Microsoft to Make Java, Eclipse -First Class' on Windows Azure

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2010-10-29

Microsoft to Make Java, Eclipse -First Class' on Windows Azure

REDMOND, Wash. - Microsoft is banking on its relationship with developers to help the company win in the cloud space, and Java may turn out to be its secret weapon.

At its Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 2010 here, Amitabh Srivastava, senior vice president of Microsoft's Server and Cloud Division, told eWEEK Microsoft plans to deeply leverage its relationship with developers to take its cloud strategy forward. And the way to do that is to better enable developers to build cloud applications right from where they stand in the development landscape.

What that means is that Microsoft is not trying to influence developer choices regarding development environment, languages, frameworks or any other developer preferences. In short, Microsoft is meeting developers where they live. As part of this, Microsoft announced increased support for Java on its Windows Azure cloud platform.

Windows Azure already features support for java, as well as C#, PHP, Ruby and other languages. However, now Microsoft has pledged to make Java a "first-class citizen" on Windows Azure. This process will involve improving Java performance, Eclipse tooling and client libraries for Windows Azure. Customers can choose the Java environment of their choice and run it on Windows Azure. Improved Java Enablement will be available to customers in 2011.

"The further we got into this journey into the cloud, we saw that more and more people were writing cloud applications in Java," Srivastava said. "There are three things we need to do. One is tooling; we're going to make the whole Eclipse integration with Azure be first class. Second is we're going to expose the APIs in Windows Azure in Java. And third we're investing in optimizing the performance of Java applications on Windows Azure."

Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, said he welcomes Microsoft's deeper involvement in the Java and Eclipse communities.

"We hope that as part of Microsoft's new foray into Java that they will become an active participant in the community," Milinkovich told eWEEK

However, Milinkovich said he is somewhat puzzled about exactly what Microsoft plans to do in terms of which Java to support.

"There are many details that I am curious about myself," Milinkovich said. "For example, which Java implementation are they basing their support on? Are they going to become a Java licensor from Oracle? Are they going to use J9 from IBM? Or are they going to use one of the open-source implementations such as OpenJDK or Harmony? I have to assume that they will be offering some sort of server-side profile as well, so I wonder which of the Java EE [Enterprise Edition] profiles that will be. Is there a modularity story such as OSGi [Open Services Gateway Initiative] in their stack? I would certainly be interested in knowing those details, but at the moment I have many more questions than answers."

Srivastava's response is that Microsoft's effort is basically still a work in progress, but Microsoft's goal is to be very open in its Java support.

"We're building a very open system," he said. "We're going to support Sun/Oracle's Java, IBM's Java, whatever. It's the developer's call. We'll provide all the mechanisms for them. Developers are very conscious about the language they pick and the tools they use. You can't ask a developer to use a certain language or tools; you have to evolve the platform to support them where they are."


Microsoft Joining Eclipse?

But does that mean Microsoft will go as far as to join Eclipse? Is that even necessary?

Of course, Milinkovich and company would love to have Microsoft join the Eclipse fold. Eclipse membership brings with it revenue to the organization as well as talent to support and create new Eclipse projects. Associate members must contribute $5,000 a year to the organization, Solution members contribute up to $20,000 per year, Enterprise Members contribute $125,000 per year, and Strategic Developer Members contribute up to $250,000 a year and must provide at least eight developers assigned full time to developing Eclipse technology. So having Microsoft as a member would be an obvious boon to the Eclipse Foundation, as well as major open source/Java "street cred" for Microsoft.

But joining Eclipse is not a requirement for Microsoft to better "Eclipsize" its platform. For instance, Microsoft is working with Tasktop Technologies and its high-flying Java/Eclipse-backing CEO Mik Kersten to bring Eclipse support to Windows 7. And Kersten, who is creator of the Eclipse Mylyn Project, could have a hand in deepening Microsoft's support for Eclipse on Windows Azure.

Indeed, Milinkovich added, "Microsoft has made some modest investments in Eclipse. For example, they support Eclipse-based tools for the PHP support in Azure. They plan on basing their Java tools for Azure on Eclipse as well. They have been also working with Mik Kersten and his team at Tasktop to provide incremental improvements in the Eclipse IDE support of new features in Windows 7. But despite many years now of trying to work constructively with Microsoft, I cannot say that we have made any progress in having them become members of the Eclipse Foundation, or contributing directly to Eclipse community projects.

Overall, Srivastava told eWEEK of Microsoft's plans to make Java and Eclipse first-class on Windows Azure: "We will do whatever is needed to make that happen. We will help Eclipse build Eclipse for Azure."

And to be truly successful as a PAAS (platform-as-a-service) cloud platform, Microsoft needs to make Java first-class on Windows Azure. As Srivastava said, a major portion of the developer world is using Java and they do not want to change. "We want to make it as easy for a Java developer to develop and deploy their apps on Windows Azure as it is for a Visual Studio developer," he said.

Good thing, too, because Microsoft would be blind not to see VMware cooking up a potentially potent Java cloud story with its SpringSource division providing tooling for the 2.5 million developers that use the Spring Framework. Meanwhile, Microsoft's move ensures that the software giant will enable Java developers, which account for about half of the world's professional developers, to more easily and effectively build and deploy apps on Windows Azure. 


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