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Keeping Java relevant in the age of cloud and agile

Java Community Process chair Heather VanCura talks up efforts to keep Java up to speed with the needs of developers in the era of cloud and agile software development

Following Oracle’s move to contribute the Java Enterprise Edition (Java EE) standard to the Eclipse Foundation, the Java Community Process (JCP) will focus its efforts on developing the Java Standard Edition (Java SE), according to JCP chair Heather VanCura.

Speaking to Computer Weekly on the sidelines of the Voxxed Days developer conference in Singapore, VanCura revealed that the JCP will continue to develop the OpenJDK implementation of Java SE as an open source platform.

And as OpenJDK projects mature, they will be rolled into Java Specification Requests (JSRs) for approval by the community and executive committee, after which new versions of the platform will be released every six months.

VanCura said Java 13, the latest version of the Java SE platform, is slated to be released in September 2019. “We will continue to focus on the Java SE platform as well as any standalone optional projects to make it an ideal environment for the cloud,” she added.

Examples of standalone Java SE packages include application programming interfaces (APIs) for currencies, units of measurements, desktop embedded applications and visual recognition using machine learning.

Responding to concerns that Java has been slow to keep up with technology developments and competing platforms, VanCura said the faster release cadence already reflects the current pace of software development.

“Since Java 9 was released in 2017, we have introduced Project Jigsaw and modularity in the Java platform, enabling us to move to a faster release cadence and keep up to speed with modern software development,” she said.

That means that rather than waiting four years before a major release, which Java developers have been accustomed to, new software features are being rolled into the main release as they become ready, said VanCura.

“Rather than do a major development project to migrate between one feature release to another with 100-plus new features, you’re integrating maybe 10 new features more frequently,” she added.

“That speeds up innovation and ensures Java attracts younger developers who may have the perception that Java was for an older generation of developers.”

From a technology perspective, VanCura said there are a number of projects in the pipeline to keep Java relevant to enterprises that are moving away from monolithic Java applications towards containers and microservices.

These include Project Portola, an effort to enable developers to build lightweight containers running Java applications; Project Valhalla, which introduces value types to reduce memory usage; and Project Panama, which connects Java with native software libraries, including those used by machine learning applications.

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To keep Java on the minds of developers and users, VanCura engages with Java user groups, companies and universities to gather feedback and learn more about how different people are using the Java platform.

“I’ve done some talks at universities to bring them up to date with the technology and certifications,” she said. “It’s an important role for me, as the interface for the community, to bring in external feedback from people around the world so that we continue to meet their needs.

“That is also why I think Java continues to be popular as it doesn’t come from one organisation – there are different mechanisms to collect feedback from developers and corporations.”

In 2017, Oracle made a move to transfer stewardship of Java EE to the Eclipse Foundation, which renamed the platform Jakarta EE under the Eclipse Enterprise for Java (EE4J) project.

After months of negotiations, the two parties reportedly could not agree on the terms for Eclipse to modify the namespace of the javax extensions package or to use Java trademarks currently used in Java EE specifications.

Although VanCura was not involved in the discussions, she said there are still opportunities for developers to adopt Java EE 8 that was developed through the JCP. Java EE 8 is being used by Eclipse as the baseline for creating new standards, starting with Jakarta EE 8.

“Vendors are still certifying their implementations of Java EE 8, so it’s still early days, but moving forward, I won’t be too involved beyond Java EE 8,” she added. “My focus will be on the Java SE platform.”

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