Black Java

This year’s JavaOne is a conference stood on its head.

A number of elements indicate that Java is thriving, but in odd tangents and with uncertain bearing. I’m sure it was only coincidental that all Sun employees on site were wearing black shirts and near-death experience expressions. Sun staffers looked like people who woke up in a casket at their own funeral.

Or in Hell if they believe the rumors about Larry Ellison and his cloven hooves.

Exhibit floors are where you find the real pulse of an industry. Forget keynote fairytales which are often more about FUD than fact. When companies drop thousands of dollars on booth space and staff time – when spending shows their intent – that is where you learn how to place your bets in any industry.

After touring JavaOne, I’m buying more stock in Apple.

No, Apple was not demoing nor did the spirit of Steve Jobs introduce a new product. But many mobile handset manufactures and a couple of carriers were in the front of the exhibit hall trying to convince Java programmers that there is gold in them thar wireless hills. This says more about the mobile industry than the Java industry. Apple has proven that apps sell phones, and since Java is a dominate language on other handsets, device makers and carriers came to court coders and grow the set of popular apps.

There was even one vendor with a tool that turned Java into native code for iPhones (which don’t include a Java machine).

Also of note were seemingly out of place actors like eBay and Amazon. They were trolling for talent. Java is popular enough that a shortage of sufficiently skilled Java hackers remains. Top shelf companies like these rent booth space to collect resumes. If I were a young geek, I’d consider being a Java junkie. Not only is it a sane language but the pay scale seems better.

Being a former IT fellow and system programmer, what caught my attention this year is the emphasis of memory caching colliding with cloud computing. Make no mistake; clouds are the next phases of IT infrastructure. The 12% rise in my VMWare stock in the last two weeks is testament to that. More and more companies are moving to support private and public clouds, and a few more visionary vendors are rigging systems to support both.

Google showed that sharing cache memory across boxes is central to scalable systems. If you are uncertain where on the planet your servers may be, exploiting caching systems become critical. This explains both the why Terracotta was talking it up and why VMWare was parked in their booth. Clouds are great, from the virtual machine standpoint. Clouds could be clumsy from an application standpoint. Slipping cache code between a Java application and the Java virtual machine (not to be confused with the virtual server on which the virtual machine hosts the virtual app … virtually) is a slick way to make life in the clouds livable. More importantly it is an element that will make ad hoc application expansion from private into public clouds doable.

Oddly the most interesting technology on the JavaOne floor had nothing to do with programming in Java. Some excitable pups were promoting the Pulse “smartpen”. Despite my entire career being connected to technology, I’m not a gizmo freak. My cell phone is six years old. I don’t own a digital television (I might if broadcasters devise programming for intelligent adults, by which I mean killing off all ‘reality’ programs and their contestants). I haven’t even bothered to spring for a GPS to decorate my dashboard.

But I may have to get one of these pens.

These Buck Rodgers quills do two things once you put them into record mode. They digitize all your pen strokes across a piece of paper so that when you plug the pen into your computer, the pages are uploaded and allegedly ready for optical character recognition (I defy any software to read my handwriting, which alone qualifies me for medical school and a life of writing prescriptions). It also starts a voice recorder and the sound files are uploaded as well. In one tool you have everything necessary for gathering your note and diagrams while also capturing the discussion that led to the notes.

The marketing question then is why Pulse was peddling their pens at JavaOne? Because geeks like tech toys, and at an opening price of $149, it is affordable. Oh, and their products are Java powered. Now that’s worth noting.


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