LAS VEGAS —A group of high-profile Java watchers discussed the future of the Java language and platform, including challenges Java faces on the Web tier, the impact of dynamic languages and the onslaught of open-source software, on March 25 at TheServerSide Java Symposium here.
The panel, which led off the last day of the conference, touched on many issues that Sun Microsystems and Java Creator James Gosling face on a daily basis of late. Just last week, Gosling posted a blog entry defending his position on dynamic or scripting languages.
And sure enough, the scripting issue became a key part of the panel discussion. The panel consisted of Ari Zilka, president and CEO of Terracotta; Bruce Snyder, a senior architect at LogicBlaze; Bruce Tate, an independent consultant from Austin, Texas; Cameron Purdy, president of Tangosol; Floyd Marinescu, founder of TheServerSide; and Rod Johnson, CEO of Interface21 and founder of the Spring framework.
"I think Java is in trouble on the low end because Java is not approachable anymore," said Tate, who noted he does work with the Ruby scripting language and the Ruby on Rails framework.
Tate said one of the places Java will see pressure from is "from the Ruby community. With Ruby you dont get quick and dirty, you get quick and clean. So you either see simplicity around Java or youll see scripting languages take over—theres a gaping hole."
Moreover, Tate said he believes that "Java is going to have a harder time growing the population of Java programmers."
Tate said he has been working not only with Ruby but with JRuby, a scripting language derived from Java.
"Different languages have different personalities," he said. "The personality on the Java side is brilliant but schizophrenic."
Moreover, Tate questioned whether the JVM (Java Virtual Machine) would be able to adequately support scripting languages in a way that would help developers who need simple, lightweight solutions. However, Suns Gosling has long maintained that Sun welcomes other languages atop the JVM.
In addition, Tim Bray, director of Web technologies at Sun, in a blog post last month said: "So theres potentially a big performance boost to be had in bringing at least some dynamic-language apps on board the Java platform.
"The first thing we have to do is to stop mixing up the Java Language and the Java Platform, and make it clear to the world that other languages—in particular dynamic languages—work fine on the platform, and that theres nothing wrong with using them."
Meanwhile, at the conference, Terracottas Zilka said he disagreed with Tate. "I think Java is not going to be a Cobol; its not going to be a dinosaur. The JVM will have to change. There is a gap but it will be filled. I think Java will innovate fast enough."
Added Marinescu: "I agree with Ari. Ruby is a symptom, not a solution. I think theres a strong need for whatever the Web platform is to integrate with Java."
Marinescu said the non-Java Ruby on Rails framework, which enables developers to write Web applications quickly and easily, "taught us a lesson, and its our turn [the Java community] to do it our way."
Bruce Snyder, who said he "grew up on scripting languages," said "Ruby is very useful for lower-end applications that need to turn out fast, but there are enterprise features that are lacking. Were going to see an ever-increasing trend from scripting languages because they are easier. The influence of scripting on Java is positive."
Indeed, in his blog post defending his position, Gosling noted the need to "worry about scale, evolution and testing."
Cameron Purdy said: "Java as an application language is like C++ was as an application language—its pretty pathetic. Java is a systems language, just like C++."
Tate quickly added: "Java is a language. Languages have a limited life of leadership—10 years, maybe 15."