Sun's 10,000,000 developer mark is annoying me. I was
surprised they had the gumption to say it in the first place and, as
it sinks in, the implications are staggering. The implications aren't
new, mind you - Sun also admitted they'd dropped the ball on
marketing Java. It's just become more surprising to me over time.
Why? It's an admission that Java has had a lot of trends
enforced that simply haven't worked, and won't work. I give you
JavaBeans, EJBs, and a popular Web framework as examples.
JavaBeans were meant to be the drag-and-drop that brought the
VB developers into the fold, with simple descriptions of use and
parameters, easy deployment, and even state management. Lo and
behold, now they're largely relegated to being a simple guideline for
how methods and constructors should be built.
EJBs were the answer to distributed computing, with a promise
of massive scalability. Soon, huge swaths of their specification were
being avoided because of performance bottlenecks and complexity.
Sure, you can get some of their promise out of session beans, and
message-driven beans are easily my favorite aspect of the EJB spec,
but getting good performance out of stateful beans or entities can be
a fine art in and of itself.
Struts...oh, Struts. Tools for helping people build Struts
applications can be found in every nook and cranny nowadays, and
nobody questions why people are marketing tools and not components.
If I want to build a simple process with Struts, I now have what
seems like dozens of options to help me build that process, but who's
willing to market a component to handle the process itself?
This strikes at the heart of the issue for me. Where are the
components? There are reporting toolkits and some widgets for Swing,
but where are the processes? Who's propagating knowledge of the EJB
components that handle the gruntwork? Where are the Web services to
allow the distribution of processes over nonhomogenous networks? Why
are we still doing everything ourselves?
Until this can be answered, there's no way Sun has a chance
to bring in all those developers. I know there are exceptions: Web
services certainly do exist but, honestly, in my last five client
installations, nobody mentioned them as an alternative even once,
except as a nonviable one. I'm willing to admit that maybe I'm in a
region that specializes in the "Not Invented Here" syndrome, but I
don't think so - I've been at too many disparate clients for that.
What people are willing to invest in, financially or
emotionally, are frameworks that still manage to leave the burden of
work up to them. While that's comforting in the sense that I feel
more valuable when I'm cranking out basic components (as opposed to
simply tying components together), I think it's an underusage of the
industry's capabilities. That means that we, as Java programmers, end
up spinning our wheels in an attempt to be relevant, individually,
instead of leveraging the very technology we've invested in.
After all, this is the stuff that J2EE was designed for: take
specific functionality, allow it to be modular, and composite
solutions together with ready-made tools. An EJB that processes an
order can be written to handle a generic customer, a generic order,
and a generic list of items, and can handle payment with a pluggable
tool - and such an EJB, written well, would certainly be worth
investing in instead of paying a developer to write yet another
order-handling bean that can only accommodate the current
We still don't see it, though. I think this kind of sea
change will be necessary, not just for J2EE, but for Java as a whole.
At some point we have to stop falling in love with Java and start
doing something with it. The capability is there. We just have to
decide to imbue it with power.
It's time we started writing reusable components and
distributing them. Otherwise, we as a community of developers end up
squandering the power of the tools we have. Let's get to it.
About The Author
Joseph Ottinger is a consultant with Fusion Alliance
(www.fusionalliance.com) and is a frequent contributor to open source
projects in a number of capacities. Joe is also the acting chairman
of the JDJ Editorial Advisory Board.