Year in Review: Java development in 2009

New directions for the Java platform

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We'll see a lot of jostling for cloud market- and mindshare throughout 2009. Java developers will likely continue to work primarily with tools and applications that take advantage of Amazon's Web services (particularly EC2) infrastructure, however.


Heavyweight app servers vs. lightweight deployment

It makes sense for enterprise shops embracing the pay-as-you-go model of cloud computing to also move toward lightweight, take-what-you-need application deployment platforms. Applications built using Rails, Grails, Django, or Spring can be deployed onto heavyweight app servers like Oracle WebLogic or IBM WebSphere, but unlike Java EE apps, they don't have to be. Hibernate has compounded this trend in its emergence as the ORM tool of choice: EJBs can't run in Tomcat, but that's no obstacle to shops using Hibernate, which doesn't require an application server.

OSGi in the middle

While the controversy around OSGi appears to be on the wane, we're just beginning to see the kinds of deployment solutions that will emerge with OSGi's plug-and-play architectural style at center. SpringSource dm Server is an explicitly modular, lightweight, OSGi-based application server that will compete head-to-head with more heavyweight alternatives such as JBoss AS, Oracle WebLogic, and IBM WebSphere -- all of which also support OSGi.

We'll see more interest in lightweight deployment alternatives, and more concrete server and platform solutions, in 2009. Open source, lightweight containers like Tomcat and Jetty will continue to be immensely popular, and SpringSource dm Server, released in late 2008, will also make plenty of waves. The confluence of economic hard times, rising interest in cloud computing infrastructures, and real alternatives for lightweight application deployment will be one of the driving forces for innovation in the year ahead -- definitely something to look forward to.

Here's to a banner year!

The coming year will be interesting indeed, defined by Sun's renewed commitment to software, greater mainstream adoption of alternate languages (and killer apps) for the JVM, and a surge of interest in pluggable, lightweight cloud computing infrastructures. As companies large and small feel the economic squeeze, we can anticipate fewer dollars being spent on commercial software and related hardware infrastructure, and more interest in innovative open source solutions. It could be a banner year, especially, for lightweight, open source Web deployment alternatives.

On the alternate language front, we'll probably be hearing a lot more about Groovy and Grails (now backed by SpringSource), and JRuby will continue to shine for Java developers seeking a Rails-ready alternative. Newer functional and concurrent programming languages like Scala, Clojure, and Erlang will continue to pique our interest, but are unlikely to see widespread adoption until concurrency moves to center stage (or code red), which has not yet happened.

Perhaps one of the most intriguing players this year will be Sun Microsystems, as it seeks to reinvent itself as a software-focused company with strong claims in both RIA and cloud computing. Sun faces tough, entrenched competition in both of these arenas and only time will tell whether it prevails. In the meantime, the Java language and platform will continue to evolve, with that growth largely spearheaded and supported by open source projects spanning a wide range of interests.

So there you have it, a passel of predictions, my best guesses for 2009. Be sure to let me know what you think in the comments section below -- especially if you have your own predictions for the coming year. One thing we do know for sure is that time tells all. And, of course, 2009 will bring a few surprises, just as every year does. Anything else would be ... well, surprising.


I'd like to thank the following soothsayers whose willingness to prognosticate helped shape this article: Ted Tanaka, David Bock, Jared Richardson, John Brothers, Guillaume Laforge, Patrick Lightbody, Andres Almiray, David Hodge, Jason Huggins, Eric Lefevre, and JavaWorld editors Athen O'Shea and Eileen Cohen. Thank you all for your time!

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