Judging Java: DevX Staff Reports from the Floor of JavaOne

(Friday, June 8) Down to the Business of Java Development
As JavaOne hype recedes Friday, the focus is on better Java development techniques and technical sessions.
By Lori Piquet, Editor-in-chief

(Thursday, June 7) Moronic ‘Keynote’ Turns Slightly Nasty
Bad planning by Sun was eclipsed only by the bad manners of Ellison in the blessedly final keynote address of JavaOne.
By Lori Piquet, Editor-in-chief

(Wednesday, June 6) Sun Spotlights Peer-to-Peer, Wireless Solutions
JXTA and J2ME appear to lead the path toward true “write once, run anywhere” application development.
By Stefan Grünwedel, Senior Editor

(Tuesday, June 5) Sun Beats the Drums for Java
Without much news of its own to announce, Sun Microsystems enlivens a ho-hum JavaOne with taiko drummers and scores of product demos.
By Chris Preimesberger, Senior Editor

(Monday, June 4) Sun Lets Third Parties Shine at JavaOne
A dearth of news from Sun Microsystems puts the limelight on third-party partners at the outset of JavaOne.
By Lori Piquet, Editor-in-chief

Down to the Business of Java Development
As JavaOne hype recedes Friday, the focus is on better Java development techniques and technical sessions

San Francisco (June 8, 2001)—With the throngs thinned considerably—thanks to the exiting business contingent, marketers, and press—Friday’s JavaOne definitely focused on development. To the vast majority of attendees, that’s what the show has been about all along.

For every complaint I’ve heard this week about speakers having too much leeway to tailor content around their proprietary products and architectures, there’s been a favorable comment about the large number of sessions and the technical savvy of presenters.

As we’ve reported, the two leading tracks at JavaOne this year revolved around Web services and XML, and the J2ME platform and Java mobile devices. But there were plenty of other rumblings at the show.

Modeling the Future
Java-based visual modeling is getting a resurgence of attention as smaller vendors attempt to get a toehold in the marketplace long owned by Rational Software.

While hardly a new company, TogetherSoft seems to be gaining the kind of critical mass that could propel it into the role of a potential David. Their ControlCenter is winning fans among both customers and analysts. Mark Driver, Senior Software Analyst for Gartner, made a point during a briefing Tuesday of mentioning his surprise at hearing TogetherSoft mentioned so often as a valued platform among end-users that he speaks to.

ControlCenter 5 is fully certified for J2EE compatibility, it supports C++ and IDL, and (although they weren’t touting it this week) it will support the Microsoft Intermediate Language (MSIL) later this year. TogetherSoft’s new product, Participate, about which the company refused to divulge details, will be released in September.

WebGain announced Monday that the upcoming 4.5 release of StructureBuilder, a subset of its WebGain Studio Java IDE, allows for the modeling of Java classes and UML classes in the same diagram. It also increased the number of standard UML diagram types supported by the application.

For its part, Rational announced that Rational Rose RealTime would now support the J2ME platform and MIDP, allowing developers to perform UML modeling and subsequent deployment of J2ME applications on mobile devices.

Probably the most happily nodding heads were seen at the Headway Software booth. This Irish company demonstrated its codebase visualization tool called Headway reView. With support for both Java and C++, reView uses UML in a way that makes it uniquely useful to developers and project managers in modeling, testing, and rewriting applications.

reView provides a very-easy-to-understand visual model of the entire codebase for an application—even an extremely complicated one. It shows all code dependencies at all levels. Because of its wide variety of extremely useful, graphical, and interactive views, reView seems like a tool capable of finding a niche.

Accepting the Inevitable
Although I’ve seen plenty of JavaOne coverage that points out the requisite .NET bashing that’s occurred, my perception is sort reversed. I was expecting to see much more bashing. The prevailing attitude here seems to be a grudging resignation of the fact that .NET will challenge Java in many ways. However, people also feel that Java’s openness—combined with the support of the best and brightest developers and vendors—will prevent the Microsoft environment from eclipsing it entirely.

In the aforementioned briefing on Tuesday, Gartner analyst Driver was very direct about what he expected to happen over the next five years: .NET will dent Java, but not break it.

Driver said he thought it unlikely that either .NET or Java would take over and become the development standard. What’s more likely, he said, is that “it will be a two-standards world. Java and Microsoft competing head-to-head for the next five years.”

He believed there is a probability of absolute zero that .NET will fail. On the other hand, he said there is a 10 percent chance that the opposite could happen—that “.NET could effectively kill Java.”

The most likely scenarios lie in the middle ground: a 30 percent probability that .NET and Java coexist equally and a 60 percent probability that .NET makes a serious threat to Java in about three years.

Driver said he believed that the Department of Justice’s decisions in the resolution of its antitrust case against Microsoft could have a significant effect on the marketplace.

“A Microsoft software company, free of the OS, is a very dangerous thing,” he said.

Other analysts I spoke to tended to view Java not in the context of outside competition, but rather in the context of its arguable maturity and the ability of Sun and other vendors to support developers throughout the hard battles to come.

Albert Pang, IDC’s Research Manager, eCommerce Software, reacted to a comment early in the week from Sun executives about the future invisibility of Java by saying, “If Java really becomes invisible, how does Sun make money off it? Web services is part of it. But they’re taking baby steps.”

Pang said that developers in the future will be forced to choose technology that brings them the biggest gains. “Developers are working for immediate returns,” he said.

“This is still an emerging technology,” Pang continued. “For all intents and purposes, they’re still scratching the surface.”

Moronic ‘Keynote’ Turns Slightly Nasty
Bad planning by Sun was eclipsed only by the bad manners of Ellison in the blessedly final keynote address of JavaOne

San Francisco (June 7, 2001)—I have found myself wondering several times this week how Sun Microsystems—which has done a darned nice job planning the “little things” at JavaOne (extracurricular entertainment, most notably)—has managed to make a complete mockery of the venerable institution of the keynote address.

Perhaps Sun was hoping that an embarrassing and useless program today, featuring the chiefs of BEA and Oracle, would purge Monday’s deadly dull session from attendees’ memories.

Today’s session was unabashed propaganda, with a smattering of unapologetic potshots from Oracle Chairman and CEO Larry Ellison.

More on that in a moment.

Keynote for Sale
We all know that those who spend the biggest money on show sponsorships tend to get very special dispensation when it comes to placement and mindshare with attendees. Platinum sponsorships come with the opportunity to put one’s CEO in front of the audience for an hour, which seems reasonable. But my beef with Sun is that they have seemingly thrown out all notion of holding keynote speakers to standards of intelligence and technical relevance. Didn’t it occur to anyone to ask the CEOs to address a given topic, submit an outline, refrain from hype, and restrain the marketers—or even address the interests of the audience, for that matter?

This morning began with Sun Executive Vice President for Software Pat Sueltz speaking about the Java Community Process and very nearly begging all in attendance to join it. The JCP is a worthwhile endeavor for any Java developer and I’ve seen much this week to further convince me of that, but Sueltz was painful to watch at times: stilted, clinging to the monitor prompts, and gesturing incongruously.

Sueltz introduced BEA Chairman and CEO Bill Coleman, who led off his presentation with a pointless, ridiculous video, whose script should be set afire—while strapped to the back of the person who wrote it. Coleman took a few minutes to speak on the recent progress of the J2EE platform in removing the biggest roadblocks to Java’s success in the enterprise. Like nearly every other luminary at JavaOne this week, he affirmed the idea that Web services are the key to the future of e-business and Web development, in particular.

Then he launched into a stream of WebLogic propaganda, including nearly a dozen slides that extolled the WebLogic architecture. Coleman stressed BEA’s adeptness at application integration, thanks to the announcement this week of its WebLogic Integration Server version 2.0, which provides WebLogic customers with integration adapters for major enterprise applications such as EAI without loads of custom programming or installation of proprietary adapters.

Larry Turns Up the Thermostat
Here’s where things got interesting. Coleman was followed by Larry Ellison, who was unabashedly confrontational, self-serving, and competitive. In other words, it was Ellison at his notorious best.

Ellison took full advantage of his clean-up position by using the entire portion of his allotted time—and then some—to tell developers about the performance and scalability enhancements that Oracle 9iAS provides over BEA WebLogic and IBM WebSphere.

Twice Ellison described Oracle as having “leapfrogged” BEA in the marketplace, saying first that the two-week-old update release of 9iAS was the best J2EE implementation available and then demonstrated this claim with several slides that compared Oracle very favorably in Web page performance tests with BEA and IBM, particularly at higher numbers of connected users.

Though Ellison was equally dismissive of both BEA and IBM, there was clearly an air of discomfort surrounding this presentation, as it came on the heels of Coleman’s own. Twice Ellison told those in attendance that he had been asked not to make the remarks he had prepared; they had been deemed impolite.

“It’s considered impolite to give the facts about Java performance?” Ellison asked rhetorically. Ellison argued that Java is an open standard and that an open standard should include open communication about performance.

“You want Oracle, BEA, IBM, Sun, and others to run faster to make Java better,” he said.

Oracle directly challenged BEA in a race to be the first vendor to implement the J2EE 1.3 standard.

Ellison’s comments clearly were unnerving, even to him. Ellison declined to attend the post-keynote press conference, at which Coleman told reporters that he believed Ellison’s data was made up and that he did not believe that the newly updated version of 9iAS was capable of the performance gains Ellison had claimed. Coleman openly suspected that Oracle’s new version was the result of a deal struck with a small coding company called Orion.

Akamai CEO George Conrades, who was invited onstage by Ellison to discuss the caching technology that Akamai has provided to help speed Web page downloads for Oracle shops, made it a point to give Coleman—another Akamai client—a sympathetic wave.

Just a hunch, but I’m betting that Coleman may insist next year that he not be followed by Ellison.

If I had my way, they’d both be under gag orders.

In Other News…
Last night’s Java Technology Achievement Awards, sponsored by Java Pro magazine, were notable for two reasons: Borland and IBM. The two companies swept the majority of categories, garnering 10 awards between them. The big difference: a large and boisterous contingent from Borland was on hand; IBM was absent. Borland took the overall award for Most Valuable Product for JBuilder 4.

And BEA took the award for Best Application Server. But perhaps Ellison hadn’t heard.

Sun Spotlights Peer-to-Peer, Wireless Solutions
JXTA and J2ME appear to lead the path toward true “write once, run anywhere” application development

San Francisco (June 6, 2001)—Continuing the theme of frivolity at JavaOne, today’s keynote session featured Java father James Gosling in a skit based on TV’s “Survivor,” in which he was voted off the island (of Java, presumably). Not that this had anything to do with anything relevant to the conference, but it allowed the song-and-dance troupe accompanying Gosling to break out into a humorous rendition of “I Will Survive,” which took some potshots at Microsoft’s .NET initiative.

A Peer Among Peers
Bill Joy finally got on stage and spoke about the revolutionary merits of Project JXTA, (pronounced “juxta”), an industry-wide research project led by Sun that offers developers a way to create flexible, interoperable applications for a variety of devices. This open protocol interoperates with any peer on the network, whether they are PCs, servers, and other (wirelessly) connected devices.

In other words, we’re talking about peer-to-peer development. JXTA’s key concepts involve creating groups of peers, connecting to them across the network in a distributed fashion, monitoring and controlling policies among peers, and maintaining privacy and security at all times.

Released only six weeks ago on JXTA.org, the source code has already been downloaded 50,000 times, which Joy claimed was quite a success. Yet many more people will have to get involved before it’s judged a real success.

“100,000 Java phones is the killer count,” Joy said, in order for P2P networking to become possible and practical.

The Wireless Connection
Running a once-written Java application anywhere sounds good in theory, but it’s difficult in practice, especially in the wireless arena. The proliferation of wireless devices challenges developers to deliver the same goods to both manufacturers and consumers alike, without endlessly rewriting their code. It’s not easy. Carriers don’t make it easy for multiple devices to be truly compatible.

Sun’s deployment of the Java 2 Platform Micro Edition (J2ME) promises to improve compatibilities among devices, and its adoption by the wireless industry bodes well for developers. To date, carriers such as NTT DoCoMo, LG Telecom, and Nextel have deployed 3 million J2ME-enabled wireless handsets. Estimates indicate that Japan will see as many as 20 million by the end of 2001. And that’s just Japan. As long as devices support J2ME, developers writing Java apps can deploy them on a wide array of devices.

Not surprisingly, several vendors showcased their J2ME-enabled devices at JavaOne. One example was Motorola’s Accompli 009 “personal communicator” and Accompli 008 PDA/phone. Both featured the interesting capability of being able to download new apps wirelessly.

Other vendors showed ways to help make J2ME development even more productive for developers and end users alike. For example, Bonita’s Java-based ToGo Mobile Solutions allows customers to share data among applications. In one example I saw, two separately developed apps running on a cell phone were able to combine their functionality: an e-mail address from a database lookup was entered into an outgoing e-mail message so it didn’t have to be re-keyed in.

The Tiniest Database
PointBase, which has long made a small-footprint, pure-Java SQL database, announced a single-user version of its product, called PointBase Micro, that’s small enough to run on a cell phone. How small? It’s a 41K JAR file.

Developers use a subset of the JDBC API to write applications. PointBase Micro is optimized for either the J2ME or J2SE platform, but it is clearly targeted for use in more modest, resource-constricted handheld devices. The product should make it possible for even the smallest Java-enabled cell phones to synchronize data with the server. Data access applications already standardized for the J2ME platform can now be extended to a wider variety of mobile devices.

Borland Fans Get Mobile Dev Assistance
A partnership between Borland and Nokia, announced Monday at the show, will be good news for JBuilder users who have a significant base of Nokia phone users. JBuilder Mobile Set, Nokia Edition is a J2ME-based extension to the JBuilder 5.0 IDE. It gives developers a simple, familiar way of building J2ME applications and optimizing them for Nokia handhelds. It includes visual design tools, device emulation, debugging, and other standard features of the JBuilder environment, according to a press release.

Sun Beats the Drums for Java
Without much news of its own to announce, Sun Microsystems enlivens a ho-hum JavaOne with taiko drummers and scores of product demos

San Francisco (June 5, 2001)—Seventeen thousand JavaOne attendees needed no java to jolt them into consciousness Tuesday as they filed into the main auditorium at Moscone Center to hear the morning’s keynote by Java creator Dr. James Gosling. Sun said “good morning” via the ear-piercing thunder of the San Francisco Taiko Dojo drum corps, a 12-person troupe who belted, bopped, and bombarded their instruments in tribal fashion for more than 30 minutes, eliciting numerous winces from attendees.

Sun must have read some of the reviews about the first day of the show. “Boring” and “lackluster” were commonly used adjectives to describe CEO Ed Zander’s opening keynote.

Gosling was his usual jovial self. He demonstrated some new wireless toys (a Motorola phone that doubles as a video camera and a Nokia handheld mini-computer, complete with keyboard), told a couple of stories about the genesis of Java, and cannonaded T-shirts into the crowd. Yes, literally—with a custom-built cannon.

He actually did get into a few technical topics involving the Java Community Process, saying that the JCP’s longtime, most requested feature—generics—may finally be added to the overall specification. Go to this page at Sun’s Java site, register for the JCP, check out the “Adding Generics” page, and see if you agree with the master.

Phil Burt of SoftSynth.com, a company that uses Java Music Synthesizer Language (JMSL) to compose music projects over the Internet, including collaborative ones, joined Gosling onstage and demonstrated how a Java-written program can actually play “space music” online. To find out for yourself how this works, check out their site.

Major Product Announcements
Among the news announced by the largest U.S. high-tech companies:

IBM wants to save the world for the open-source community with its new open-source toolkit. Big Blue announced its new WebSphere 4.0 e-infrastructure software and boasted that it can handle twice the number of transactions as close-competitor BEA‘s WebLogic Server for the same cost. It says it has the benchmarks to back up its claim. In contrast to Oracle’s “one size fits all” strategy, IBM says it is addressing a “fundamental shift” in the e-business market that requires individual attention—and therefore much more customization.

“We’re also coming out with a set of prepackaged e-business APIs for mobile apps, business integration, and something we call ‘user experience’—kind of a portal thing,” said Scott Hebner, IBM’s WebSphere product manager. “Our new app development toolkit, VisualAge 4.0, also is newsy in that it is now open source; developers can configure the tools any way they want to build the apps they want.”

Oracle simply wants the e-business world to know that one size does indeed fit all. The Redwood Shores–based company is now offering free access to its new Oracle 9i database with J2EE support through its OTN Web site. The company is giving all the attendees at JavaOne a free copy of the 9i Application Server Java Developer’s CD that also includes Oracle’s JDeveloper toolkit, which the company touts as the industry’s first complete Java/XML IDE. The company insists that Oracle 9i can scale from small businesses and move seamlessly into the heavy-duty corporate e-business environment without blinking one bit.

Hewlett-Packard is entering the Web services world too. HP is counting on its new Web services package, HP Core Services Framework, to bring it into the ballgame with the other companies noted above, as well as with Microsoft and myriad other companies. HP Core Services creates a standard mechanism for assembling components in Java server apps. For ISVs and other developers, this package enables modular inclusion of new services and APIs within applications that are based on the new framework.

The Palo Alto–based company also announced the availability of its new HP Internet Server, which consists of its standard HTTP server and a JSP Servlet engine. The advantage of this, the company says, is to allow developers to quickly and easily embed these services into their own applications. The Internet Server is the first one built on the Core Services Framework and will become freely available for download from the HP Web site in July. It will serve as the company’s standards-based foundation for developing Web-application services and is one of the first implementations of the Java Services Framework (JSR 111) specification.

Then there’s Intel. Yes, Intel. The Santa Clara–based chipmaker is marketing its own set of development tools under the Intel Architecture (IA) brand, including optimized JDK tools for the Pentium, Xeon, and Itanium processor families; application servers available on IA 32-bit and expanding to Itanium 64-bit architecture; Java Performance Services available from one of the 10 international Intel Solution Service Centers worldwide; and a Vtune Performance Analyzer.

And, Finally…
Hot T-shirt spotted on the show floor: “C++…My Boss’s Grade Point Average.”

Sun Lets Third Parties Shine at JavaOne
A dearth of news from Sun Microsystems puts the limelight on third-party partners at the outset of JavaOne.

San Francisco (June 4, 2001)—A morning keynote that started 30 minutes late and left thousands of attendees queued up around the block on a warm San Francisco morning finally got into swing around 11 a.m. Well, sort of. It was another hour yet again before anybody said much of import.

Announcements Galore
Keynote co-emcee John Gage, Chief Science Officer, finally got the ball rolling with some less-than-jaw-dropping “announcements,” including the fact that 280 technical sessions would be uploaded to the JavaOne site with streaming audio translations of the content in Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, and Japanese. Impressive to be sure, but probably not what I would have led the show with.

He was quickly joined by his emcee partner Jon Kannegaard, Vice President and Deputy Director of Sun Labs. The two men proceeded to run through the various freebies and contests being sponsored at the show. The edges of 17,000 filled seats were notably unused.

Sun, it seems, is quite content this year to let the brightest part of the spotlight shine on its partners—based on how they focused the morning program. Upon taking the stage from Gage and Kannegaard, Sun President and COO Ed Zander began the dog-and-pony show.

Not that there wasn’t some great technology being showcased. Many of those invited to the stage gave promising—though not show-stopping—demonstrations of Java technology in use on handheld devices. There was also fanfare around the debut of Sony’s Linux-based PS2 machine that highlighted its capability as a Net-connected consumer storage and media playback device in addition to its well-known prowess as a gaming platform.

Sun Does Web Services
Eventually, Sun sent out a flare. Not surprisingly, the important news of the day surrounds Web services. Java Software Division Vice President Rich Green told the assembly that Sun is announcing today that the next version of the J2EE platform will concentrate on supporting Web services. Green credited the work of the Java Community Process for driving the direction of the development of this highest-functioning Java platform.

But even this news seemed hardly newsworthy. With Microsoft’s Web services strategy now well known and highly debated, it’s sort of incumbent upon Sun to follow suit. Not moving forward aggressively with Web services support in J2EE would leave Java developers high and very dry come next year.

Still, the rollout details and specifics of the initial support features are worth mentioning:

  • J2EE 1.4 will be the first fully functioning Java platform for building Web services sometime in 2002.
  • Its predecessor, J2EE 1.3, is under public review now and will be released in Q3 2001. It includes increased support for XML but far less than the full Web services support planned for version 1.4.
  • In the interim, Sun will release the Web Services Pack, a standalone version of the functionality planned for J2EE, that developers can begin using right away for building Web services.
  • Five major Java tools vendors were noted for their commitment to integrating the Web Services Pack technologies (see next paragraph) in their IDEs. They are Oracle (JDeveloper), WebGain (WebGain Studio), Macromedia (JRun Studio), Borland (JBuilder), and Sun’s Forte tools division.

The Web Services Pack will include the following:

  • JavaServer Faces: a standard API for creating standard graphical user interfaces for Web-based apps in Java. These enhance the capabilities of JSPs and let developers use standard GUI components instead of building and maintaining their own user interfaces for Java apps.
  • The JAX Pack: a set of Java APIs for XML. The APIs in the JAX Pack will process and transform XML documents and data, and allow for access to XML registries such as UDDI, mapping of XML data into Java objects, and SOAP messaging.
  • Tomcat: the open-source application platform from the Apache Software Foundation, which uses JSP and servlet technologies.

    These components should give developers a bit of a springboard toward Web services rather soon.

    I was still left wondering whether Sun shouldn’t have said a bit more today.

    Sightings on the Show Floor
    I always look for the biggest human knot at the smallest booth on the show floor. That rule of thumb has always worked for me. Today it was a company called SavaJe, pronounced “savage” (complicatedly concocted by spelling “Java” backwards and sandwiching that with an S and e for “Standard Edition”). Just this morning they announced their technology: a handheld operating system that can run full J2SE applications on PDAs. That’s not a typo—they really mean Java 2 Standard Edition apps on handhelds. Thus far, the SavaJe OS is only available for two devices—the Compaq iPAQ and the Psion NetBook.

    You have to strip off Windows CE and then install the SaveJe operating system, but with that done, you may suddenly find yourself with the perfect handheld—one that comes with nothing but pure Java desktop apps (including a browser and shell, PIM, games, and more) but that also runs all your own J2SE client-side Java apps.

    SavaJe XE is in beta now. CEO George Grey told me he was hoping for lots of feedback on the beta and to get a foothold at bundling his OS among some of the popular handheld hardware manufacturers. He hopes to release a shipping version before the end of 2001.

    Judging by the knot of people and the nodding heads, this idea looks like one that the Java audience was eager for. Go ahead…download the beta.

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