VMware's master plan for portable Java in the cloud

Through partnerships with Google, Salesforce.com, and others, the virtualization vendor is working to enable the cloud portability that customers crave

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Frameworks are the key. None of these services supports Java EE, which is considered too resource-intensive for cloud environments. But they do offer the comparable yet considerably more lightweight Spring framework developed by SpringSource, a VMware subsidiary. Google adds the Google Web Toolkit to the mix, which compiles client-side Java code into efficient, cross-browser compatible JavaScript. By making these powerful tools available on a variety of cloud platforms, VMware is creating a kind of "middleware for the cloud" that abstracts the raw cloud services, allowing developers to write cloud-based apps that are truly portable.

Oracle: Friend or foe?
You might think portability would be a bad thing for Google. Allowing customers to switch cloud service providers on a whim sounds like a recipe for a price war. But cloud computing is in its infancy, and many potential business customers still have doubts. A strategy based on vendor lock-in is likely to only scare them off. Google is betting that cloud vendors will be able to compete on the quality of their offerings. For example, Google's just-announced App Engine for Business offers a 99.9 percent uptime SLA (service-level agreement) -- without resorting to strong-arm tactics.

I can think of one big vendor that might not share Google and VMware's way of thinking, though. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has often derided the very concept of cloud computing, once telling The Wall Street Journal, "What is [cloud computing]? It's complete gibberish. It's insane."

Not, mind you, that he won't throw Oracle's weight behind cloud computing if the market demands it. "We'll make cloud computing announcements," Ellison said. "I'm not going to fight this thing. But I don't understand what we would do differently in the light of cloud."

In this case, "not doing anything differently" could mean Java EE. With its $8.5 billion acquisition of BEA Systems in 2008, Oracle became the leading supplier of Java EE tools. Ellison isn't likely to sit back and let an upstart like VMware's Spring framework outcompete Java EE for the cloud -- especially not now that Oracle is the undisputed heavyweight of the Java market. Still, Spring has already garnered a strong and loyal following. It will be interesting to see how this battle pans out.

Sun liked to say "the network is the computer." With the advent of cloud platforms, this has never been truer. What better language for the cloud, then, than Java? It's reliable, network-savvy, secure, and perhaps, with a little nudge from VMware and friends, it can actually be as portable as it always promised. Let's just hope this new VMware has the market muscle to pull it off.

This article, "VMware's master plan for portable Java in the cloud," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Neil McAllister's Fatal Exception blog and follow the latest news in software development at InfoWorld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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