2012 - A Year in Review
2012 was a rocking year for Java, the JVM and the community. James Governer (RedMonk analyst) stated that "2012 was the dawning of a 2nd age for Java".
Java enters the cloud (for real this time)
Java/JVM based cloud offerings became a serious reality in 2012 with a host of new PAAS and IAAS offerings. Cloudbees, JElastic, Heroku, Joyent, Oracle are just five of the large number of offerings out there now.
What does that mean for you as a developer? Well, it means lots of choice and the ability to try out this space very cheaply. I highly recommend that you try some of these providers out over the holidays (it takes minutes to set-up a free account) and see what all of the fuss is about.
Counter to this however is a lack of standardisation in this space and although JEE8 promises to change this (assuming the vendors get on board) - for the next few years you'll need to be careful about being locked into a particular platform. If you're a bit more serious about having agnostic services/code running on the various offerings then I can recommend looking at the jClouds API to assist you.
It's fair to say that many of the offerings are still feeling their way in terms of getting the most out of the JVM. In particular multi-tenancy is an issue, as is Garbage Collection and performance on a virtualised environment. Companies such as Waratek and jClarity (Disclaimer: I'm their CTO) now offer solutions to alleviate those gaps.
The Java community thrives
The community continues to thrive despite many main stream tech media reports of "developers leaving the Java platform" or "Java is dead". There are more Java User Groups (JUGs) than ever before, consisting of ~400,000 developers world wide. Notably, one of them, the London Java Community won several awards including the Duke's Choice award and JCP Member of the Year (along with SouJava - the major Brazilian JUG).
The conference circuit is bursting at the seams with large, sold out in advance, world-class Java conferences such as JFokus, Devoxx and of course JavaOne. In addition to this the host of regional conferences that often pack in an audience of over 1000 people all continued to do well.
Oracle's Java Magazine was launched and has grown to over 100,000 subscribers. Stalwarts like JaxEnter, Coderanch and the Javaposse continue to grow in audience sizes.
Further OpenJDK reforms happened over 2012 and a new scorecard is now in place for the wider community to give feedback on governance, openness and transparency. 2012 also saw a record number of individuals and organisations joining OpenJDK. In particular, the port to the ARM processor and support for running Java on graphic cards (Project Sumatra) were highlights this year.
Java Community Process (JCP)
The Java Community Process (JCP), Java's standards body also continued its revival with record numbers of new sign-ups and a hotly contested election. As well as dealing with the important business of trademarks, IP and licensing for Java, a re-focus on the technical aspects for Java Specification Requests (JSRs) occurred. In particular the new Adopt a JSR programme is being strongly supported by the JCP.
Java and the JVM
The JVM continues to improve rapidly through OpenJDK - the number of Java Enhancement Proposals (JEPs) going into Java 8 is enormous. Jigsaw dropping out was a disappointing but given the lack of broader vendor support and the vast amount of technical work required, it was the correct decision.
JEE / Spring
JEE7 is moving along nicely (and will be out soon), bringing Java developers a standard way to deal with the modern web (JSON, Web Sockets, etc). Of course many developers are already using the SpringSource suite of APIs but it's good to see advancement in the underlying specs.
Rapid Web Development
Java/JVM based rapid web development frameworks are finally gaining the recognition they deserve. Frameworks like JBoss's SEAM, Spring Roo, Grails, Play etc all give Java developers parity with the Rails and Django crowd.
A major focus of 2012 was on Mechanical Sympathy (as coined by Martin Thompson in his blog). The tide has turned, and we now have to contend with having multi-core machines and virtualised O/S's. Java developers have had to start thinking about how Java and the JVM interacts with the underlying platform and hardware.
Performance companies like jClarity are building tooling to help developers understand this complex space, but it certainly doesn't hurt to get those hardware manuals off the shelf again!
2013 - Future predictions
It's always fun to gaze into the crystal ball and here are my predictions for 2013!
Java 8 will get delivered on time
Java 8 with Nashorn, Lambda, plus a port to the ARM processor will open up loads of new opportunities for developers working on the leading edge of web and mobile tech. I anticipate rapid adoption of Java 8 (much faster than 7).
However, the lack of JVMs present on iOS and Android devices will continue to curtail adoption there.
Commercial Java in the cloud
2013 will be the year of commercial Java/JVM in the cloud - many of the kinks will get ironed out with regards to mutli-tenancy and memory management and a rich SAAS ecosystem will start to form.
The organisations that enable enterprises to get their in house Java apps out onto the cloud will be the big commercial winners.
We'll also see some consolidation in this space as the larger vendors snap up smaller ones that have proven technology.
OpenJDK will continue to truly open up with a public issue tracker based on JIRA, a distributed build farm available to developers and a far superior code review and patch system put in place.
Oracle, IBM and other major vendors have also backed initiatives to bring their in house test suites out into the open, donating them to the project for the good of all.
JVM languages and polyglot
There will be a resurgence in Groovy thanks to its new static compilation capability and improved IDE tooling. Grails in particular will look like an even more attractive rapid development framework as it will offer decent performance for midrange web apps.
Scala will continue to be hyped but will only be used successfully by small focused teams. Clojure will continue to be popular for small niche areas. Java will still outgrow them all in terms of real numbers and percentage growth.
A random prediction is that JRuby may well entice over Rails developers that are looking to take advantage of the JVM's performance and scalability.
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