Virtual Certainties

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2005-07-25 Print this article Print

The Labs JavaOne tour of maturing innovation moved from the inside out, beginning with tools for the internal analysis of running code and then expanding our view to the vendor-neutral JBI infrastructure for managing the interaction of multiple classes. The final step of the journey made the transition from software to hardware: We found significant developments that strengthen the entire execution environment of an enterprise-class Java-based installation.

The first of these offerings was a robust implementation of the JavaSpaces technology originated by Sun in 1997.
JavaSpaces enables dynamic networked computing, making opportunistic use of available processor cycles while still preserving the manageability and reliability required for commercial IT operations. The second was a realization of the JVM (Java virtual machine) in a multiprocessor hardware environment, giving substantial performance and reliability benefits with remarkably little space or power consumption.

JavaSpaces is a simple concept for providing a distributed persistence and object exchange mechanism: Objects dont communicate directly with one another; rather, an object writes a message into a virtual space, "with the expectation that someone, somewhere, at some time will take the object," said Sun Java Technology Analyst Sang Shin in a March 2002 presentation. The result is decoupling in time and space. Properly implemented, the concept offers enterprise-class reliability, as GigaSpaces showed at JavaOne, where the company released Version 5.0 of its JavaSpaces-based Enterprise Application Grid.

GigaSpaces demonstrated Version 5.0 at JavaOne on a diverse collection of small machines—two Macintosh Minis and a Windows laptop, each running the lightweight GigaSpaces software agent. With GigaSpaces visual management tools, we were able to relocate processes from one machine to another or abruptly disconnect a machine from the network without disrupting work in progress.

It appeared to the Labs that, critically, an application stack will not need to be reworked to enjoy these benefits: "You can use any middleware API out there—you write the way you write. You write JDBC [Java Database Connectivity], you put in a GigaSpaces JDBC driver," said GigaSpaces CEO Yaron Benvenisti.

GigaSpaces was subsequently honored at a JavaOne general session with one of Suns annual Dukes Choice Awards (a "Dukie") for its contribution to enterprise application performance, scalability and reliability.

We ended our JavaOne tour by meeting with Azul Systems Inc., winner of an eWEEK Excellence Award earlier this year for its Azul Compute Appliance, a network-attached engine with as many as 384 processing cores running a fully managed Java-based utility computing environment.

The speed with which Azul has developed its product, since its founding in 2002, validates the notion of a collaborating Java community. "We only invent what we have to," said Azul Software Engineering Vice President Shyam Pillalamarri. "Everywhere, we leverage what we can."

That leverage, across the exhibit floor and at all levels of the IT stack, was clearly on display as Java turned 10.

Technology Editor Peter Coffee can be reached at Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis in programming environments and developer tools.

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developersÔÇÖ technical requirements on the companyÔÇÖs evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter companyÔÇÖs first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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