The next release of the Java language, Version 1.4, is taking shape as a significant upgrade for server-side Java programmers. Improved performance is a big goal, as well as new database and XML functionality. It should ship later this year.
Java 1.4 ("Merlin") will be 64-bit enabled for Sun SPARC and Intel Itanium chips. A new set of file and network APIs is being introduced ("in the form of either asynchronous requests or polling," according to the Sun feature description) to make Java server code faster and more scalable.
An API to map files to memory for fast file access will be added and can be used if the underlying operating system supports this.
Other planned features are a logging API, to make it easier to output and save server status messages; assertions, which ease debugging; the inclusion of Java Database Connectivity 3.0 APIs; a way to save user preferences in a consistent and manageable way; and IPv6 support.