Java in the cloud: Google, Aptana, and Stax

Google App Engine, Aptana Cloud, and Stax for EC2 make it easy to spin up and scale a simple Java Servlet Container, but are still a far cry from the full Java EE

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These vendors' approaches are bound to evolve in the future as the companies try to figure out the right price and the real cost of offering these services. It may turn out, for instance, that the clouds need so many extra servers at the peak times that they need to charge enough to cover their costs during the down time. Or maybe there will be enough users at different times to spread out the demand. While I think Aptana's prices are pretty much similar to the standard prices for VPS on shared servers, Google's choices are less solid because they depend upon predictions of what people will do.

No one is certain how this model will evolve, but the future of cloud systems like these depends heavily on the decisions that everyone makes. A company with its own dedicated servers in its own datacenter can be a lone wolf, but anyone who chooses a cloud must adapt to working together. Although all of these systems erect firewalls that separate the applications from one another, there will be secondary effects. If you end up on a cluster with a company that buys a Super Bowl ad, everyone in the neighborhood is affected for a few minutes. If demand for a certain service isn't high enough to pay the rent, the host is going to need to boost rates.

These are just some of the questions that emerge as the words "Java" and "cloud" are brought together. While the new offerings are ostensibly built for Java, they open the door to many other languages because some of the more popular ones today run on top of Java. Some Ruby programmers, for instance, switch over to JRuby when they feel that Java's threading model offers better support. Jython is another favorite way to run Python with all of the robustness that can be borrowed from the JVM.

Java itself is evolving into something more than just a heavily typed, punctuation-happy language. Groovy looks and behaves more like a scripting language, but links together standard Java code and runs in the JVM. While Groovy applications will run in generic Java EE containers, Google explicitly offers support for the scripting language. The word "Java" may be the biggest part of these cloud offerings, but it opens the door to much more.

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