 and PHP

The Apache Software Foundation's (ASF) release of NetBeans 10.0 (incubating) at the end of December launched the venerable Java (now polyglot) IDE into 2019 with a slew of enhancements, including support for JDK 11, the addition of a JUnit 5 library and new PHP features.

The list of JDK 11 enhancements in this release includes:

  • update of nbjavac module
  • removal of Java EE and CORBA modules from the JDK
  • deprecation of Nashorn JavaScript engine
  • var support for implicitly typed lambda expressions

This release also adds JUnit 5.3.1, the latest generation of the JUnit testing framework for Java, as a new library. JUnit 5 is now the default version of the framework for Maven projects without existing tests. JUnit 5 @Testable annotation is also supported, as is the default JUnit 5 test template.

NetBeans 10.0 also adds new features for PHP developers, including support for PHP 7.0 through 7.3, PHPStan and Twig, as well as new editing and debugging enhancements.

This release also includes a number of OpenJDK support features, including:

  • Automatically detect JTReg from OpenJDK configuration
  • Register the expanded JDK as a Java Platform
  • And various improvements to make the OpenJDK project "work better."

This release is the second under the aegis of the ASF, which assumed the stewardship of NetBeans in October 2016. Apache NetBeans 9.0 wasn't released until July of last year, because of the heavy lifting involved in migrating the 20-plus-year-old development environment to the ASF, which provides support for an enormous range of technologies. That first release took as long as it did in no small part because so many files needed to be audited before they could be donated to Apache, explained Geertjan Wielenga, Oracle product manager and developer advocate for open source projects, at the time. Consequently, the decision was made to donate NetBeans in pieces. Because NetBeans is modular, an incremental donation was relatively easy to architect, he added.

Also, that first release had to wait for the approval of the Podling Project Management Committee (PPMC), a group of community members charged with helping a nascent ASF project, called a "podling," learn how to govern itself. According to the ASF, a PPMC works like a regular PMC, but reports to the Incubator PMC instead of the ASF Board. Initially, this group includes the podling's mentors and initial committers. The PPMC is directly responsible for the oversight of the podling, and it also decides who to add as a PPMC member.

NetBeans continues to be a popular Java IDE (1.5 million active users, according to the community), but it has grown beyond Java to support C/C++, Groovy, PHP, JavaScript and the HTML5 and CSS Web development standards.

Posted by John K. Waters on 02/12/2019 at 9:54 AM0 comments


Eclipse GlassFish 5.1 Released

The Eclipse Foundation yesterday announced the release of GlassFish 5.1, considered a major milestone release belying the modest increase in its version number. GlassFish 5.1 comprises the full migration of GlassFish and associated Technology Compatibility Kit (TCK) code to Foundation stewardship.

This release of the open source Java EE reference implementation is the first since the Foundation became the steward of enterprise Java last year. Now called Eclipse GlassFish, it has been fully tested under both the newly open source TCK and the proprietary Oracle Java EE 8 TCK. It represents more than 13 million lines of code and 95,000 files, the Foundation said in a statement.

"We were able to onboard all of GlassFish, which has a huge, very mature code base," said Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, in a statement. "And we open-sourced the Java EE TCKs, which was an enormous change for the Java EE ecosystem. Shipping Eclipse GlassFish is a major milestone in fully establishing the Jakarta EE specification process, a major advance for the future of enterprise Java."

In an earlier ADTmag interview, Milinkovich underscored the importance of open sourcing the TCKs, which had been confidential and proprietary. "The fact that the TCKs are now open source and have become an integral part of migrating this code base forward -- that ability to do this open, public testing all the time is really going to help us innovate," he said. "And the community now has the ability to inspect tests and give feedback, and to give us more, better tests, which means we can expand the test coverage over time."

This release of GlassFish was tested with the open TCKs running on Eclipse Foundation hardware, Milinkovich said, ensuring that Eclipse GlassFish is Java EE 8 compatible.

The migration of GlassFish was an enormous engineering challenge, but also a legal one, because of Oracle's previously proprietary interest in the technology.

With this release, the Eclipse GlassFish code base has been re-licensed from CDDL+GPL and Classpath to Eclipse Public License 2.0 plus GPL with the Classpath Exception.

The migration effort actually started with EclipseLink and Yasson, which were already at the Eclipse Foundation. The first projects that were transferred from Oracle GitHub were JSONP, JMS, WebSocket and OpenMQ, work that was finished in January 2018. The GlassFish repository and CTS/TCK repositories were transferred in September 2018.

Because GlassFish is the reference implementation of Java EE, it supports Enterprise JavaBeans, JPA, JavaServer Faces, JMS, RMI, JavaServer Pages and Servlets.

The next version, Eclipse GlassFish 5.2, will be a Jakarta EE 8 compatible, the Foundation said, thanks to the support of all of the major vendors with Java EE 8 compatible versions of their commercial products. The companies have all committed to ensuring their products are Jakarta EE 8 compatible as well, the Foundation said.

In a great blog post, Payara's Arjan Tijms, a long-time Java EE developer, provides a chronicle of GlassFish's evolution, from the 1996 release of the Kiva enterprise Java app server.

GlassFish 5.1 can be downloaded here.

Posted by John K. Waters on 01/30/2019 at 7:44 AM0 comments


Google Asks Supreme Court to Overrule API Copyright Ruling

Alphabet's Google subsidiary has petitioned the Supreme Court to review its long-running copyright dispute and re-evaluate a Federal Circuit court's decision that copyright protections extend to software interfaces, and whether, as a jury found, "petitioner's use of a software interface in the context of creating a new computer program constitutes fair use."

If you're tired of this seemingly immortal struggle between Oracle and Google over those 37 Java APIs, you're not alone (it's been nine years), but the stakes are existentially high. In a blog post announcing the move, Google's SVP of Global Affairs and Chief Legal Officer Kent Walker rightly asserted that the Court's decision on the copyrightability of software "will have a far-reaching impact on innovation across the computer industry."

"Standardized software interfaces have driven innovation in software development," Walker wrote. "They let computer programs interact with each other and let developers easily build technologies for different platforms. Unless the Supreme Court steps in here, the industry will be hamstrung by court decisions finding that the use of software interfaces in creating new programs is not allowed under copyright law."

Oracle originally sued Google in 2010. Google's argument that its use of the Java APIs was allowed under the "fair use" provisions of the federal copyright law, and therefore did not infringe on Oracle-owned copyrights failed to persuade the court. "There is nothing fair about taking a copyrighted work verbatim and using it for the same purpose and function as the original in a competing platform," a panel of three Federal Circuit judges wrote in their March opinion.

The U.S. Copyright Office defines fair use as "a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances."

What the appeals court found initially was that the declaration code in Oracle's API packages, which Google copied verbatim, was copyrightable. Google developed the implementation code independently, so that wasn't at issue. The court found that the Oracle code had not been merged with the functions performed by the code; that combinations of short code phrases, such as those used in the APIs, can be copyrightable; and the fact that the code serves a function does not preclude its copyrightability if, as the court put it, "the author had multiple ways to express the underlying idea" at the time of creation of the code.

In its latest filing, Google asserts the following:

"Google has never disputed that some forms of computer code are entitled to copyright protection. But the Federal Circuit's widely criticized opinions -- in an area in which that court has no specialized expertise -- go much further, throwing a devastating one-two punch at the soft- ware industry. If allowed to stand, the Federal Circuit's approach will upend the longstanding expectation of software developers that they are free to use existing software interfaces to build new computer programs. Developers who have invested in learning free and open programming languages such as Java will be unable to use those skills to create programs for new platforms -- a result that will undermine both competition and innovation. Because this case is an optimal vehicle for addressing the exceptionally important questions presented, the petition for a writ of certiorari should be granted."

In his blog post, Walker points to support for Google's position on the copyright question from companies such as Red Hat (now owned by IBM), Yahoo and others, as well as a long list of computer scientists and academics, who have spoken out and filed court petitions of their own.

"The U.S. Constitution authorized copyrights to 'promote the progress of science and useful arts,'" Walker wrote, "not to impede creativity or promote lock-in of software platforms."

What happens next could be the final stake in the heart of this conflict, but I wouldn't bet on it. Meanwhile, check out our coverage of this case on the WatersWorks blog and throughout the ADTmag Web site.

Posted by John K. Waters on 01/29/2019 at 9:13 AM0 comments


Q&A: Mike Milinkovich on Java in 2018 and 2019

2018 was a year of big changes for the Java community, among which none were bigger than the transition of the stewardship of enterprise Java from Oracle and the Java Community Process (JCP) to the Eclipse Foundation. But that Herculean task wasn't the only Java-related challenge faced by that organization last year. I talked with Mike Milinkovich, who has served as executive director of the foundation for all its 14+ years, about these and other changes, and what he sees coming for the Java community in 2019.

It would be hard to overstate the importance of moving enterprise Java, which is now Jakarta EE under the Eclipse Foundation's stewardship. Was it the greatest challenge you faced last year?
Oh, without a doubt. This has been an enormous undertaking, and the teams here have been working very hard, as have all the developers involved. I also want to give a shout-out to the Oracle development teams we have been working with. They have been fantastic. There has been participation by the other vendors, of course, but Oracle gets the credit for the heavy lifting, of getting Glassfish and the TCKs migrated to the Eclipse Foundation.

Accepting the stewardship of enterprise Java has also required some fundamental changes for the Foundation itself, hasn't it?
You could say that. We have created an entirely new specification process for Jakarta, which has been an enormous amount of work. Remember, the Eclipse Foundation didn't do specifications before we started this; we've essentially created a specification process from a blank sheet of paper.

Obviously, there are some parts in there that were inspired by the JCP, but there were a lot of things we knew we wanted to change. And there's also the fact that this is a vendor-neutral organization, rather than single-vendor organization, which is a big change, as well.

What do you see as the long-term impact of and Eclipse stewardship of enterprise Java?
It's important to keep in mind that the Eclipse Foundation is an open community process that doesn't have a single vendor in charge of it, which means there's an opportunity here for enterprises. Historically, they have bought black-box products from vendors, and the idea that they can engage with and help to shape the technologies they're running their businesses on through their direct contribution and involvement is still new to many. But they're starting to get it, and we're hoping that Jakarta EE will lead to them to get more engaged going forward.

Of course, enterprises are still going to want vendors, but by participating directly in the Jakarta EE specification process, they can help to shape what becomes the products they get from their vendors.

I'm a little confused about the status of Jakarta under Eclipse. Is it "Eclipse Jakarta" or "Jakarta EE?" And what's the difference?
It's Jakarta EE, under the stewardship of the Eclipse Foundation. But as a brand, it is a peer of Eclipse. Eclipse projects are supposed to call themselves "Eclipse" something: Eclipse Glassfish Eclipse Vert.x, Eclipse Jetty, etc., because they are subordinate brands. But when it comes to the specifications that are coming out of Jakarta EE, they're the "Jakarta" specs.

Did you ever consider not accepting the stewardship of enterprise Java?
We definitely wanted Java EE to come to the Eclipse Foundation. Yes, this has been a ton of work, but the Eclipse Foundation has deep roots in the Java community, and with enterprises. We felt this was a natural fit, and great opportunity for us. Among other things, I think Jakarta EE was the trigger to make a lot of developers finally recognize that the Eclipse Foundation has projects other than our Java IDE.

Our goal is to help drive a whole new generation of innovation in the Java ecosystem. It's going to be a lot of fun!

Any other accomplishments around Jakarta you'd like to mention?
We were able to onboard all of Glassfish last year, which has a huge, very mature code base. And we open-sourced the Java EE TCKs [Technology Compatibility Kits], which was an enormous change for the Java EE ecosystem. Historically, the TCKs have been confidential and proprietary. People could not get access to them, which means they had no chance of finding out exactly what was being tested. All of this is now open source. And we are actually running these TCKs on Eclipse Foundation hardware, and doing testing for Glassfish using them, and moving all that forward.

The fact that the TCKs are now open source and have become an integral part of migrating this code base forward -- that ability to do this open, public testing all the time is really going to help us innovate. And the community now has the ability to inspect tests and give feedback, and to give us more, better tests, which means we can expand the test coverage over time.

If Jakarta EE represents the biggest change for the Java community and challenge for the Foundation last year, was there a close second?
Nothing comes close, really, but we did make some pretty big changes to adapt to the new rapid release cadence for Java, which Oracle began implementing last year. We think it's a good thing, and we support it, but it did cause us to shift from our annual release train model, where we shipped a major release every June with a couple of maintenance releases though the year, to a rolling release model, where we ship the Eclipse Java IDE every quarter.

So, no more release train after last June's Oxygen?
That was the last one. We've been doing this release train for a dozen years, and I think it provided a good example of the advantages of regular, predictable releases, which I don't think they were lost on Oracle.

Will you be lining up your releases with Oracle's releases?
When Oracle did that, they upped the game for us, but we don't want to line up our releases exactly with Oracle's, but we do want to make sure we're always current. The approach that we came up with is to ship a couple of weeks after Oracle's releases. As they demonstrate over time that they're going to be able to do this on a regular and predictable basis, that'll only help us.

Any other accomplishments in 2018 you'd like to mention?
I wouldn't call it an accomplishment, but it's very exciting that Oracle joined the Eclipse MicroProfile effort, and their Helidon project is shipping MicroProfile and MicroProfile-compatible implementations.

Helidon is the open-source Java microservices framework designed to run on a fast Netty core. It supports MicroProfile 1.1. Why is that exciting?
MicroProfile is a set of specifications for doing Java microservices, and that community has done a great job in really bringing forward a lot of new specifications and doing it quickly. We're now seeing real multivendor engagement around MicroProfile, and we're seeing lots of people showing up in conferences in talks about it, so there's clearly a lot of interest out there around this technology. MicroProfile is setting us up for having more success for Java in the microservices area. The migration of critical Java applications into the cloud is only going to accelerate, and we think MicroProfile could be a big part of that.

Anything that didn't go as planned in 2018?
Everything took longer than we thought it would, which I guess shouldn't surprise anyone. And I'm a bit disappointed that we didn't get to where we wanted to be with Jakarta at this point. In particular, we're about three months late shipping the first release of Eclipse Glassfish.

The other thing is, we're still not quite where we want to be in terms of being able to evolve the specifications going forward. We still have some work to do with Oracle to make sure we have all the rights in place. It's just taken longer with the lawyers than we ever anticipated. I know your readers will be shocked to learn that the lawyers are taking a long time.

Although we've done a lot of work with Jakarta, what developers want to see from us is innovation, and we're not quite there yet. We've done yeoman's work in migrating Glassfish and the TCKs and the API jar files and all those bits and pieces to the Eclipse Foundation, and we have functioning open source projects that are doing nightly builds, and all that great stuff, but we're still not quite at the spot where we can start moving forward and have a new release of the spec. And that's the whole promise of Jakarta, and that's what we must focus on.

You're not there, but you're getting there?
Right.

Looking forward to 2019, what's on your Java radar?
AI and machine learning. One of the challenges for Java in the AI/ML space is the perception that, if you're doing AI or ML, you're doing it in Python. The major frameworks out there, like Tensor Flow and PyTorch, are written in Python, so there's this perception that Python is the technology of choice for AI/ML. The Eclipse Deeplearning4J Project, which is mostly implemented in Scala, is a deep learning framework that runs on the JVM. Among its many capabilities: you can take a machine learning model that has been taught using something like Tensor Flow, and run it on your JVM-based infrastructure. And that makes machine learning a lot more approachable for enterprises.

Most infrastructure people are more familiar with a JVM-based approach, so having a solid Java -- or at least a JVM -- story is going to help adoption of machine learning in the enterprise. Eclipse Deeplearning4J is providing a real opportunity for the Java ecosystem to start tying in to ML.

I also expect to see Java becoming even more relevant than it already is in the microservices and cloud-native space. We did a survey last year, and we had very large numbers of developers saying they already were now or were planning to soon run their applications in the cloud. About 30 percent said within the next two years they expect to be running 60 percent of their Java apps in the cloud. Nearly half said they're already using Java to build microservices. 21 percent said they'd be doing that in a year. So, there's a lot of activity already happening around Java and microservices, and we think that's only going to accelerate.

There's a lot of work that needs to go into making that better -- better stories around Kubernetes and Docker containers in particular. Kubernetes and Docker is where all the cool kids are hanging out, but there are enormous investments in enterprise code bases that have been built in Java and Java EE. Enterprises want to figure out a way to migrate as much of those code bases and they can into this cloud-native world.

Just as important, they have a lot of developers with Java skills and knowledge about their businesses. They want to make sure that those skills are still applicable as they're migrating to the cloud.

People should keep in mind that Java is still one of the most popular programming languages out there. Reports of Java's demise make great click bate, but they are grossly exaggerated.

Part of our mission, as we see it, is protecting the that franchise. Java developers are passionate about the Java platform, but they also need to believe that that platform is evolving to meet the requirements of the businesses they work for, and that the applications they're building are going to be relevant in the future. They want to see that great multivendor ecosystem that has made Java EE so successful, they want to see those vendors lining up behind Jakarta EE and Eclipse MicroProfile and pushing these technologies forward so that they can get excited about being a Java developer for the next 20 years.

Posted by John K. Waters on 01/14/2019 at 3:37 PM0 comments


The JCP's VanCura on Java in 2019

As Chair of the Java Community Process (JCP), the technology standards and specifications organization behind the evolution of the Java language and platform, Heather VanCura has a lot on her plate. She leads the activities of the JCP Program Office, manages the organization's membership, guides spec leads and experts through the process, leads the Executive Committee (EC) meetings and manages the JCP.org Web site. She's also responsible for the Adopt-a-JSR program, organizing hack days and other events, and promoting the overall growth of the membership. She also blogs, tweets and travels the world on behalf of the ever-expanding Java ecosystem.

So, although I was disappointed that we couldn't connect for a face-to-face interview for one of my annual Looks into the Future of Java stories ("the Future" is big -- huge, in fact -- so there's always more than one), I wasn't surprised. But then she did surprise me with an e-mailed list of her top five predictions for Java and the community in 2019. (Thanks goes to Alex Shapiro at Oracle, who made it possible for me to pursue an interview this very busy exec without seeming like a stalker.)

Topping VanCura's list: There will be more collaboration and increasing contributions from Java community members.

In 2018, VanCura wrote, the JCP began exploring strategies for streamlining and "evolving" the JCP Program to meet the needs of the changes in the Java development ecosystem. And there have been a lot of changes in the past year, most notably the Eclipse Foundation's decision to accept stewardship of enterprise Java and rename it Eclipse Jakarta and Oracle's implementation of its faster Java release cadence.

Under the Java Specification Request "Streamline the JCP Program" (JSR 387), which was completed in December, the JSR lifecycle process was updated "to bring it in line with the way Java technology is developed today," VanCura explained, "in an open and more iterative manner."

"I think the community will be excited about the changes introduced," she added, "and indications from several engaged community members point towards them looking at more substantial ways they can contribute to Java technology evolution, either through OpenJDK or other projects."

Number Two: There will be a focus on the importance of standards and specifications.

"One of the crown jewels of Java is the specifications," she wrote. "Standards increase adoption, allow for choice in implementations and make the technology easier for developers to implement. As standards-based groups focus on how to bring their development process into closer alignment with the open source development model, I think open source groups will put an increasing focus on how to embrace standards and specifications -- for example, with the Jakarta EE development at the Eclipse Foundation, and the establishment of a Specification Process, for use within the Eclipse Foundation."

Number Three: Developers will increasingly work in a polyglot environment.

Although Java continues to be an extremely popular programming language (it consistently tops TIOBE Index), virtually all developers are using more than one language these days. One big piece of evidence that this is a trend with legs, VanCura pointed out, was Oracle's decision last year to roll up the JavaOne conference into a new event with sessions, tracks and keynotes covering an expanded menu of languages, frameworks, tools and tech called Oracle Code One.

The Code One event brought in a range of developer communities, she pointed out, and such languages as Go, Rust, Python, JavaScript and R, as well as other technologies, such as machine learning, blockchain and artificial intelligence.

Number Four: Java developers will embrace a more iterative development style.

"As we transition from a Java SE Platform release once every 3-4 years to a release every six months," she wrote, "Java developer will grow more accustomed to downloading the early access builds available and running their applications against them to determine any changes needed and whether to migrate to the upcoming version. Since the Java SE Platform has transitioned to a release every six months, starting with Java SE 9, that means there are fewer new features in each release. For example: there were over 100 Java Enhancement Proposals (JEPs) in Java SE 9, but only 12 JEPs in Java SE 10 and 17 JEPs in Java SE 11 (the current version, released in September 2018). This means the migration from one version of Java to another becomes a much smaller development project than in the past. In addition, because the new model calls for JEPs to be targeting only when ready, developers will have access to newer features on a more frequent basis to try out in development, rather than having to wait multiple years for the next release of Java to use in production."

And Number Five: The Java community will see an increase in local community events.

"Over the past several years, I have noticed a definite movement towards a stronger Java community," VanCura wrote, "and in particular, more localized leadership. The passion and enthusiasm of the Java community is another crown jewel of Java, and I see this rising, with events in even smaller communities. The community is what keeps me passionate about my work every day, so I am looking forward to visiting a few new communities in 2019, and continuing to see the adoption of Java grow around the world."

Posted by John K. Waters on 01/07/2019 at 12:34 PM0 comments


Java in 2019: A Look Ahead

The past year saw another surge in the evolution of Java, thanks to myriad changes that will have long-term impacts on the Java developer community -- everything from the Eclipse Foundation's decision to accept stewardship of enterprise Java and rename it Eclipse Jakarta to IBM's acquisition of Red Hat, the release of JDK 11 to the appeals court ruling against Google in its long-running battle with Oracle over Java copyrights, the latter company's implementation of its faster Java release cadence to its decision to roll up the venerable JavaOne conference (already whittled down to a subset of Oracle OpenWorld) into a new event with sessions and keynotes covering an expanded menu of languages, frameworks, tools and tech called Oracle Code One.

I reached out (as everyone covering this beat does at the start of a new year) to industry analysts, market watchers and Java jocks to find out what they coming in 2019 for this dynamic community.

Gartner analyst Ann Thomas saw the writing on the wall for Java EE, now Eclipse Jakarta, at least a year before that startling standards-body hand-off. She believes Oracle's new subscription model is going to have the biggest impact on Java in 2019.

"Oracle will no longer distribute free bug fixes and security patches except for the latest version of OpenJDK, and Oracle will be releasing new versions every 6 months," she said in an email. Although most Java applications still run on Java 8, she pointed out, users who want to get patches for Java 8 going forward must either purchase a Java Subscription from Oracle or find an alternate distribution, such as AdoptOpenJDK, Amazon, Azul, IBM, or Red Hat.

"Many of my clients anticipate that the annual subscription cost is greater than $1 million," she said. "I anticipate that this new subscription model will encourage most organizations to adopt alternate distributions, and very few organizations will ever adopt Java 11 or beyond. I believe that Java 8 is the end of the line."

She also pointed me to a Snyk survey report ("Which Java SE Version Do You Use in Production for Your Main Application? "), published in October on the JVM ecosystem in 2018, written by Simon Maple and Andrew Binstock, which I recommend.

For Michael Remijan, senior enterprise Java developer and systems architect at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, 2019 will be the year we see some unique consequences of the enterprise embrace of cloud computing.

"With IBM's acquisition of Red Hat, it is clear IBM is attempting to gain some market share in cloud computing," he said in an email. "Amazon, IBM, Google and Microsoft all seem to be battling in the space, with Amazon the clear leader at the moment. As the industry sees 'cloud computing' as the technical direction to move toward, and as these vendors try to distinguish their cloud offerings, we will see the continued rise of vendor-specific development skills and the decline of industry standards. In other words, companies will have need for Microsoft developers or Amazon developers, not necessarily Java/Jakarta EE developers."

Siddhartha Agarwal, Oracle's VP of product management and strategy usually has a savvy prediction or two at this time of year. (There's a reason I once dubbed him "Oracle's Oracle.") This year was no exception; he sent me his latest list. But one in particular stands out for the Java community: "Serverless functions go big in production."

"The appeal of serverless functions is clear: when there is demand for my code to be executed based on a certain event, a function assures it runs, but only for the amount of time that the code is needed," he wrote. "For example, someone can build a travel booking function to book/cancel flights, hotels and rental cars. Each of these actions can be built as a serverless function written in different languages such as Java, Ruby, JavaScript and Python.

"For developers, these disconnected serverless functions/transactions strung together create some new challenges, such as understanding how these functions work together to deliver a transaction, or, if things go badly during the flow, how to create compensating transactions to cancel. Debugging distributed transactions is also a challenge. But these obstacles aren't enough to stall the adoption of serverless functions, given their economic advantages of significantly reduced operations costs, from only paying for what is actually used. So more and more developers will want to move functions out of the labs and into full production. For that, look for open-source tools, like the FN project, to flourish by helping developers manage composition and debugging, to be able to deploy and test serverless functions on your laptop, or across any cloud. The key is going to be picking a serverless platform that provides maximum portability."

Ivar Grimstad, a Java Champion, Oracle Groundbreaker Ambassador and JUG Leader working as Principal Consultant for Cybercom Group in Sweden, also offered his predictions for the coming year.

"I think we will see the industry embracing the faster release cadence of Java to a higher degree than so far," he said in an email. "I think most organizations were caught a little off guard when the new cadence was introduced and continued acting as they always have done regarding major versions, i.e. reluctantly and still thinking in terms of a required corporate standard VM version. Following the increasing use of container technology, I think we will see more and more organizations lax in this requirement and allow the use of different Java versions. Thus the adoption of newer Java versions will accelerate.

"As for Jakarta EE, I think that 2019 will be the year it really takes shape and we will see enterprise Java evolving in the open. I think we will continue to see a lot of discussions about how the relationship with the Eclipse MicroProfile projects will be."

Forrester analysts John Rymer and Jeffrey S. Hammond pointed me to a report, "Predictions 2019," published by the firm in November, which I recommend. Hammond added a personal observation:

"Based on our client inquires, we're going to see a lot of development shops scrambling to retest and recertify their apps on OpenJDK 8 or OpenJDK 11, to avoid the unanticipated support bills they seem to be getting from their Oracle reps," he said. "There will also be a lot of clients pressuring their third-party ISVs with Java dependencies to do the same, and I'd not be surprised to see net-new sales of 3rd party software sales held up if the ISVs don't certify on OpenJDK."

Two succinctly noted insights from the report that will apply to developers of every stripe in the coming year: "Agile and DevOps are the New Normal for Developers;" and "Cloud-Native, Value Stream and AI-Based tools Are Among the Next frontiers."

Look for my interviews with Eclipse Foundation leader Mike Milinkovich and JCP Chair Heather Van Cura, coming later this month.

Posted by John K. Waters on 01/03/2019 at 12:26 PM0 comments


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