Creator 2 Is Out ... And I Get To Have A Life

Well, it's finally out. The final release of Sun Java Studio Creator 2 has hit the web site, and it's free (just sign up for the Sun Developer Network, which is also free, and you'll be able to download a copy). Thare are lots of cool features that you can read about at the site, and in other blogs about Creator today. I'd like to spend a couple of minutes talking a bit about what it is like to be the architect for a product like this.

As you might now already, Creator is based on the NetBeans Platform. In the particular case of Creator 2, we're based on NetBeans version 4.1. But ... that's not quite completely true. Creator development started, a couple of years ago, as a skunkworks project to build a tool focused on visual development of web applications. My colleague Bob Brewin, who was architect at the time (he's now architect for all of Sun's tools) describes some of the vision at the time, and the background of the original code name ("Project Rave") that we used.

What Bob doesn't tell you, though, is what we had to do to get there :-). For expediency we started from the NetBeans code at the time (version 3.6) but hacked many modules of it fairly radically. That is not a sustainable engineering practice over the long term, so we've spent the time ever since coming closer and closer to binary compatibility with the NetBeans platform. In the Creator 2 release, we've made substantial progress towards closing the gap. This, of course, requires interesting "negotations" with the NetBeans platform team -- all going on while NetBeans has their own product delivery schedules, and associated requirements, which don't always line up.

One thing I will say for the NetBeans folks, though ... they know how to build a great platform. And they've been really great to work with, throughout the process. Indeed, you'll see the results of us working together even more in the future. I got to visit the Prague office (where most of the NetBeans developers live and work) last fall -- along with some other travels that leads to my "get a life" comment in the title of this entry. Prague is an incredibly beautiful city, and the team is well organized and passionate about what they do.

Part of what an architect does at Sun is to go out and talk to lots of people, both showing off what we already have but also listening for feedback on where we should go in the future. For me, this kind of thing is often centered around speaking at developer events -- coupled with customer visits and press briefings scattered around as well. This last fall, though, I crammed more travel into less time than I ever thought was possible. Over the course of ten weeks, I went to conferences in Tokyo, Buenos Aires, and Beijing ... followed immediately by the trip to Prague. (Hint -- if you ride a crowded subway in Prague, be SURE to hold tightly to your wallet). And, just for good measure, I travelled down to the Bay Area for a couple of quick trips as well (I normally telecommute from my home in Portland). Sheesh ... I've got enough miles stocked up I'll probably never buy an airline ticket again. But, to my wife's chagrin, I am not all that enthusiastic about flying anywhere fun with them :-).

We had released two Early Access versions of Creator 2 over the last six months, and the amount of feedback we received was both enormous and very useful in improving the quality and performance of the tool. I'd like to extend my personal thanks to everyone who downloaded and try out Creator 2 EA, and especially those who took the time to give us input. As well, thanks to everyone who listened to me present about Creator, or my open source passion of the moment (Shale).

I'd also like to thank the entire team at Sun that brought Creator to life. That's not just the developers. It's the QE folks that made sure we were meeting the quality criteria, the technical writers that produce the wonderful tutorials and articles, the release engineering and website teams that actually produce the bits that were shipped. The list goes on.

In the mean time, I'm going to take a deep breath, and look for someplace we can drive to for vacation this year :-). But, of course, my travel calendar for this year is starting to fill up already (February in Korea, March in Las Vegas, May in San Francisco, and who knows how many additional things that will get added). Isn't being an architect fun?


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