Why a cloud-friendly Java could finally be possible with Jakarta EE

Under the auspices of the Eclipse Foundation, Java developers are demanding more cloud, and are likely to get their wish.

Over the past two decades, Java has arguably been the most successful programming language on the planet. Go is cool, Swift is nifty, but old-school Java keeps reinventing itself to power both yesterday's and tomorrow's applications.

Depending on how you count, some 14 million Java programmers code today, with many of them paid well to maintain massive enterprise applications (an estimated 80% of enterprise workloads run on Java). Redmonk, in its latest Q1 2018 survey, says Java is the second-most popular language after JavaScript among developers.

Not that Java lacks challenges. For example, Java is perhaps the most divisive technology in the industry—a morass of competing vendors with a constipated governance model that excludes much more than it includes. In this way, Java has left obvious gaps and frustration for developers who need a bridge to a cloud-native future.

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To ease that frustration, Tuesday the Eclipse Foundation unveiled new directions for Java EE under the recently-named-by-community-vote Jakarta EE Working Group, the successor to Java EE (which remains licensed by Oracle and maintained under the JCP).

Java, cloud-friendly? It just might happen.

An open Java

The one thing everyone agrees about Java is that it's imperfect. And yet there's hope. No longer your grandparent's Cobol, what if a vibrant community embraced Jakarta EE and pushed it much faster than any Java EE before? Under the Eclipse Foundation's guidance, we may finally get the power of open source collaboration to build on the best of Java's two decades of work. Through this new Jakarta EE Working Group process, we should see big Java EE vendors like IBM, Red Hat, and Oracle working within the open processes of the Eclipse Foundation with smaller vendors like Tomitribe and Payara.

In this world, there's no single vendor to impose its will on Java. Instead, we may finally get a true code meritocracy where Java communities and individuals function as peers. Instead of a divisive force, Jakarta EE could become a catalyst to join disparate Java communities behind a shared goal. In this case, my bet is on a race to some version of cloud-native implementation for Jakarata EE.

You can read all the details on the new Eclipse Foundation governance model online but for me, it's much more interesting to see where the community wants to go. To the credit of the Eclipse Foundation, they surveyed more than 1,800 Java developers worldwide to take the pulse of the Java community. Under Oracle's (or Sun's) control, this sort of community outreach simply didn't happen (though, to its credit, Oracle made the decision to move Java to the Eclipse Foundation's stewardship).

Java's cloudy future

In the survey, the Eclipse Foundation learned that the three most critical areas that developers want Jakarta EE to prioritize are:

  1. Better support for microservices (60%)
  2. Native integration with Kubernetes (57%)
  3. Faster pace of innovation (47%)

SEE: How to build a successful developer career (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Almost half (45%) of the Java developers surveyed are already building microservices, with more (21%) planning to do so within the next 12 months. Add to this the fact that half of these developers currently only run a fifth of their Java applications in the cloud but 30% say they'll run 60% or more of their applications in the cloud, and it's clear how much pent-up demand there is for a more cloud-friendly Java. To get there, roughly a third of the developers surveyed have embraced Kubernetes. This is a cloud-savvy crowd that needs their preferred programming model to keep pace with their ambitions.

None of this was a surprise, of course. Java developers aren't living in a cloud-free world. Developers want a framework of tools that helps them be more successful using the Java skills they already have to build next-generation, cloud native applications. With the new Jakarta EE, they just might get their wish.

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About Matt Asay

Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.

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