Oracle's JDeveloper Update Embraces Modularity

Oracle released a major upgrade of its venerable JDeveloper Java IDE this week, along with an update of the Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF). Among other enhancements, JDeveloper 11g Release 2 (R2) comes with new support for JavaServer Faces (JSF) 2.0, as well as improved support for RESTful Web Services, the Maven repository for Java projects, and the Java-based Hudson continuous integration (CI) server.

But the big news in this release is a new focus on modularity. It's been 18 months since the last JDeveloper update; during that time Oracle re-architected the IDE's internal framework for plug-ins to comply with the OSGi model. Those changes, originally intended to facilitate OSGi tooling, resulted in serious performance improvements, said Oracle Vice President of Product Management Bill Pataky.

"The goal was to make it easier for third parties to build plug-ins to support JDeveloper, but an interesting side effect has been a dramatic improvement in performance because of the modular nature of the OSGi framework," Pataky said. "Our startup time has been reduced by a factor of two or three. Developers will really feel the difference."

The module-based design principles defined by the OSGi (Open Services Gateway Initiative) have emerged as the defacto means of componentizing enterprise Java.

"I always joke that OSGi is a stackless stack," explained Michael Coté, industry analyst at RedMonk. "Instead of having a huge software stack, like an app server, you break it up into smaller pieces and build up just the components you need -- which contrasts quite a bit with the old way of doing enterprise Java, where you'd start with a giant app server and spend a lot of time whittling down to just what you wanted."

JDeveloper 11g R2 also supports "hot" deployments of applications and components into a running environment -- including integrating with the existing security model and web services. This capability adds to the IDE's relevance to Agile environments.

Support for JSF 2.0 and the Facelets page assembly technology is likely to be another attention getter in this release. JDeveloper users now have a highly visual editing environment for Java EE Web development. Oracle already supported JSF rich-client components in the ADF, but with this release the company has added about 170 Ajax-based components, Pataky said, such as interactive thematic maps.

The new ADF Faces skin editor also makes it easier to change the look and feel of the entire ADF application. The editor is bundled with the IDE, but also offered as a stand-alone tool aimed at "design people" who just want to customize the look of components without mastering a full-fledged IDE, according to the company.

Oracle's ADF is a Java EE framework for building enterprise applications. Duncan Mills, Oracle's senior director of product management, characterizes the ADF as a "productivity framework" for developers that provides an abstracted approach to accessing business services. It's also a tool that Oracle uses extensively internally, Mills said.

The Maven and Hudson support in this release goes "hand-in-hand" with the company's Team Productivity Center, a server-side integration hub for Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) technologies. The Center runs on the server, making the relevant artifacts developers need to interact with available within the IDE, Pataky explained.

"Support for Hudson and Maven should make things much more of a team activity," he said. "It's going to provide the stuff that needs to go on behind the scenes to make folks productive."

Oracle currently supports three IDEs. Along with JDeveloper, which it sees as strategic, is the NetBeans IDE, which was acquired with Sun Microsystems, and the Eclipse IDE, which it supports with the Oracle Enterprise Pack for Eclipse.

"NetBeans is a very productive environment for your core Java developers, and it's focused on pure Java developers and supporting the latest standards," Pataky said. "We've seen some tremendous increases in NetBeans usage -- we're approaching a million active users. JDeveloper in contrast is focused on the Oracle customer base. It's designed to work in tandem with Oracle ADF, which brings tremendous productivity gains."

The JDeveloper forum is the third busiest on the Oracle Technology Network (OTN), he added.

Oracle JDeveloper 11g R2 is free and available for download here from the OTN. The company also offers a fee-based option for technical support. Oracle ADF 11g is also free to download for evaluation and use during development.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].