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Java in 2015: Predictions and More

I've been looking ahead with analysts and industry watchers at what 2015 might have in store for enterprise software developers in general, but I also reached out for some predictions for Java Jocks about the future of their favorite language and platform.

Al Hilwa, program director in IDC's Software Development Research group, sees the continued adoption of Java 8 as a preoccupying enterprise trend in 2015, though "absorbing major new language releases is typically a slow process." He also expects to see growing interest in functional programming as developers begin putting Lambda and the stream API into "serious applications."

2015 could also be the year that the seemingly interminable court case between Oracle and Google (which may get heard by the Supreme Court) gets resolved, he said, which would mean that "programmers can go back to programming with minimal change to their lives."

Another trend: The enormous popularity of Android, which has been a great win for the Java ecosystem, because of the huge number of new developers it has brought to the Java fold, will continue in 2015, he said.

He also admonished the Executive Committee of the Java Community Process to maintain the release momentum the community has achieved since the Oracle takeover of the stewardship of Java, and to fulfill some recent promises.

"What the Java Jedi council has to do now is keep the releases moving on schedule and implement the complex modularity they promised," Hilwa said. "Java is already in a variety of form-factors, but aligning the pieces and the frameworks is going to be crucial if Java is going to have a nice chunk of the IoT pie."

John R. Rymer, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, who covers, among other things, Java application servers, expects Oracle to put some real effort into making Java "friendlier to the cloud."

"The runtime in particular needs to be brought into the cloud era," he said. "Things need to be way more modular and lightweight than they are today, where that's appropriate, and I think we're going to see Oracle buckling down for the hard work of doing that in 2015."

Modularization will also get a lot of attention in 2015, Rymer said, both from Oracle and the wider Java community. He and his colleagues are keeping an eye on the Java-native module system known as Project Jigsaw, which Oracle's Java Platform Group has promised to include in Java 9.

"As I see it, Oracle has put down a solid foundation that now allows them to pursue this work," he said.

Rymer also talked about the "huge gravitational pull" of JavaScript just getting stronger in 2015. His advice for Java developers: add JavaScript to your skill set.

"Server-side JavaScript is going to present a lot of opportunity for Java developers this year," he said. "And for .NET/C# people. There's sort of a lot of bleeding away in this direction. There's a lot of JavaScript on the client, of course, but most of the Java people I talk to are working on the server side. I think there's going to be a lot of demand for people who can bring knowledge of server-side architectures to bear using JavaScript. It's going to be a good skill to have."

I also caught up with Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation. These days, Eclipse is about much more than Java, of course; it's a multi-language development environment. But that environment is written in Java (mostly), and Milinkovich keeps his eye on that technology and community. 

"All the numbers I have seen point to Java 8 being one of the most rapidly adopted new Java releases ever," he told me in an email. "So I view Java 8 as largely last year's news. What I am expecting in 2015 primarily is the work that will be done marching towards Java 9. In particular, I think that there will a lot of effort and discussion around modularity, and how that impacts the Java platform going forward."

A second significant area of growth for Java in 2015, Milinkovich said, will be the Internet of Things. That's not surprising: the Eclipse Foundation unveiled an IoT Stack for Java at JavaOne last year, and Ian Skerrett, the Foundation's VP of marketing, has been leading an Eclipse IoT initiative is to build an open-source community around IoT.

Milinkovich pointed to several Foundation projects focused on IoT and based on Java, including Kura, a complete and mature device gateway services framework; Smarthome, a residential home automation system that supports the integration of devices from many manufacturers, using many protocols; and Concierge, a lightweight, embeddable OSGi framework implementation. He also pointed out that Oracle is investing heavily in Java ME with an eye toward making it a serious player in the IoT space.

Milinkovich shared Rymer's opinion that Java would continue to move into the cloud "in a very big way" in 2015. "Cloud Foundry is the leading PaaS platform, and it is based on Java," he said. "IBM is using that platform for BlueMix [an implementation of IBM's Open Cloud Architecture], and I think we are going to be hearing a lot about cloud and BlueMix from IBM in 2015. Oracle has now caught the cloud religion, and I will be expecting to hear a steady drum beat of Java in the cloud from them as well."

Posted by John K. Waters on January 14, 2015