Just got back from Vegas where between Wednesday and Friday a small-ish java conference was taking place. This was my second one, the first being five years ago in 2004.
Of course it's hard not to compare, and I find myself doing it anyway... I can't help but feel that the excitement has left java server software. Remembering one of the very first java conferences in Sydney 1995, when it was still almost academic and less of an industry conference, I feel like we've come to an end of an era.
The tedious reality of maintaining enormous enterprise systems built over the the last decade has sinked in, and unfortunately there is nothing exciting about it, but everything difficult and complex. Those less fortune whose systems took advantage of EJB1 and EJB2s will suffer the most, as those are dying technologies and are rapidly being replaced by simpler more component friendly software.
The first set of simplification came with frameworks over the last five years - Spring and Hibernate being the most notable. Now the simplifications are being pushed out across language boundaries, because of the need to stay competitive against exploding Ruby on Rails community, and even smaller but still disproportionally more productive frameworks like Django, when compared to java.
Several talks focused on jRuby, and I think this is where the future power lies. Combining the two platforms, Ruby on Rails for web development, and server side java for multi-threaded, asynchronous, transactional behavior seems like a fantastic opportunity.
However nobody is yet talking about how this all works together in production. What does it mean to run a multi-app server distributed java application, with a RoR application hosted inside JVM and interacting with the service layer? What if service layer mixes ActiveRecord and Hibernate? Questions like this, while entirely logical in early evaluations of emerging technologies, were simply beyond the depth of TSSJS09.
There were several exciting news for me personally, the first having to do with Flex and BlazeDS integration in Spring 3.0. Basically what this means is that it's now possible to build a typically modular and well understood server-side backend architecture in Spring, the client side in Flex, and have them directly converse over binary AMF protocol, which is highly compressed and optimized to send data back and force. I believe the entire stack is free, except Flex Builder Eclipse-based tool that's not free. My exposure to Flex is minimal, but I love the ability to build beautiful application UIs that run consistently within the browser, and expose your backend in a way of clearly defined REST/XML api. And the load time in demos appeared significantly faster compared to java RMI applications I've had experience working with.
I'll add part II in a couple of days.