Enterprise Software

JavaOne 2004: SOA what?

Builder.com contributor Harshad Oak was at the recent 2004 JavaOne Conference. He shares his impressions about the hottest topics, as well as a few overhyped and underhyped ones.

At the recent 2004 JavaOne Conference, I got to check out what's new in Java-land and ran into some well-known names in the Java world. Technical sessions, hands-on labs, general sessions, birds-of-a-feather sessions, and more kept the attendees busy all day. With Moscone Center in San Francisco being the large place that it is, I lost a few pounds trying to get to sessions while carrying my painfully heavy laptop with me all the time.

All the big guys were there. Sun, Oracle, BEA, Borland, and IBM all seemed to have something to be excited about. The three things that I think were the highlights of JavaOne were IDEs, JSF, and SOA.

IDE (integrated development environment)

Developers who still believe in using Notepad, vi, Editplus or any such text editor are being enticed to switch to full-blown development environments. There were innumerable tools and IDEs on display that all promised enterprise J2EE development in just a few clicks.

Most keynote speakers dedicated a lot of time to talking about and demonstrating the features of the latest IDE that their company was offering. Sun was excited about the new Java Studio Creator; Oracle had JDeveloper 10g; and BEA had WebLogic Workshop.

The open source NetBeans and Eclipse IDEs also had a presence; however, I don't recall seeing any big promotional campaign for them. Eclipse seems to be growing rapidly, and there was a lot of interest in various Eclipse-related topics.

I think some developers waste a lot of time doing mundane things that IDEs could easily do for them. So the wider acceptance of IDEs is good news to me.

JSF (JavaServer Faces)

It completely beats me as to where this sudden interest in JavaServer Faces (JSF) comes from. I wonder if it was just herd mentality taking over, or whether so many people actually were aware and interested in JSF.

JSF is a promising technology and has a good chance of being successful. However, it definitely isn't ready for prime time yet. The Struts framework, I think, is still the best bet. But it would make sense for J2EE developers to gradually start learning and building some expertise in JSF.

SOA (service-oriented architecture)

When I first heard about service-oriented architecture (SOA) at JavaOne '04, I thought, "Okay, I've heard of this a couple of years back with reference to the find-bind-publish Web services approach. So, is this a rebirth?" Check out this article for what SOA meant in 2001. I soon realized that SOA at JavaOne '04 was something new. All the keynotes talked of SOA, while people like me in the audience struggled to make sense of it.

Services no longer mean Web services. It now is a business service that can have anything underneath. While Oracle's SOA demo relied on its own application development framework (ADF), BEA's relied on Beehive, which has only recently been open sourced.

While agreeing that the SOA stuff made for good demos, however, I couldn't see any SOA specification underneath, and I doubt if this new avatar of SOA will really catch on. If you own any of the SOA.com, .org, etc., domains, this might be the best time to sell those names to one of the big Java vendors. Strike while the iron's hot.

The rest of the show

Apart from the IDEs, JSF, and SOA that I think were the stars of JavaOne '04, EJB3 was another subject of widespread interest. The new EJB3 specification has some refreshing new changes and promises to get rid of a lot of the stuff that Java developers hate about EJB. I'm quite sure that the race between the application servers to claim EJB3 support will heat up soon.

I was hoping that there would be some talk about Geronimo, the Apache J2EE server, but there wasn't. Jakarta Commons is another project that I believe can be very useful to Java developers. However, there weren't any presentations about any of the Commons components either.

Overall, JavaOne 2004 was good fun. The optimism about Java's future and its growth into areas such as wireless applications, real-time systems, aviation software, etc., make Java-land an exciting place to be.

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