The JavaOne Conference: Is Sun Becoming Irrelevant to the Future of Java?

August 16, 2005

The JavaOne Conference: Is Sun Becoming Irrelevant to the Future of Java?

The JavaOne Conference: Is Sun Becoming Irrelevant to the Future of Java?

By Rikki Kirzner

This year’s tenth annual JavaOne conference in San Francisco unveiled a very impressive showcase of innovative technologies and solutions from a great number of vendors – vendors who largely discounted many of Sun’s announcements along with its half-hearted move toward open source and steadfast refusal to join the worldwide migration to Eclipse. The display of exciting and mission-critical software products, spanning everything from enterprise to mobile platforms, was accompanied by a sense that Sun is becoming less relevant to the future direction of Java and to many of the Java vendors attending this year’s conference.

A Little Pregnant?

Jonathan Schwartz announced that Sun was open sourcing its Java Application Server as the first of several steps toward creating open source code. The problem is that his announcement was the equivalent of being “a little pregnant” and many developers and most vendors believed that Sun did not go far enough. Schwartz also announced that Sun has mended its acrimonious relationship with IBM – at least publicly, anyway. Certainly, the Sun-IBM detente resolves the licensing issues between the two vendors over the next ten years. IBM renewed its license for Java Standard Edition and agreed to port WebSphere Application Server, WebSphere MQ messaging middleware, Tivoli system-management software, IBM Rational development tools, and the DB2 database system to run on Sun’s Solaris 10 for x86 operating system.

Privately, the two companies still disagree over several issues. For one thing, Sun refuses to give up control of the Java Community Process, the vendor alliance responsible for adding new features and making changes to Java. IBM also has shown no interest in Sun’s initiative to establish a standard for an enterprise server bus, the Java Business Initiative. Sun, for its part, refuses to submit Java to an international standards organization. More importantly, Sun still refuses to have anything to do with Eclipse.

Eclipse Eclipses NetBeans?

Meanwhile the Eclipse framework is growing in popularity to the point where there are more vendors and developers supporting Eclipse than NetBeans and current membership in Eclipse exceeds 100 vendors. While Sun continues to innovate around NetBeans, more and more companies are creating plug-ins and porting products to Eclipse. Support for Eclipse was in evidence throughout the JavaOne show floor and Eclipse counts among its members most of Sun’s biggest partners and competitors, including Borland, IBM, BEA, Compuware, and others. Many developers and vendors could be heard predicting the eventual demise of Sun’s attempts to drive interest in NetBeans – something they believe has become a proprietary infrastructure, particularly in light of growing developer apathy.

Highlights of Products and Releases

The following discussion highlights just four of the many useful and innovative products and releases that promise increased productivity and practical business solutions:

    ?     Eclipse was showing off its Version 3.1 which is designed to provide extensive increases in performance,  J2SE 5 support, and enhanced tool support for the Eclipse Plug-in Development Environment and Visual Editor projects for building and deploying rich-client applications. This newest version of Eclipse features an integrated development environment designed to fully leverage a complete stack of open-source technologies.
    ?    Sybase featured its unified Eclipse-based application development environment called WorkSpace. WorkSpace is designed to simplify the development of service-oriented architecture (SOA). The tool includes modeling, data management, services assembly and orchestration, Java development, and mobile computing allowing developers to quickly build and deliver everything from event- and data-driven applications to composite, model-driven and mobile applications.
    ?     Compuware announced that all future versions of the OptimalJ tools will plug into the Eclipse platform. It featured its newest release of this Java-development tool that uses a model-driven approach. The Developer edition allows programmers to make additions to code that has been automatically generated in the Architecture and Professional edition of the tools. OptimalJ automatically generates code from UML 2.0 models of an application. Additionally, Compuware brings an expertise in patterns of Java development to its tools and reviews both models and code for adherence to best practices and patterns.
    ?     Finally, Exadel drew interest with its combination of software, use of open source development tools, services, and support. These accelerate a company’s ability to create mission-critical applications based on open source and Java technologies. Essentially Exadel’s professional services leverage the company’s open source knowledge and experiences through a combination of mentoring, architecting, and support for development efforts.

No Echo

Hurwitz & Associates believes that, unlike the nine previous years at JavaOne, the momentum at this year’s show did little to echo either Sun’s keynotes or product announcements. The business and direction of Java seems finally to have outgrown Sun’s influence and ability to effect vendor and corporate business directions and technology innovation.


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