t seems like nary a day goes by lately where we don't hear of some adversity affecting Java, the venerated enterprise software platform that has been around since 1995. Just recently:
- Java has been beset by security issues, prompting calls for users to dump Java.
- Java owner Oracle has proposed a two-year delay in introducing critical technologies to the platform (aka Project Jigsaw), including the addition of modularity to standard Java and of cloud computing capabilities to enterprise Java.
So are Java's best days behind it? Should businesses be looking to retire their Java applications and move to something else, such as Microsoft's .Net platform? Is Java's future to be just another exhibit in Silicon Valley's Computer History Museum?
The reality is that Java is not going away anytime soon. According to Oracle's official Java.com website, there are 1.1 billion desktops running Java, 930 million Java Runtime Environment downloads each year, and 3 billion smartphones running Java. As if this were not enough, Java also powers set-top boxes, printers, Web cameras, games, and other devices. The monthly Tiobe Programming Community Index, which tracks the popularity of programming languages, has Java ranked second, behind C (although Java did recently slip from the top position in that index). Meanwhile, Java continues to be improved, and Oracle has published a road map for Java's development, although it has had to revise that plan a bit.
Oracle declined to comment about Java's travails, but members of the Java ecosystem stand by Java's vitality despite its setbacks.
Says Java creator James Gosling: "The slip in project Jigsaw was unfortunate, but not important for most people. Java works great in the cloud, is used widely in clouds, and there are lots of cloud facilities in Glassfish. Java EE has always been a food fight that takes a lot of community discussion to settle down. Taking time is not at all a surprise. With the security issue, it's hard to get a clear picture. This is the toughest security issue that Oracle has faced as the new stewards of Java, and it's clearly been a learning experience for them. There also seems to be a touch of exaggeration on the part of the security community. No big Java users are going to walk away based on any of these -- especially the security issue, as it has nothing to do with Java in data centers and applies only to desktops. Java has had a far better security history than the other platforms; it's still the safest place to be."
"I believe [the recent problems] are normal platform issues for almost any environment. I think the cross-platform nature of Java can require additional testing and development time for security issues affecting the JVM," says Andrew Chandler, president of the Tulsa Java Developers group. Chandler also praised Oracle's intentions to add modularity and cloud computing support to Java, but said they are not necessities.
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