Winning the Java World Cup

If competing in the Java arena was like a soccer tournament, who would win? Well, the ever imaginative Rod Johnson, CEO and co-founder of SpringSource has some ideas on the subject.

SAN FRANCISCO -- If competing in the Java arena was like a soccer tournament, who would win? Well, the ever-imaginative Rod Johnson, CEO and co-founder of SpringSource, has some ideas on the subject.

In an interview with eWEEK at the JavaOne 2009 conference here, the fun-loving Johnson, also dubbed the "Angry Man" of Java for some of his strong stances about the direction of enterprise Java, said he believes competition for the Java crown can be likened to the World Cup. Indeed, Johnson said he could picture the World Cup tournament with Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Brazil among the top teams left in the tournament. "So there are all these teams playing in the tournament, but Albania is making the rules." he said, noting that Sun represents Albania, a team nobody expects to have a chance at the title.

In Johnson's view, that scenario is indicative of how the Java world has been run, with Sun heading up the Java Community Process (JCP) and setting the rules for the governance of the Java platform and which new specifications -- Java Specification Requests (JSRs) -- get to go through and what essentially goes into them. "But no one viewed Sun as a serious competitor" in the middleware space, he said. "Who cares about Albania?" he asked.

Now enter Oracle as potential owner of Sun and leader of the JCP. That puts a real software powerhouse in the driver's seat. "Now, I don't know what will happen with Oracle in charge," Johnson said. "Oracle is like Germany; and no one particularly likes the way the Germans play soccer," he said. "IBM would be like Spain. So if Spain and Germany get to the finals, do you trust Germany to make the rules?" he asked sportively.

What Oracle would do at the helm of the JCP has been a concern of Java developers and companies that base their technology on Java ever since the database giant announced its intent to acquire Sun in April. Many observers have expressed concern over how aggressive Oracle might be, not only in running the JCP in a way that benefits Oracle and its products over other companies, but also in directly tweaking the Java platform itself to do so.

However, a source close to both the JCP and Oracle dismissed those concerns as misguided. "You have to realize that folks like Thomas Kurian [senior vice president of Oracle Product Development] and Steve Harris [vice president of the Java Platform Group at Oracle] will be closely involved with this," the source said while asking for anonymity. "And these guys have been doing this kind of thing for years. They have loads of integrity and I really don't think there's really any reason for concern."

Meanwhile, in that Java World Cup, who would Johnson's SpringSource be? "In the software World Cup we want to be Brazil," Johnson said. "We want to be the team people like to watch."

And people do tend to watch and use SpringSource. An Evans Data survey taken at the end of 2008 indicated that 73 percent of organizations doing Java development said they currently used or planned to use the Spring Framework within two years. Moreover, on June 2, SpringSource announced its most successful fiscal year ended April 30, 2009. The company more than tripled its support revenue from the previous fiscal year while achieving a series of milestones that both demonstrate SpringSource's leadership position in the enterprise Java industry and its success delivering strategic value to customers, partners, IT operations professionals and developers, Johnson said.

In addition, Johnson said the dependency injection JSR SpringSource is involved in with Google, JSR-330: Dependency Injection for Java, is slated to be ratified in a matter of days. "We propose to maximize reusability, testability and maintainability of Java code by standardizing an extensible dependency injection API," the JSR entry said.

Bob Lee of Google and Johnson are the specification leads. The JSR pulls from the Spring Framework and Google's Guice.

According to the JSR-330 description of the technology:

"Existing approaches configure a dependency injector using XML, annotations or plain Java code. That injector is then used to construct objects and inject dependencies into them. This standard will provide a core API that can be driven at build and run time by higher-level configuration mechanisms such as XML and annotations. Objects configured using the various higher-level mechanisms will be able to freely depend on each other since the mechanisms will share a common foundation."

Meanwhile, addressing the "Angry Man" issue, Johnson chuckled and said that is actually off base, but that if indignation about the unnecessary complexity that plagued enterprise Java some years back, then he accepts the label. That indignation led to the Spring Framework and other lighter weight, less complex technologies for enterprise Java developers, he said.