The impact of Java SE 9 on operations and development teams

Just prior to JavaOne, TheServerSide spoke with ZeroTurnaround’s Simon Maple about all of the things going on with Java SE 9 and the greater Java ecosystem. A couple of interesting articles eluted from the conversation, so we thought it might be worthwhile publishing the interview in its entirety.

Cameron McKenzie: There’s a million things going on in the world of Java these days. What are the topics you believe to be of the most importance when it comes to Java and Java SE 9?

Simon Maple: Well, let’s start with what’s happening in Java. There are so many interesting things happening in Java right now. Java is being pushed over to Eclipse, Java SE is going forward being driven first with open JDK, the cadence of Java SE releaeses is now every six months; there are some really, really interesting things happening.

If you look at Java SE 9, you’ll see there are some interesting things going on with the JDK. Obviously, it was delayed by an extra year, so it’s been three years in the making. But one of the things which JDK 9 delivers is the module system. For me, it’s something which developers aren’t really gonna get involved with too much. People who really want modularity are gonna be using OSGi or something similar. People who think, “Yeah. Okay, it’s gonna be an okay idea,” aren’t necessarily chewing at the bit to get it anyway. So I’m not sure people are going to be jumping at modularity.

It does have big benefits in terms of the future of Java, how we can reduce the footprint of Java, how we can develop modules that can be incubated like HTTP/2 and things like that. So it provides a lot of promise, but it’s just not there yet. I think it’s gonna take a long time for the industry and the ecosystem to really embrace modules. Because obviously all frameworks, libraries, tools, vendors of access and things like that, it’s gonna take them time to support the other application developers can use of these frameworks and tools alongside their average developments. We believe that the adoption of Java 9 is gonna be as big as any of the previous releases really.

Who benefits from Java modularity?

Cameron McKenzie: Now, this year at JavaOne, project Jigsaw and modularity is a huge topic. But who benefits the most from modularity? Is this something that only the tool vendors are really gonna start using or is it something that the typical everyday enterprise software developer can start using and leverage in the code that they develop?

Simon Maple: I think it actually benefits a number of different people but not everyone in a massive way. But across the board when it helps a number of different divisions, like operations or development or the business, then when it helps everyone it might be a good choice. Let’s take them one at a time. If you look at development team, how it benefits them largely is, if you have a large distributed team where you have different developers writing different components of an application, on a large application, it’s actually a great way to make sure that other teams using your components in your APIs are using them as you’d expect them to use it. So this gives you much greater power to then make changes to your code knowing you’re not gonna break any people who use your code. Because with modularity, you can effectively say, “These are the APIs I want to expose, everything else I wanna hide.”

So from a developer point of view, that’s actually really beneficial. You can also, as a developer, deliver your update quicker because you couldn’t, for an typical Java application that doesn’t use modularity, just upgrade a single module at a time.

Let’s take Java as an example? We’ve seen in the past huge releases containing many, many things and the reason they get pushed out a year, six months, two years, is because largely we have been waiting for different features. So Java 8 was delayed because of lambdas, Java 9 was delayed because of Jigsaw. In fact, Java 8 largely was also delayed because of Jigsaw which was later pulled. So, everything else, all the other benefits in Java, you can’t get hold of. And it’s because you’re constantly waiting for this one big drop. If you’re looking at something more modular, you could actually upgrade some modules without needing to upgrade the whole application at once.

So from an operations and a development point of view, and in fact from the business point of view as well, you’re much more reactive in terms of how quick you could fix bugs, how quick you can move in terms of your feature planning and things like that. So from that point of view, it’s very, very powerful for the business and very powerful to actually push your features to market. And that’s purely from the business point of view.

From the operations point of view, it’s actually quite nice. Well, it can be a pain and it can be good. It can be good because when you are dealing with individual modules, you’re far more isolated in terms of where your code is, where your applications are modular. However, it can also be slightly more tricky because you have dependencies. The actual deployment can be trickier.

But modularity is not a silver bullet for everyone, but individually different people will find different values for modules.

The timing of Java SE 9

Cameron McKenzie: Now why is it that all of these announcements that pertain to Java SE 9 and the Java platform came out just before JavaOne? Is that just coincidental or is this a matter of Oracle just getting better at doing PR before the big conference?

Simon Maple: So, let’s take each announcement, because I think each announcement there’s no one reason why they came out when they did other than maybe lining them up for JavaOne 2017. But I think each announcement has different drivers. You know, I’m not getting any information directly from Oracle so I’m speculating. But in my opinion, let’s look at Java EE. Obviously, Oracle has the year of drought where they weren’t talking about Java EE specs. Personally, I believe Oracle was pushed into a corner to say, “Hey let’s progress Java EE 8 and 9.” If you actually look at what happened over the last year of Java EE in terms of delivering features to 8, a lot of it’s been pushed over to 9, and personally I think moving Java EE to the Eclipse foundation benefits both Oracle and Java EE because I think it relieves Oracle of the burden that Java EE has bestowed upon them.

From that point of view, they don’t need to worry about it anymore. From the Java EE point of view and the community point of view, I think they’re gonna have a lot more ownership of Java EE obviously it being now part of the Eclipse foundation and it can now go at the speed at which the community wants to drive it. So I think it’s a move whereby everyone’s happy. Oracle doesn’t look like the bad guy anymore, they’re not going to hold it up and the community can push it as far as they wanna push it. So it’s gonna be interesting to see over the next years how much effort Oracle will put in in terms of supporting the projects in Eclipse, in terms of how many developers are they gonna be providing to support each of the specs, not just delivering code but in pushing the specifications forward. So I think that’s really gonna show how much Oracle planned to invest in Java EE, but I think it’s that beneficial.

In terms of them pushing the cadence to six months now, I think there are two reasons for that. The first reason is because everyone is getting a little bit fed up of Java slipping constantly. We’ve seen releases three, four, five years in delay. Obviously, the five years…was it five or the six years? That was really because the stuff in Oracle moved. But since Java 9 is now being pushed out and we have a module system, we can develop much faster and we can provide smaller features quicker. So it does make sense for Java, now it’s modularized, to make use of that and to say, “Right, now we’re gonna be pushing out different pieces of different modules when they’re ready. So every six months what’s ready to be pushed out let’s make it available.” So I think that’s really, really good for Java.

From the ecosystem, it’s gonna be hard work. I think it’s probably gonna be harder work in the ecosystem than it is for Oracle to maintain. Because for Oracle they just need to continue developing and when a feature is ready to go into the main branch they push it into the main branch and we’re good to go. But for the ecosystem, we’re now dealing with…if we look at just next year, we’ve got…what we’ve got Java 9 to the ecosystem’s support, and next year we’re gonna have 18.3 and 18.9 to support. Java 9 is gonna be a well-supported release. Java 18.9 is gonna be a long-term support release. Java 8 is now gonna be commercially supported till 2025. So there are a large number of releases that tools are gonna have to support and it’s no good for tools just to say, “We’re only gonna support the long-term support releases.” Because they’re gonna lose customers.

So they’re gonna have to support every single release of Java, frameworks the same, application servers are more likely gonna support the main long-term support versions. Libraries are gonna have to support all the versions of Java. So for the ecosystem, it’s gonna be a lot more work, a lot more testing. It’s gonna be interesting to see how they keep up particularly for those libraries and frameworks which don’t have large communities and large numbers of committers to do this work, so that’s gonna be extremely interesting. And the third thing was Oracle pushing or putting OpenJDK first. They’re obviously gonna still have their own commercial kind of support branch, which is fine.

What’s new at ZeroTurnaround?

Cameron McKenzie: Now I notice ZeroTurnaround has a booth on the exhibitors’ floor. What’s going on with ZeroTurnaround at JavaOne? What are the big things that you guys are working on? Are there any big product announcements and what are you guys doing to draw people into your booth in the exhibition hall?

Simon Maple: We are obviously working very, very hard to support Java 9 and JRebel which is gonna be a big, big talk obviously because JRebel is so deeply connected to the low-level parts of the JVM. We’re looking to release support for that very soon after the Java 9 release. Yes, we are making some big moves in and around the developmental productivity…I’m sorry, the developmental performance market. We already have XRebel as you know. So we’re gonna be making some announcements over the next week or so and it’s gonna be extremely interesting because we’re gonna be very disruptive in the performance management space. That’s gonna be extremely interesting to me over the next few weeks as well.

Cameron McKenzie: So to get more insights from Mr. Maple, you can always follow him on Twitter @sjmaple. And for that matter if you wanna learn more about some product announcements that are coming out from ZeroTurnaround, you might wanna follow them on Twitter as well, @zeroturnaround.

You can follow Cameron McKenzie on Twitter:


App Architecture
Software Quality
Cloud Computing