The surprising Java support in Azure

Bringing Java code to Azure is a lot easier than you might think

Microsoft’s current developer strategy is perhaps best described as pragmatic: Meet developers where they are, not where Microsoft thinks they should be. Redmond has put aside old rivalries, open sourced its own tools and languages, shipped its own Linux kernels, and made Java a first-class citizen on Azure.

If you remember Microsoft’s acrimonious and litigious history in the late 1990s with Sun Microsystems over Java, support for Java on Azure might be surprising. But we’re living in different times, when the big public clouds aim to be home for all your code. With Amazon Web Services a clear market leader and strong competition from Google Cloud Platform, and with both treating Java as a primary development language, Azure had to give developers the same level of Java support.

Java in Visual Studio Code

At the heart of Microsoft’s strategy are its developer tools, more specifically its open source Visual Studio Code. Its extension model makes it ideal to support any language, with dictionary support for code completion and tools to integrate with build environments and support services. That extensibility framework has rapidly made it one of the more popular editors, as you can pick and choose extensions and customizations that fit it into your personal workflow.

That openness has meant support for languages that aren’t traditionally part of Microsoft’s core competency: languages such as Rust, Go, and Java. Searching for Java in the Extensions Marketplace reveals hundreds of Java tools you can use, from debuggers and language support, to test tools and integrations with popular build environments such as Maven. Microsoft bundles a selection of tools in a Java Extension pack to help you get started, but choosing and configuring extensions and themes can eat into time better spent writing code.

It’s good to see Microsoft launching a specific Visual Studio Code edition for Java developers. Building on its relationship with the OpenJDK project, and using the AdoptOpenJDK prebuilt binaries, it’s intended to be a one-stop installer for Java tools. If you don’t have Visual Studio Code installed, it’ll install a version and add Java tools as part of the install. If you’re already using it, then the installer will add the Java tools to your existing development environment. If you don’t have a JDK it’ll install the current release of OpenJDK before configuring the Java extension pack. Once it’s set up you can start building and debugging your Java apps.

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