Sun’s Alexis Moussine-Pouchkine on the Future of Java EE and GlassFish

After attending Rich Green’s keynote, I found my way to a session with Sun’s Alexis Moussine-Pouchkine, officially titled “Java EE, GlassFish, and their Future.” I’ve skirted around GlassFish in articles but never had the chance to attend a session on the subject.
 
But first, if you'll allow me -- a cultural observation. At our designated Sun work space here at the pavilion, a bevy of Russian women fix home-style meals in a small kitchen for us. In all my state-side experience, such convention-type events always have institutional caterers so this is an added touch of Russian hospitality and personality that's so enticing. Home cooking at a convention -  wow! Here, our wonderful hosts make it clear that we are not to jump the gun in scarfing down food though. We must watch our manners. We are to eat only when they say or we get into trouble (as I did). I don’t know why this is so. Is it economically motivated – do they not want to run out of food? Do they only want us to eat at certain times when the food is ready (warm?) so that we will enjoy it, something any proud cook would want? Or, is there a Russian tradition that you insult your host if you eat ahead of time? Or is it something else? I welcome explanations. It’s an endearing form of hospitality to be sure.
 
From J2EE 1.4 to Java EE 5
 
Back to Alexis, who first summarized J2EE 1.4, which has been the industry standard for enterprise apps, and enormously powerful. He argued that its power is not as user friendly as it might be and compared it to operating the panel of a cockpit in an airplane with hundreds of dials. You can do what you want with it, but it’s needlessly complicated. I was surprised at how prevalent J2EE 1.4 is still.
 
The focus of Java EE 5 is to retain its power but simplify development and foster ease of use. So it’s designed for POJO- (Plain Old Java Object) based programming that enhances freedom and has fewer constraints. Annotations are the default way to go and there is a reduced need for deployment descriptors.
 
As one might expect DRY – Don’t Repeat Yourself – is the operative principle. One hears a lot about DRY in Rails development, which is so popular among young developers. I wonder if growing up under the spell of the web and all the fancy computer footwork has produced a generation of restless, easily bored developers...
 
Before turning to GlassFish, he reviewed the spec changes in Java EE 5:
 
\* JAX-WS 2.0 & JSR 181
• JAXB 2.0
• Java Persistence
• EJB 3.0
• JavaServer Faces 1.2 – (new to Platform)
• JSP 2.1 – Unification w/ JSF 1.2
• StAX – Pull Parser – (new to Platform)
 

GlassFish
 
Allow me to plug my interview with Java Champion Adam Bien, who has expertise in GlassFish and Java EE.
 
Here’s Adam:
 
“Many developers tried GlassFish’s predecessor some years ago and found it wanting and now are no more interested. But it’s worth a try. GlassFish's performance and scalability are great. I especially like several features. The web-based admin console makes it possible to complete all basic administration tasks. The documentation -- even free books in PDF format! -- is already available from the first page. I appreciate the ability to configure even the JVM options inside the admin console.”
 
Alexis’s session echoed and justified Adam’s enthusiasm. I noted in particular Alexis’s remark about the admin console: “People are surprised by the GlassFish admin console and like it very much.” When he asked how many present used GlassFish, a significant number raised their hands. GlassFish is a Java EE 5 open source app server of enterprise quality – a lot of people run production code using it. Basically, it makes life easier for anyone who is trying to build high-powered server-side applications.
 
GlassFish derives from a long history going back 10 years when Sun created and donated Tomcat to the Apache community. In 2005, Sun announced the creation of a full Java EE app server, and released GlassFish V1 at JavaOne 2006. In September 2007, version 2 was released. The first version was directed to developers and lacked clustering and enterprise performance, which are strong in the current version.
 
Sun is awarding $175,000 each to six communities, including GlassFish, for distinguished contributions. The awards are subdivided into Bug Reports, Contributions and Honorable Mention. $50,000 goes to the top 3 bug reports in each GlassFish sub-project and the rest to a variety of other contributions. “We like people finding bugs with steps we can reproduce,” said Alexis.
 
The GlassFish community is interesting. Sun supports it but does not own it. When someone starts using it, they become part of the community. Everything is done live and in the open. All stats, bugs and discussions are public, but at the same time when consensus fails, decisions must be made about its future. So a governance board of five people makes the key decisions -- only two members are from Sun so Sun cannot dictate the revisions. The other three members are from major GlassFish users, Google, American Express, and an online Australian travel booking company named Wotif, who runs Australia’s second biggest web site.
 
Apparently the name refers to its transparency – you can see through it, so nothing is hidden. Daily news about GlassFish can be garnered at the Aquarium, another name that signifies transparency.
 
Alexis gave a summary of where GlassFish V3 is heading. It will be small, fast, and modular with  a startup of a few seconds, and based on a module sub-system. Alexis touted it as an ideal container for Web 2.0 with a faster, lighter Java server engine, with Java and scripting applications, support for upcoming Java EE 6 profiles and a good fit for SOA/ESB solutions. We are heading with great speed toward a Web 2.0 world where developing gets easier and easier.
 
A GlassFish V3 technology preview is now available (web container only). It’s scheduled for a beta release by the end of 2008.
 
Alexis closed with a brief look at where Java EE 6 is headed – but I’m headed to another session so that will have to wait.
 
Learn more about Sun Tech Days.
 
Janice J. Heiss
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