IBM Outlines Prospects for Java in 2018

NEWS ANALYSIS: Born back in 1995, Java remains one of the most popular programming languages in use, particularly for client-server web applications, with an estimated 9 million developers. Its beauty is that it’s an evolving technology.

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There may be no more pervasive computer code anywhere in the world than Java, created by Dr. James Gosling and his team at Sun Microsystems in the early 1990s and released in 1995 as a core component of Sun’s Java Platform. And there are good reasons for this.

For the record: Java is a general-purpose computer programming language that is concurrent, class-based, object-oriented and specifically designed to have as few implementation dependencies as possible. This is why it has not been passed by despite so many advancements in IT during the 23 years it has been a major factor in the IT world.

It’s everywhere--in virtually every mobile device, server, IT system and network. Java applications are typically compiled to bytecode that can run on any Java virtual machine (JVM) regardless of computer architecture.

Oracle, which acquired Sun in 2010, is the ostensible home base for most Java development, but the language really belongs to its own community.

Handheld Devices, PCs and 'Big Hunk' Servers All Look the Same in Java

A good way to describe Java comes from Dr. Gosling himself: “You line up a small mobile device (like a smartphone), a desktop computer, and a “big hunk” server … and they all look the same in Java,” he told me.

Bingo. Now you have a better picture of what Java does; it enables all these things to talk to each other, despite type of device, network, telecommunications provider, application or application programming interface (API). It just works with everything.

Java was released to the open source community in November 2006, and the transformation was covered closely by eWEEK. Personally, Java means a great deal to me as a journalist, because in 1995 I became editor of a Sun Microsystems new product-news publication called Sun’s Hottest, which was published in 17 languages and sent to partners, customers and resellers globally. In one of those issues, we ran a story about inviting developers to participate in something called a Java applet contest. Naturally, we explained the basics of Java itself.

It was one of the first public mentions about the Java language; its development since that long-ago time has been a thing of wonder. Unsurprisingly, Dr. Gosling, now a distinguished scientist at Amazon, has become a folk hero to millions of developers.

Still Among the Most Popular Languages in the World

As of 2018, Java remains one of the most popular programming languages in use, particularly for client-server web applications, with an estimated9 million developers. The language derives much of its syntax from C and C++, but it has fewer low-level facilities than either of them.

Yet the language continues to evolve as new use cases come into the markets. One Java expert recently said that Java probably changed more in a matter of weeks last year than it had in the previous 13 years.

So what’s ahead in 2018? A new, six-month release cycle, for one item. How will the Java community deal with incremental changes? How will Java evolve to meet the new needs of organizations large and small?

John Duimovich, IBM Distinguished Engineer and Java CTO with more than 20 years of experience working with the language, offered eWEEK his predictions for what to watch in the world of Java in 2018.

2018 will be the year of Eclipse: “With key projects like EE4J and MicroProfile now under its stewardship, the Eclipse Foundation will become even more important in 2018. Look for accelerated innovation as the open community becomes more involved in these and other Java-related projects. Developers will want to keep an eye on the Eclipse Foundation next year.”

Convergence with containers will accelerate: “As part of the broader effort to simplify development and management, containers and runtimes like Java will become more tightly coupled. They’ll be optimized together to enable seamless management and configuration of Java applications. Consistent memory management and easier wiring between Java constructs and containers will take hold so developers can leverage the benefits of containers and Java runtimes, which are essentially they’re another form of containers.”

Kotlin will become the next hot language: “Kotlin is poised to become a major force in the programming world. Kotlin’s concise coding syntax and interoperability with Java have already made it popular for many developers. Now, it has first-class support on Android, which is bound to boost its use for mobile. Look for it to gain even more ground in 2018.”

New release model will drive faster innovation: “Developers rejoice! The new six-month release interval for Java will mean more frequent changes and faster introduction of features. Look for enterprising Java shops to take advantage of these features and use Java to solve new problems and enter new areas. Large organizations will likely wait for the support of the long-term releases, but they’ll now have a clearer roadmap. Community support also has the potential to rally around popular changes in interim releases.”

Serverless will begin a major reshaping of Java: “Demand is growing for serverless platforms--initially driven as a consumption model but now expanding from simple, event programming models to composite flow-based systems. This innovation will continue as cloud developers want to shift their focus on the application, and not worry about servers. This means Java runtimes will need to be optimized and re-architected for a serverless world where fast start-ups and smaller footprints matter even more.”

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he...