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Happy Trails at JavaOne:

Today and tomorrow were front and center at the technical general session of Sun's mega-event, the 2006 JavaOne Conference in San Francisco.

Happy Trails at JavaOne:
The Java Platform Roadmap
Today and tomorrow were front and center at the technical general session of Sun's 2006 JavaOne Conference.
by Peggy Aycinena

JavaOne, May, 2006

Today and tomorrow were front and center at the technical general session of Sun Microsystems' mega-event, the 2006 JavaOne Conference in San Francisco.

Following the hype and buzz of the opening general session, the 90-minute event was a refreshing change of pace and chockfull of information for the 1000 or more attendees who gathered in the cavernous underground hall at Moscone Center to hear about the "Java Platform Roadmap."

The crowd got an earful—first, about the October 2006 release of the Java SE6 "Mustang" standard edition of Sun's flagship software product, and then about the "available-now" Java EE5 enterprise edition. The speakers tasked with describing the two elements of the platform roadmap, Vice President & Sun Fellow Graham Hamilton and Sun Distinguished Engineer Bill Shannon, were equally enthusiastic about the Java community involvement in Java SE6 and Java EE5. If you didn't know better, you'd think both products were open-source, but they're not.

Java EE5—similar to Sun's Solaris OS—is open-source and freely available to all. Java SE6, on the other hand, is at the center of a growing controversy as to when, if ever, Sun will open source its standard edition of Java. Both press and users are clamoring for Sun to make that move; Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz hinted during the morning keynote, "It's not a question of whether, it's a question of how." So far, no definitive date has been set.

Controversy notwithstanding, Hamilton and Shannon went about reporting on updates to the Java Platform with style. Hamilton set October 2006, as the release date for Mustang, and announced Java SE7 "Dolphin" would be available in the second half of 2008.

He said, "There will be no 2.0 release of Java SE6. The next release will be Java SE7 Dolphin. We're trying to focus on a major release every 18 months to two years." He quickly added, "Of course, we do ship patch releases, but those are a relatively small collection of bug fixes."

Then he launched into a spirited recap of the community involvement associated with the run up to the production release of Mustang. "In previous releases of Java SE," he said, "we did a whole lot of engineering at Sun. With Mustang, we've tried to involve the community much earlier in the process. Every week, we're publicly posting the internal builds. You can see both the good and the bad, and that's for a couple of reasons. By giving you the latest build every week, it's much easier for you to give us the fixes. It's been a very successful experiment so far, and is working out quite well. We're getting higher quality [built into the code] at a much earlier point in the process, and there will be [even more] working with the community with Dolphin."

Hamilton ran through a long list of changes incorporated into Mustang including:

  • Improvements to the look-and-feel.
  • Upgrades in Windows and Gnome support.
  • Support for the pending Microsoft Vista OS release.
  • Measurable performance boosts from Java SE5 to SE6.
  • Assorted API upgrades.
  • Enhanced protocol and Web services support.

Hamilton reassured his audience: "There are many changes in systemic properties and numerous new features in the Mustang release, but the compatibility, stability, and quality [of the product] remain unchanged. I've always said these things are 'Job Number 1' at Sun, and that remains the case."

In support of legacy releases of Java SE, Hamilton said the Mustang development team at Sun has conducted a regression contest on Java SE6: "Our regression challenge has been to ask the community to identify bugs in the current code, [features] that worked in previous releases, but don't work now. We've had 100 submissions so far, of which 72 were accepted—and five workstations awarded to the best of those."

Hamilton said Sun also conducted a "Crack the Verifier" contest with Mustang. "We invited the community and Web security experts to review the new code verifiers, and that's been successful in a different way. There are no 'real' winners, however, because we're all winners here," he said.

He added, "There have been no holes found so far, but please keep that data coming in."

Overall, Hamilton reported several thousand bug fixes have been implemented in Mustang. He stressed repeatedly that everyone in the Java SE user community should continue to be actively involved in providing feedback, regularly checking the relevant locations on the Java Web site to track to suggest changes, and feeling themselves an important part of the process.

Hamilton handed the microphone over to Bill Shannon, who spent the next portion of the session talking about Java EE5. Shannon said, "Here at the show last year, Java EE5 was announced, but this year it's done. The SDK is now released, and we want everyone to know how easy it is to develop Java EE5 applications."

Shannon said the reception to Java EE5—successor to J2EE—has been tremendous, with hundreds of thousands of downloads to the SDK, and broad industry support from a blue-chip list of vendors including Oracle, IBM, SAP, NetBeans, and Eclipse. He emphasized, "Our primary focus has been to make it easier to develop Java EE applications, especially when you're just getting started."

To that end, Shannon said the new release includes: a declarative programming style; enhancements that allow users to structure their applications the way they want to, with more and better defaults; more powerful frameworks; and an overall look and feel that should make Java EE5, "easier to learn and more productive for its users compared to earlier versions of the language."

Shannon added, "We're just beginning to scratch the surface with the use of annotations in Java EE5, plus we've made it easier to define and use Web services and to map Java classes to XML. We've added dependency injection, and greatly simplified EJB development."

He listed numerous other improvements in the new release, and made particular note of the new Java Persistence API. Shannon was joined at several points in his discussion by Sun developers showcasing new capabilities in Java EE5 on demo systems on stage—results visible to the large audience on huge screens located throughout the theater. The demos garnered applause from developers in the audience.

Shannon repeatedly stressed that what used to require hundreds, or even thousands, of lines of code, can now be accomplished in Java EE5 with just a handful of code and some added notation.

He said, "Our demos here prove just how easy it is to do development using Java EE5.  There's been a dramatic simplification…and anybody familiar with Java 2EE will recognize that."

Shannon stressed, as Hamilton had earlier with regards to Mustang, that there is a wealth of information available to Java EE5 users on the Java site—that developers should be visiting frequently to bring themselves up to speed on the newly enhanced release.

He also said, "Project GlassFish, which we announced last year, is where you can help build an open-source Java EE5 application server. It's all open-source, and free to download and deploy. There have almost 300,000 downloads so far. Watch for more information [going forward] at The Aquarium on the GlassFish site." He again encouraged his audience to be part of that community.

Shannon concluded, "Java EE5 is here, it's ready, and we need feedback from you. Let us know; did we get right, what's most important to improve, and [what would you suggest] for possible future directions?"

He ticked off three different directions for growth: "upwards," with enhancements to composite applications and clustering; "downwards," with additional scripting, JavaScript, and Web application hosting enhancements; or "sideways," with improvements to the existing APIs and additional Ajax support.

Overall, Shannon said, "Java EE5 is much easier to use, but we still need your feedback to guide us. Download the SDK. Get involved in the GlassFish Community. Explore the booths at the show for Java EE vendors. And please, give us feedback!"

Graham Hamilton came back on stage to close out the Technical General Session with comments about the Java SE7 Dolphin release slated for 2008. He said enhancements would include the addition of new language technology—direct support for XML and Visual Basic.

He emphasized, "We want to be able to accommodate all of our developers. Java is the Gold standard for enterprise coding, but diversity is good. Our goal is to enable Visual Basic developers to use the Java platform!"

The session closed with Shannon encouraging his audience to access his blog on the Sun Web site, to download all of his slides, and to use his presentation as their trip report for their colleagues back at the office when they return from JavaOne. He admonished: "Please! Help us get the word out."  

His audience applauded, but the word they were waiting for was a hyphenated one: open-source.

About the Author
Peggy Aycinena is managing editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

About the Author

Peggy Aycinena is managing editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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