By Doug Bateman, Ben Ellingson, Floyd Marinescu, Christian Parker, Steve Raeburn, Nuno Teixeira
The time has come for another TSS Java Symposium in the ever-wakeful city of Las Vegas, welcomed by the neon signs, vibrant and spastic like one thousand fireflies captured in glass casings. The setting of Vegas however was almost the opposite of the tone and environment at the conference itself, which had an almost utopian feel of learning and community to it. The Symposium was unlike any other conference in the world, in that it brought together most of the key contributors to Java in one place. Most of the speakers at the event were hand chosen due to their contributions including founders/committer on major open source projects, authors of key books and blogs important to the community, JCP expert group members and spec leads, key technologists from the major vendors, and of course architects from around the community. There is simply no other conference in the world with the networking and learning opportunities created by bringing together this many key contributors in such a small and intimate setting.
This year the convention took place at Caesers Palace. The event this year drew in 515 attendees (compared with 415 last year) for a total attendance including speakers, press, and other industry people to close to 600. In previous years, the speakers often remarked at the seniority of the attendeees, and this year was no different with 81% of attendees having roles from Technical Team Lead, CTO, to Senior Architect and Senior Developer.
TSS founder and co-organizer of the Symposium Floyd Marinescu gave a brief morning introduction, welcoming the community and talking about the vision of the conference. "The Symposium is not a conference, it's a community event...our goal is to make it a contribution to the community", Floyd introduced, ending that he hopes that "like TheServerSide.com, we hope that the Symposium will be the 'right place' for new inspirations and discoveries for you."
At the conclusion of his opening speech, Floyd, involved the crowd in a set of questions, all of whom can participate in selecting their answer from a number of options, the results being transfer, real time, back to the audience. The results of these questions are listed on the right hand side of this article.
For those who could not make it to TheServerSide Java Symposium (TSSJS) this year, this article presents to you some of the details, both technical with some summaries of presentations during the event and non-technical details gathered before, between and after the presentations took place. This page contains an overview of all the content at the event EXCEPT the technical sessions, we've broken out the technical sessions writeups across three other pages: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3.
Keynote: Mark Hapner on The Java Platform's Role in Building Out the Web
Starting off the TSSJS 2005 was a Keynote by Mark Hapner. The Palace I ballroom was packed and more chairs had to be brought in from other rooms, clearly a great start to the conference. While attendees settled in their seats and powered up their laptops Hapner introduced himself and the presentation was on its way.
A seemingly unaccepted comment Hapner made about the Java community at the beginning of his talk suggested that the community itself owned Java. Although the majority perception of this statement might have been founded in the belief that the community only guides Java while Sun actually owns it, the meaning of this statement needs some clarification from another angle. The Java Community Process (JCP) was started by Sun as a way to encourage participants of the Java community to provide feedback, suggestions and contributions on the development of Java technology specifications. That being said, even though Sun owns Java, the community does, to a certain degree, have the power to decide which direction Java needs to go.
An important direction that needs to be pursued in the Java community is a method of easier interoperability between programs, comparable to the Unix pipe, where programs can be very modular, each one performing some narrow, but useful task, all able to communicate with each other and generally never need to repeat anything because the programs can combine their functionality. Hapner suggests we need something similar for Web services, stating that service platforms in J2EE are getting closer to this goal, but are not quite there yet. To move forward in the right direction message exchange patterns will need to be developed to ease communication between services, using XML messaging, language independence and open wires. Only then, by owning the protocol, can the developer community claim to be in full control of the stack.
The energy and excitement was fresh and evident as the first wave of breakouts were attended by eager (and not yet tired) attendees. After the morning keynote two sets of sessions lasted nearly 3 hours. After the second talk of the morning, lunch was served, courtesy of Macromedia. Christophe Coenraets presented the lunch keynote during the hour and a half, the topic centered on Building Rich Internet Applications with Macromedia Flex. After a full belly and a second wave of energy developers picked their next favorite talks and prepared for another four hours of breakouts. You can read about some detailed sessions of the day by going to this page: Thursday, March 3rd.
Case Study: WebWork 2 - Pat Lightbody and Jason Careria
Apache Beehive - Cliff Schmidt
A Dozen Ways to Get the Testing Bug - Mike Clark
Effective Enterprise Java - Ted Neward
Next Gen Off-line Capable Web Apps with HTML & Java Script - Dion Almaer & Ben Galbraith
Business Rule Management Enables Agile Applications - Dan Selman
Enterprise JavaBeans 3.0 - Linda DeMichiel
TheServerSide Symposium Pool Party
The first day of presentations is completed at 7pm (longer than the typical conference) and attendees immediately walked out to the beautiful outdoor pool side patio of Ceasers Palace, where they were greeted with music, drinks, a variety of foods, a gorgeous view of some of the towering hotels around them, and of course, their fellow developers. Senior developers, organization representatives, open source figure heads, and those that push the code--the thinkers and the movers of the community--all shared tales and knowledge with those around them in a social, freestyle setting; clearly this was an opportunity to learn stuff that doesn't always stay on the mind during a formal presentation similar to those during the day. After 11pm people started to leave to continue the festivities at the bars, gambling tables, and some even went to sleep.
Keynote: Rod Johnson on Trends in Enterprise Java
Day two in Vegas, 8:00 am and the morning breakfast is out on the table awaiting developers as they wander in from their first night out in Vegas, showing signs of wear and tare, possibly from late nights of Blackjack or slightly hungover from the open bar the night before. After breakfast and another introduction to the day with a handful of questions for attendees to participate in, the stage was soon handed over to a familiar face in the open source community, and founder of the Spring framework, Rod Johnson.
Two years earlier at the 2003 Symposium, Rod Johnson displayed a pessimistic view of Java’s ability to hold it’s own against the potential .NET powerhouse. A day earlier, during his presentation, Johnson points out a number of reasons, based on his time as a consultant, why J2EE projects often fail and how to avoid common mistakes. Some of the main concerns revolve around architectural choices and common coding practices, team management and risk and testing strategies. Today Johnson gives his two thumbs up to his belief that J2EE is the cream of the crop for development… or at least has the potential to be.“I think J2EE is probably going to be the stronger [platform]” he said.
Rod affirms that nowadays Java projects are more likely to succeed, partially in part to the availability of so many open source frameworks that are providing quality, tested code to take care of a lot of programming that used to self-programmed, and error prone. In particular, Rod declared the "death of the inhouse framework" thanks to Spring and other technologies avaialble today. Johnson also named off a plethora of technologies to look out for, almost all of them completely covered during this TSS Symposium; JavaServer Faces, Tapestry, Apache Beehive, and O/R mapping to name a few; technologies that take advantage of IoC patterns, test driven development/unit testing paradigms.
Johnson also suggests being smart about how you start a project by selecting a set of technologies that best suits your project, and taking advantage of a framework, can save time and money in the long run. Open source technologies offer quick and powerful frameworks and Java advances, as opposed to the standardizations that come from the JCP, that sometimes aren’t unnecessary and are too time consuming.
One thing Rod seemed very opinionated on was the wasted years spent due to some of the standards in Java, in particular with entity beans, which delayed the development of proper O/R mapping solutions for three years.
After a good nights sleep... ya right, this is Vegas... Developers trickled into the morning keynote slowly but surely. After Rod's presentation the next day of keynotes had commenced and the breakout rooms where filled once again. The days sessions ran with the same pattern as the day before and lunch this day was provided courtesy of Oracle. During this lunch keynote Ted Farrell, Chief Architect of Application Developnent Tools at Oracle, officially announced that Oracle has shipped an EJB 3 Preview release, being the first major vendor to do so. Along with the container, Oracle also published 15 EJB 3 How-to's and code samples. Ted then demonstrated EJB 3 and JSF during his keynote. He had Oracle’s EJB 3 container embedded in JDeveloper which allowed for real quick code demo's without needing deployment. Ted also demo'd JSF and showed how the UI could be deployed across a browser, rich client and mobile device using JSF renderkits, which looked impressive. Following lunch, geek fest (as it was termed by more than a handful of attendees) continued as normal for another line up of sessions running for almost three hours. After the official breakouts ended, it was time for the BOFS to start for those who remained in the hall to participate. You can read about some detailed sessions of the day by going to this page: Friday, March 4th .
Tapestry - Howard Lewis Ship
A Different Look at Testing With TestNG - Cedric Beust
Web Services Single Sign-on Using the Liberty Web Services Framework - Mark Hapner
JavaServer Faces: Dead on Arrival or Raging Success? - Craig McClanahan
Birds of a Feather Sessions
The last set of presentation where over for the day and while attendees flocked about the enormous corridors, some flew off to entertain themselves for the rest of the night, and others perched devotedly waiting for the Birds of a Feather Sessions (BOFS) talks to start… overkill on the bird references, eh?
In the first line up of BOFS, TSSJS 2005 got the privilege to be the location for the world-wide launch of a new website about Java competencies, JavaBlackBelt.com. To find out more about the JavaBlack belt, visit their website. Linda DeMichiel, Gavin King, and Mike Keith gave a Q and A session on EJB3. The BOF on JSR 168 spurred some discussion on portal technology, from the perspective of Liferay portal implementation, looking beyond hype and concentrating on the business problems it solves.
The second set of sessions included a Q and A session with Craig Russel, Patrick Linskey and Matthew Adams on JDO 2.0 of pre-submitted questions ranging from technical details of new features in the spec to the controversial JDO/EJB topic. Examining the Validity of IoC was the second session with Sony Mathew who delved into explaining how context IoC is a new approach that attempts to capture IoC as a pure design pattern to demonstrate that it is a powerful concept and break the view that it’s not a designer and developer friendly pattern.
Finally, in the third set, we see what seem to have been the more well attended set of BOFS. The Trails BOFS ended up getting restructured to include Tapestry in its timeslot since Trails is mostly made of Tapestry components. Spring was discussed in another BOFS with Rod Johnson and others who detailed the future of Springs to include a more terse XML format (from Spring.NET) and assurance that Spring is not a replacement for EJB, but affirms that Srping is here now and EJB implementation is years away. Lastly in the third slot was a session headed by Edward Burns on JavaServerFaces and why people do or don’t use it and what they can suggest for the future of JSF in version 2.0.
After the BOFS came to an end word was out that OpenSymphony was hosting an open bar at the Bellagio and with that the groups scattered once more lost in the crowds, lights and night life of Vegas.
Keynote Panel: Future of Enterprise Java
The Panel was composed of industry leaders, Mark Hapner (Sun Chief WS Strategist and former J2EE lead architect), Linda DeMichiel (EJB spec lead), Dion Almaer (TSS editor), Rod Johnson (founder of the Spring framework), Gregor Hohpe (Author of Enterprise Integration Patterns) and Cliff Schmidt (BEA's Open source strategist and lead on Apache Beehive).
Each panelist presented their views of where Java is going and key trends to follow, but when the microphone turned to the audience for questions, the a 30 minute debate about .NET ensued. An audience member made clear his concerns that .NET is becoming more evident in his company, asking from the panelists, what they can say that can make Java developers confident that they can remain confident about their beloved technology.
Mark Hapner pointed out that the community revolving around .NET is faced with a development language controlled by a major corporation, "Basically, Microsoft sucks the air out of .Net for everything that they classify as being of strong interest to themselves and there really is no place for other contributions," he said. D evelopers are forced to build on top of Microsoft’s economic model, which Microsoft can change whenever they want. The strength of the Java community is the support and collaborative efforts that exists between the organizations, open source communities and individuals alike.
Another discussion spurring audience question was one based on how Java could coax .NET developers to their side and how to simplify Java. Although the question seemed to ask two separate question with two separate answers, the panelists brought the two together, suggesting that by simplifying Java, that will be the main draw for the .NET crowd to switch sides.
There was discussion between Hapner and Schmidt about how current Java technologies like JavaServerFaces and Hibernate are making it easier for developers to develop applications by providing reusable user interfaces and frameworks that may become, according to Cliff Schmidt, more appealing to Microsoft developers by simplifying the programming language.
As for the future of Java on its own front, panelists agreed that asynchronous messaging will become more important going forward because, as Gregor Hohpe suggests, people are beginning to realize that there isn’t just one single programming model. Further simplification of J2EE was also indicated by Linda DeMichiel. Furthermore, Cliff Scmidt made mention that he expected open source to become a bigger player in the corporate sphere, a belief echoed from Rod Johnson’s Keynote a day earlier.
Rod Johnson gave his opinion that the industry is past the innovation phase and at the execution phase. Years spent on disputes have held back the development of Java as the dominant language it could have been.
Johnson went on and stirred some more interesting, yet short lived, debates when he claimed that persistence should be stripped from the spec as they’ve already did their damage, and that entity beans should never even have become part of the spec in the first place. There was no real closure to this debate, Linda diplomatically settled the debate for the time being by saying, “Let’s not bring up the persistence wars.” Perhaps, it’s never to late to fix a bad thing, was left as nothing more then a hope moving forward. Despite this temporary truce, an audience member brought up the JDO hot iron during the very last question, asking why did we bother re-inventing persistence in EJB, delaying the community by another 2 years when we already had JDO there and ready to go. "JDO was based on some fundamentally different principles" said Linda, indicating that adopting JDO was definitely considered, but that it was rejected after determining that the differences were not reconcilable. Two other panelists brought up opposition to the way the whole JDO vs. EJB issue was handled.
Another attendee seemed quite angry about the plans that JSF was going to be standardized in J2EE 1.6, calling JSF 'vendor driven' and suggesting that standardizing it will hurt the thriving community of open source web frameworks.
See also infoworld's coverage.
The last day of breakouts was upon us all. It was pretty obvious on the faces of many that Friday night in Vegas was not a quiet one... again. Still diligently focused on taking in all the knowledge they could though, the crowd populated the Palaces once again after the Java Keynote Panel discussion came to an end. The last day was still a full day of presentations lasting until 5:15pm at which point while the tech teams started packing up, members of the community still hung around to hear and give their final thoughts to those willing to ask the questions or listen. You can read about some detailed sessions of the day by going to this page: Saturday, March 5th .
TheServerSide Java Symposium turned out to be a hit, so much so that on the final day, the conference organizers got a bit cocky and allowed the audience to use the real time polling system to vote for what they thought about the conference. Whereas most shows developers go to leave them with a 'so so' impression, at TSSJS, 85.9% responded positively with 20.8% saying it was awesome, 47.7% saying it was great, 17.4% saying it was good, and the remaining 14% ranging from it's ok to it sucks.
The event also met the goal Floyd Marinescu had declared on day one, of being a 'contribution to the community'. The EJB Expert group mentioned that the feedback they recieved was going to cause changes in the spec. Rod Johnson called the event the best java conference had ever been to, and many open source groups, including the Spring WebFlow team will be changing their future release features based on the discussions they had at the conference. But more importantly than anything else, the attendees had invaluable discussions both inside and outside the presentations--one attendee stating that “it seemed more encouraging to approach the known and not-so-known faces then other conferences due to the natural brotherhood between members of this community”. Others pointed out the networking opportunities that would not have been possible with the same ease. TheServerSide was very pleased with the turn out and the success of the show and looks forward to making TSSJS 2006 even better!
Speaking of which, the 2006 show will be held on Thursday, April 26th to Saturday, April 28th. Save the date!
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