Social Enterprise

Delivering software like iTunes delivers songs

Last Friday I got the chance to speak with Don Ferguson, IBM Fellow and SWG Chief Architect about the impending open sourcing of Java, Web 2.0, and what IBM are doing.

Last Friday I got the chance to speak with Don Ferguson, IBM Fellow and SWG Chief Architect. Two of the main topics we talked about was the impending open sourcing of Java and Web 2.0 and what IBM are doing.

"Delivering software like iTunes delivers songs"


The above is a quote on how Don sees the end result of Web 2.0. It's refreshing to hear an architect talk about how things will actually work in the future instead of the incessant talk of venture capital, acquisitions by Google and Web sites with pastel colours, rounded edges and two-bit JavaScript tricks.

Ferguson asserted that Web 2.0 "lowers the barriers to using Web services" and everyone who is under 25 and smart can code. He added that this will change the way we think about developing applications and the Internet.

Good call, a couple of years ago if you had told me that millions of people would be using a photograph service, a bookmarking service and creating horrible Web pages (myspace) I would told you that were cuckoo, except maybe for that last one - before people had a MySpace Account or Blog users had their own Homepage — using the likes of Geocities. But if you look at Flickr, MySpace, delicious etc as a Web service rather than a Web 2.0 site you can see that this was the Web service revolution we were promised way back, it's just in a different guise.

With so many more developers, the programming models would change to be an "additive" model where a piece of software is received, added to by the customer/user and sent out again. Ferguson stated that this would lead to people creating code, and having the network run it and change it.

With so many new pieces of software, the key elements of Web 2.0 - blogs, wikis and social bookmarking sites would be used to "separate the wheat from the chaff", Ferguson said.

In the future a customer should be able to select which software they wanted and have it all work together easily, he added.

Definitely an admirable goal to work towards. In fact, it is one Netscape founder, Marc Anderson, is currently pursuing with his social networking application site called Ning.com.

Open Source Java


The other part of our conversation dealt with the open sourcing of Java, clearly this will have big consequences on a Java player as large as IBM who arguably have more commercial interest in Java than Sun Microsystems do.

Ferguson said the move towards open source will have "unintended consequences" which he said he wasn't sure which direction the language might take. He stated that open sourcing would lead to new ways and places to work with the JVM. It would be embedded in new places and people would find new ways to work with it.

Of the consequences that could be intended and foreseen, Don stated that the Java language did not evolve as quick as it should have and failed to keep pace with other languages, but that open sourcing it "will cause innovation in Java".

Ferguson seemed to be less concerned of Java fragmenting — a stated pain point for Sun not open sourcing Java in the past. He said fragmenting was unlikely as previous to open sourcing, the old IBM JVM had to remain "bug compatible" with the Sun JVM or code wouldn't be portable. He foresaw that the open implementation would become the reference model and that other JVM would have to remain compatible with it.

Clearly Don sees the move by Sun as an invigorating one for Java that should help the language move beyond the current situation it is in, where it is regarded as ageing and last week's language.

About Chris Duckett

Some would say that it is a long way from software engineering to journalism, others would correctly argue that it is a mere 10 metres according to the floor plan.During his first five years with CBS Interactive, Chris started his journalistic advent...

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