Thursday, November 06, 2008

Enterprise Java – State of the World!

One of my friends commented: “Java is no longer cool! Not hot either! What is the current state of enterprise Java?”

First it was .Net and then came a bonanza of scripting languages such as Ruby. All these technologies were there to eclipse the popularity of Java and J2EE. The hypes for these technologies were short-lived. The forecast for demise of Java EE was highly exaggerated. Java and J2EE still lives on!

I divide the players in the enterprise Java markets primarily into two buckets. The commercial vendors selling J2EE application server and the vendors building open source and so called free products. However a third force is emerging that is looking to disrupt the J2EE market space.

The commercial market space is now officially two horses’ race after Oracle acquired BEA. The battle is still on for the two traditional rivals! One application server (WebLogic) is stylish and always ahead with emerging technology and the other one proprietary loaded (Websphere) with the old baggage. Java EE 5 finalized in June 2006 and IBM Websphere just got certified with Java EE 5. That’s more than two years since the spec was finalized. That’s not strange though. JBoss that still do not have a production release that is Java EE 5 certified. Although they announced it's arrival more than a month back, I do not see a production version available as yet. They have a release candidate!

Now that we discussed JBoss’s certification issue let us look at the open source products. About two years back JBoss was the crown prince in the open source market. None of the other products Jonas, Glassfish or Geronimo had capabilities to challenge its supremacy. However JBoss lost the momentum in past year and half after being acquired by RedHat. Glassfish has gained a significant mindshare in last year and half thanks to their quality Java EE 5 implementation. I think the delay in shipping a quality Java EE 5 implementation by JBoss was a primary reason. Geronimo has not gotten much traction! However we should not forget that many customers still use Tomcat with just web applications. Although Tomcat does not have all bells and whistles of Java EE – it is still the most dominant open source container.

I put Spring in the third bucket. Spring is a great framework that makes application development simple. Java EE 5 borrowed a lot of great ideas from the Spring framework. Spring Framework certainly helped enterprise Java to go further. SpringSource, the company behind Spring Framework launched their OSGi-based application server named Spring dm Server. Spring dm Server not only competes with other application server vendors in the market. It also competes with Java EE! It allows you to deploy WAR modules and OSGi bundles. It is at its first version and lacks good high availability, manageability features. SpringSource hopes to implement part of Java EE 6 specs. If they are successful – Spring dm Server may be a disruptive force for the Java EE application server market. I will blog about my first impressions on Spring dm Server (write capabilities and limitations) in my upcoming blog.

Many people have raised concerns about slow adoption rate of Java EE 5. Is the slow adoption by two major players (IBM and JBoss) inhibiting the adoption rate for Java EE 5? Possibly! However we have to remember that for most companies, generating revenue is more important than the underlying technology. Many customers have deployed their applications using J2EE 1.4 and they achieved their performance and scalability goals so they cannot just throw those away and jump on to the Java EE 5 bandwagon. Having said that many customers are using Java EE 5 only with new development projects. The sales of my book has picked up lately.

With economy going down south- budgets for new projects are limited! Having said that Java is still the leading platform for building enterprise applications.

The JCP team is gearing up to finalize Java EE 6 by JavaOne 2009. This gives a fuzzy feeling that enterprise Java is still thriving. What do you think?