The Race

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2006-08-28 Print this article Print

The Race Instead of fighting these languages, platform vendors such as Sun Microsystems and Microsoft are racing to be the one to best support them on their platform.
Sun is trying to provide support for dynamic languages on the JVM (Java virtual machine), and Microsoft is working to provide support for these languages on CLR.
Whoever gets there first and executes best likely will grab the mind share of developers looking for a more efficient way to work, observers say. What Sun and Microsoft can offer is a stable, secure platform for dynamic languages to run on and, eventually, supporting tools—such as those for testing, debugging and compiling. Although the vendors lack such tools now, they at least have some of the components in place. Those pieces would take a long time to develop in the open-source community, developers say. Sun is doing several things to better support dynamic languages, including baking support into the Java platform and making it easier for developers to write code in dynamic languages using the Santa Clara, Calif., companys NetBeans IDE in a project named Coyote. Graham Hamilton, a Sun vice president and fellow with the Sun platform team, said Sun is implementing Java­Script support in Java Standard Edition 6 and likely will feature even more support for dynamic languages in Java SE 7. "JavaScript is quite a nice language," Hamilton said. "Its actually one of the best-known languages out there. An awful lot of people know JavaScript, largely because it runs in the browsers." Meanwhile, Sun also is making changes to the JVM, so, in the future, it can bring over new languages, Hamilton said. Gilad Bracha, a computational theologist at Sun, said the company is broadening its support for dynamic languages not only to satisfy user demand but also to help broaden the overall community of developers who use the Java platform. Bracha noted that Sun currently offers support for some dynamic languages on the Java platform, including Jython, Kawa, Groovy and ECMA­Script. "Were solidly committed" to providing enhanced support for dynamic languages by adding a bytecode called invokedynamic and adding hot-swapping support, Bracha said. Hot swapping is the ability to modify code on the fly. Both efforts are part of Java Specification Request 292, the goal of which is to allow scripting languages to be implemented natively on the JVM, Bracha said. Moreover, Tim Bray, director of Web technologies at Sun, in a recent blog post praised Ruby, calling it, "irresistibly attractive" for programmers proficient in Perl and Java. Bruce Snyder, a Java developer who is a committer on various Apache projects in Boulder, Colo., said the ability to develop a robust application using a scripting language that runs on the Java platform means that "you get all the benefits of the Java platform as well as the ability to develop enterprise-scalable applications using a scripting language." In addition, not everyone needs a compiled language for all their projects, Snyder said. Some say Java will be better off with dynamic language support. Marc Fleury, founder of JBoss, now a division of Red Hat in Atlanta, said, "Scripting was always an important part of the programming landscape. ... Java has a serious case of Ruby envy, which will be resolved the moment Java adopts these dynamic features." Next Page: Microsofts move.

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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