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On Gosling and Java

by Yefim Natis  |  April 29, 2010  |  4 Comments

It has become publicly known recently that the creator of the Java programming language (and a near-cult figure with some), James Gosling, has resigned from Oracle.  This seems to suggest his displeasure with the Oracle’s road map for Java (although he makes no statement to this effect).  However beyond the emotional side of things, the real impact of Gosling’s resignation is minimal in my opinion, especially in the shadow of the impact on java from its acquisition by Oracle.  Here are some points to illustrate what I mean:

  • Oracle strategically depends on Java.  Their middleware and new applications are all 100% Java.
  • In mainstream enterprise computing Java is the new COBOL with the only trailing alternative – C#.  It’s not being replaced.
  • IBM also strategically depends on Java (though not as much as Oracle) and IBM has custom favorable terms in its license for Java, so Oracle has a limited sway over IBM’s use of Java
  • Gosling leaving Oracle is 100% predictable and in fact you may wonder what took him so long
  • Gosling’s displeasure only has a symbolic meaning – he does not change or decide anything.  Although he can influence some developers’ attitudes — he has minimal influence, if any, on enterprise IT policies
  • Oracle asserted its ownership of Java twice: once by Larry Ellison declaring at the Sun Acquisition Q&A something to the effect of  “We have Java and IBM does not have Java” (not an exact quote) and the second time by co-locating Java ONE and Oracle World
  • IBM was unhappy with Sun leadership of JCP and they are going to be even more unhappy with Oracle’s.  I would not be surprised if IBM never certified for Java EE 6 and beyond, just to avoid giving Oracle’s JCP any credibility
  • Java may lose some portability not by IBM forking it, but by IBM not adopting any new stuff that Oracle is going to bring to Java CE/ME/EE.   Whatever Java IBM offers now may be the end of the line for standard Java from IBM. I guess, you might call it forking, but they will continue to call it Java and Java EE, except all new development will be IBM layers over the 2009 state of Java standards.  To fight that Oracle might rename the Java EE standard again, so IBM cannot claim compliance without adopting new specs.  We will see.
  • Red Hat will just watch the two fight it out.  They are good at it.
  • The winner in this battle may be Spring – an enterprise-worthy framework that is not owned or controlled by either IBM or Oracle.

Bottom Line:

Gosling’s departure in my opinion does not add or subtract from the enterprise prospects of Java because of the massive investments made by IT organizations and leading vendors in Java and because there is no new viable alternative.  But the unique good times of cross-platform portability brought about by “vendors against Microsoft” are coming to the end (regardless of Gosling).  C++ programs have never been portable from one ORB to another and Java programs will no longer be portable from one app server to another in 3-5 years.

Gartner has a series of research notes published in the aftermath of the Oracle acquisition of Sun.  My colleague and friend Massimo Pezzini is the lead on many of them. Hope all of you can get to them to see the considered Gartner position on this topic.  This, above, is just one man’s opinion.

What do you think?  Let me know.

——————————– the hobby basement ————————————-

Cannes, France.

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Yefim V. Natis
VP Distinguished Analyst
17 years at Gartner
33 years IT industry

Yefim Natis is a vice president and Gartner distinguished analyst in Gartner Research. Mr. Natis' research focuses on enterprise software infrastructure, including technologies such as application servers, cloud application platforms… Read Full Bio

Thoughts on On Gosling and Java

  1. […] artykuł: On Gosling and Java creator, displeasure, for, has-resigned, james, james-gosling, near-cult-figure, oracle, […]

  2. Good post. In the long run, we might see a pattern where the transactional back end (closer to the data and more “static”) remains in Java and expose a set of service interface allowing the UI to move to a more agile environment. Using a SOA to break up the infrastructure will not only help on the rationalization/re-use side but it will also reduce the over all complexity (J2EE today tries to do everything – which has a cost) and put in place the separation necessary for either the UI or the services to move to the cloud(s) – and enable mashups across multiple back ends. Summary: Java might have reached the point where it evolution is not able doing more but doing less but interoperating better with a new presentation layer using SOA concept.

  3. Yefim Natis says:

    Thanks, Edwin.

    I agree with you entirely. Homogeneous architectures can not keep up and hold back the projects that are committed to them A modern application is always assembled of components of a different nature. Rather than consider heterogeneity a correctable error — embrace it. SOA is the foundation for the heterogeneous integrated enterprise. And yes, Java is the right answer in some scenarios, but not in all scenarios. Projects that know how to integrate unlike components get to use the right tools for the right jobs.

  4. Hello Yefim, I fully agree: his departure is purely symbolic.

    As for Java and IBM, if the JVM itself evolves, I think IBM will have to evolve as well. The traction new features will get will not depend on IBM, but on the developer community. That will be – again – a viral bottom-up approach. And while Java as a language might not be the most appealing toy in town those days, who cares 🙂 the JVM has gotten very strong and incredibly fast and the JVM remains a hosting environment of choice for 3rd party languages.

    Things might end up being different for Java EE – that is an unknown – but EE6 just got released, so that buys the market some time.

    As for ORCL’s JCP, I am anxiously waiting to see what they come up with. When sitting on the JCP EC, ORCL was making pretty good proposals on what the next.gen JCP should be. So let’s see if that was just for the show…



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