Abandon Java? Community says it ain't going to happen

Security flaws and delays in the next version paint a picture of decline that supporters say isn't true

It seems like nary a day goes by lately where we don't hear of some adversity affecting Java, the venerated enterprise software platform that has been around since 1995. Just recently:

So are Java's best days behind it? Should businesses be looking to retire their Java applications and move to something else, such as Microsoft's .Net platform? Is Java's future to be just another exhibit in Silicon Valley's Computer History Museum?

The reality is that Java is not going away anytime soon. According to Oracle's official Java.com website, there are 1.1 billion desktops running Java, 930 million Java Runtime Environment downloads each year, and 3 billion smartphones running Java. As if this were not enough, Java also powers set-top boxes, printers, Web cameras, games, and other devices. The monthly Tiobe Programming Community Index, which tracks the popularity of programming languages, has Java ranked second, behind C (although Java did recently slip from the top position in that index). Meanwhile, Java continues to be improved, and Oracle has published a road map for Java's development, although it has had to revise that plan a bit.

Oracle declined to comment about Java's travails, but members of the Java ecosystem stand by Java's vitality despite its setbacks.

Says Java creator James Gosling: "The slip in project Jigsaw was unfortunate, but not important for most people. Java works great in the cloud, is used widely in clouds, and there are lots of cloud facilities in Glassfish. Java EE has always been a food fight that takes a lot of community discussion to settle down. Taking time is not at all a surprise. With the security issue, it's hard to get a clear picture. This is the toughest security issue that Oracle has faced as the new stewards of Java, and it's clearly been a learning experience for them. There also seems to be a touch of exaggeration on the part of the security community. No big Java users are going to walk away based on any of these -- especially the security issue, as it has nothing to do with Java in data centers and applies only to desktops. Java has had a far better security history than the other platforms; it's still the safest place to be."

"I believe [the recent problems] are normal platform issues for almost any environment. I think the cross-platform nature of Java can require additional testing and development time for security issues affecting the JVM," says Andrew Chandler, president of the Tulsa Java Developers group. Chandler also praised Oracle's intentions to add modularity and cloud computing support to Java, but said they are not necessities.

Even if companies wanted to abandon Java, a simple reality would end such talk if it ever turned serious: "The costs of fixing Java are much lower than the cost of moving to alternatives," says Brian Maccaba, CEO of Waratek, which offers the Warratek Cloud VM for Java. Oracle may have stalled a bit on cloud capabilities for Java, but others like Waratek are moving in that direction.

There are a lot of issues to deal with in developing multitenancy and elasticity for cloud computing, says Todd Williams, vice president of technology at Genuitec and a Java developer himself. "Honestly, I would rather see them get the spec right than get the spec earlier." As far as Java suffering from security issues with unpatched vulnerabilities, Williams notes that a popular platform like Java is going to face some malicious code. "This is the first time I think we've ever seen a really serious exploit in Java."

It is likely that any reports of Java's imminent death are premature -- perhaps dramatically so. "From my experience, Java seems to be picking up again," Chandler says. "As head of the Tulsa Java Developers group, I'm contacted constantly by recruiters looking to deal with a much higher demand locally than we've seen for several years."

Forget abandonment -- the Java community appears to be growing, so look for this month's JavaOne conference to be its usual highlight of the year for Java devotees, not some sort of going-away party for the platform. Java isn't going anywhere.

This story, "Abandon Java? Community says it ain't going to happen," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.


Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.