JavaOne 2010: General Observations and Overall Impressions

JavaOne 2010 is over. Some questions have been answered, many in the way that I hoped they would be. Overall, it was a great conference. Here are some of my thoughts regarding JavaOne 2010.

JavaOne’s Relationship to Oracle OpenWorld
Although I don’t know how the 41,000 attendees break down (especially because some attendees attend portions of both conferences), my guess is that attendees who would say they are primarily attending Oracle OpenWorld probably outnumber attendees who would say they are primarily attending JavaOne by 3 to 1. I believe that Oracle OpenWorld has been larger than JavaOne just about every year in which they’ve both existed and I believe the difference has been even more significant in recent years.
Some have complained about JavaOne not being treated as significantly as Oracle OpenWorld.  Evidence they can cite includes Oracle OpenWorld getting the Moscone Center and an Oracle OpenWorld keynote kicking off the week (other than MySQL Sunday and a few other activities earlier on Sunday). As far as the Moscone Center goes, logic dictates that the conference with larger number of attendees should be held there. I generally enjoyed the opportunity to walk outside as I went back and forth between the Hilton and Parc 55. I do agree that it required more time than I would have liked to get down to the Moscone Center, but I only needed to do that two or three times.
I thought Oracle did a nice job of giving JavaOne its own conference feel in the Union Square area. The Mason Street Tent had great proximity to the Hilton and Parc 55. The Hilton Grand Ballroom was spacious enough to hold the majority of the JavaOne attendees (with overflow generally being in the Yosemite conference rooms).
There’s no question that Oracle OpenWorld is the “big brother” compared to the smaller JavaOne. However, I personally felt that JavaOne Opening Keynote was more interesting than the Oracle OpenWorld keynote. Instead of focusing on the relative aspects of Oracle OpenWorld versus JavaOne, however, I prefer to focus solely on my experience with JavaOne 2010 regardless of how Oracle OpenWorld plays into it.

There are likely significant financial and logistical advantages for Oracle to holding the conferences all at once. If there are, I can live with JavaOne as it was held. However, if Oracle is only holding them together in an attempt to allow attendees to attend all the conferences, I think that’s an advantage that only a small minority of the attendees take support of. My guess is that most JavaOne attendees would give up the opportunity to attend Oracle OpenWorld if they could have JavaOne in the Moscone Center.

Common Themes
One of the things I look for in a conference is common themes that pervade the conference. These generally give me an idea of which products, libraries, frameworks, and technologies are most worth further investigation. Some of the things that stood out for their commonality in this edition of JavaOne 2010 were utility of Groovy (one I already had bought into), enthusiasm for Scala, the wealth of available unit testing products (Hamcrest), future of Java, and, or course, the future of JavaFX.

Groovy is In

It seems to me that Groovy has either reached or is very close to reaching that point where it is no longer new or unusual to the majority of conference attendees. Groovy, it seems, is poised to soon join the list of Java-related tools that are “taken for granted.” This is a good thing because it indicates wide and general acceptance and it means less introductory sessions on the subject and more advanced sessions and more sessions that just use Groovy as a matter of course in presenting something else. It reminds me that we used to have introductory XML presentations, introductory Swing presentations, and so forth. We rarely see those today as those are assumed technologies and I believe Groovy is taking its first steps into that direction. It was cited heavily in presentations on unit testing, for example. My belief is that Groovy is becoming more like Ant in terms of familiarity: whether Java developers like or don’t like Groovy, most will likely have at least passing familiarity with it in the future because of its prevalence in tools, frameworks, and presentations.

Scala May be the Next Big Thing

Scala seems to be taking Groovy’s place in the list of JVM languages that may be the “next big thing” (Groovy, as I stated in the previous paragraph, seems to have arrived at “the latest big thing”). Scala has some zealous evangelists with some features to back up that enthusiasm.

Polygot Programming

As my discussion of themes related to Groovy and Scala implies, polygot programming was a major theme at this conference.  However, it went beyond programming. There was discussion of polygot persistence and other areas of software development where the developer benefits from knowing and using multiple alternatives at the same time.

JavaFX Has a Future

As it has for every edition of JavaOne since 2007 JavaOne, JavaFX again was the overall dominant theme of this conference. I felt that this year was different, however, in that this year’s marketing for JavaFX actually seems to be pointed in a positive direction that bodes well for a long-term future for the technology if the bold plans are realized. The plan to scrap JavaFX Script and make Java APIs available for accessing JavaFX seems obvious but bold at the same time. My only surprise is that this decision (to make JavaFX available via normal Jav APIs) was not made and announced sooner.

Several Java developers told me they could not use Flex because it’s not Java. I always asked, “Is JavaFX?” It was difficult to find any measure by which JavaFX has been Java other than the first four letters in its name and the ability to run on the JVM (which a host of other languages can do as well). Although I think the latest news on JavaFX is very positive, it still needs to be implemented. Also, there are still many questions. Will JavaFX itself be part of the SDK? Will JavaFX be fully licensed the same as the SDK? Or, will JavaFX be more like Google Web Toolkit, Spring, or a host of other frameworks that play nicely with standard Java but are not themselves standard Java. The updated JavaFX Roadmap does a good job of covering features in “JavaFX 2.0,” but I didn’t see anything covering the licensing issues.

I think the success of the various non-standard Java libraries and frameworks show that these can succeed without being part of “standard Java” and without being JCP/JSR-based. My best current guess is that JavaFX will be delivered like these third-party products and won’t be included in Java SE or Java EE. Still, I expect it to see a major upswing in adoption once developers are free to invoke JavaFX from Java, Groovy, Scala, or any other JVM-based language.

The JavaFX announcement has interesting implications related to the theme of polygot programming mentioned earlier. On the one hand, scrapping a single non-Java language in JavaFX Script in favor of any JVM language favors polygot programming. On the other hand, the resistance to using JavaFX Script can be interpreted as an indication that there are still many in our community not willing to learn an entirely new language to use JavaFX. One downside to the approach of requiring JavaFX Script to use JavaFX was that a developer (rightfully) could ask himself or herself, “Why learn an entirely new language just to use the newer, less mature JavaFX if I can use the more mature Flex framework by similarly learning a new language?”

Future of Java

The future of Java was also (not surprisingly) a major theme at JavaOne 2010. In general, I thought it the discussions regarding the future of Java were more positive than negative. I especially liked the implication of making Java more developer-friendly while retaining its current power. I thought I head the slightest hint from Mark Reinhold that there has even been discussion of more significant changes in later versions of Java (after Java 8) such support for generics reification. Major changes like those could mean good things for Java. Sun never had any inclination for breaking backwards compatibility; perhaps Oracle is more willing to consider it.

Reinhold also stated that they expect to have major releases more frequently than the five year time span between Java SE 6 and Java 7’s likely release. It was also nice to have it confirmed that the JDK 7/JDK 8 Plan B is the currently chosen plan for the next releases of Java.

One twist on the future of Java is the issue of the next big JVM language. Stephen Colebourne presented on this in his The Next Big JVM Language presentation. Although I was unable to attend the presentation, I thought his personal conclusion from preparing this presentation was interesting: “my conclusion is that the language best placed to be the Next Big JVM Language is Java itself.” Cay Horstmann has addressed this observation in his similarly titled post The Next Big JVM Language. In that post, Horstmann states that he doesn’t think Java itself will be the next big language. He then looks at how Scala fits or doesn’t fit that potential.

San Francisco
This was my first time to spend significant time in San Francisco. I really enjoyed the city. One of the things that I liked about JavaOne’s location was the proximity to the thriving Union Square area of San Francisco.  I stayed at the Warwick San Francisco and truly enjoyed the experience. Just about everyone I met from the area (taxicab drivers, hotel staff, restaurant staff, etc.) were extremely friendly and appreciated the business that the conferences brought to the city. Tourism is San Francisco’s #1 industry and I can appreciate why.

Just about every merchant, taxicab driver, and other vendor I talked to in San Francisco was aware of “the Oracle conference.” Even when I was riding one of those double-decker tourist buses that lets you hop on and off as they stop at various locations in the city, the tour guide mentioned the Oracle conference and specifically called out the Appreciation Event (she called it, not inappropriately, “the Oracle party”). She observed, “It sure doesn’t seem like there is a recession.”

This was a great time of year to be in San Francisco. The mornings and evenings were cool and the afternoons were warm. The weather was so clear that I could see the San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Bay Bridge any day that I was down in that area.

The Conference Sessions
The conference sessions were excellent. This is one of the few conferences I have attended where I did not regret attending any of the sessions that I did attend. I blogged on each one of them on this blog. I really liked the separation of marketing from technical sessions. This reminded me of my favorite aspect of conferences such as the Colorado Software Summit that always kept things technical. Peter Pilgrim blogged on some of the technical sessions and many attendees blogged on individual presentations they attended or presented. My own list of JavaOne 2010 presentation summaries/reviews is shown here.

Summaries and Highlights
There have been several excellent blogs posts and articles summarizing JavaOne 2010. I have collected links to a few here.

JavaOne 2010 Overall

JavaOne 2010 General Technical Session

JavaOne 2010 Opening Keynote

Mobile Technology
Mobile technology was in high use at this conference. I found my Droid to be very useful for many things during the conference. It allowed me to use its GPS to find my way around San Francisco. It also helped me to look up my Schedule Builder as needed. It was also useful for learning of sessions changes and filling out session surveys in between sessions. I used it to look up different terms via Google and Wikipedia as well. Finally, I used it to mail myself notes from some sessions when my laptop battery was nearly dead. There were mobile devices all over the place and the one drawback was the subset of individuals who chose to try to read their mobile devices while walking. The halls could get crowded at times with people heading in different directions and it didn’t help to have a person wandering aimlessly and without obvious direction because he or she was too consumed with his or her mobile device.

I also was happy to have my Verizon Prepaid Mobile Broadband. It was more cost efficient to use this than to pay the hotel’s daily wireless access fee (similar to how it was more cost efficient to use taxicabs than to pay to park a rental vehicle at the hotel). Although the conference’s provided broadband was generally sufficient, I experienced problems with it during the “big” sessions like the JavaOne Opening Keynote and JavaOne General Technical Session. It was nice in those relatively rare events to still have access to the Internet for looking up terms and posting my blog.

It’s my belief that JavaOne 2010 will be remembered more for being the first under Oracle stewardship, for being held outside of the Moscone Center, and for the announcements related to the future of Java and JavaFX than it will be remembered as a Googless JavaOne. To be sure, it would have been nice to have Google’s employee’s presentations given or, at the very least, to have had additional presentations given in those slots. But, even as it was, there were plenty of good presentations and excitement about the new directions announced for the language and platform.

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