Top 10 Speakers at the Irish Java Technologies Conference (IJTC Dublin)

Not (too blatant) a plug for the Irish Java Technologies Conference (IJTC). Although if you’re around Dublin on the 7th / 8th / 9th November I’m told you’re more than welcome to drop in. This post is more a quick review of the people who are speaking. It’s also an invitation to check out their websites and see if any of the technologies they are promoting could be of use to your project.

Dublin Jug Logo

Here are the top 10 projects that I’m looking forward to checking out.

10) Java and Microsoft SQL Server : It’s still a brave Microsoft person that comes to a Java conference. Shows MS recognition a substantial amount of Java deployments persist their Data to a SQL- Server database.

9) Eclipse STP (and SOA) – Service Orientated Architecture is the buzzword of the year. If anybody can put substance behind the hype , it’s the guys From Iona.

8) Eclipse JPA and Dali. Hibernate pushed Object Relational Mapping (ORM) to be the standard approach to database access. The manager of the ‘other’ ORM Project (Oracle Toplink) should give a interesting coverage of the tooling developments.

7) Apache Geronimo – by Jeff Genender from Apache Foundation. So long the ‘other’ Open source application server, this is now becoming credible in commercial deployments.
6) Java Update – Simon has been working as a lead Java consultant for Sun Microsystems. He’ll be talking about Java Standard Edition 6 and Java Mobile Edition. But what I’m really interested in is Java Enterprise Edition 5, Scripting, Java Realtime and Java FX.

5) If scripting is your thing fellow Onjava Blogger Dejan Bosanac is also speaking on this subject. He’s talking about Scripting within the JVM, which will be one of the hot topics for 2008.

4) iPhone v JMME – I don’t get the buzz around Mobile (give it another 18 months , we’ll all be running Java Application Servers on the mobile). But many people are interested in it – this talk is how to make you Mobile Java apps as slick as those in the iPhone.

3) JBoss Drools Engine (Drools)I’ve blogged (a little bit) about Drools before. I’ve also been fortunate enough to hear Mark Proctor speak and you will come out an convinced that the natural home for Business Logic is in the Rule engine.

2) JPA and Hibernate – There is a very strong possibility that Emmanuel Bernard will be returning to Dublin to talk about the Hibernate project that he leads. Having seen his recent talk, and given the level of interest in Hibernate, I expect a strong turnout for this one.

1) Spring 2.5 – Spring has been around for more than 5 years and is making serious inroads in the the Enterprise Java community. Sam Brannen (from Interface21) will give details on the latest on the major update to Spring (2.5) as well as what is planned for the future.

Disclaimer: I’ll be talking about Java Workflow (based on on JBoss jBPM). But compared to these guys, I’m way down on the Z-List of presenters.

Other People Blogging about this:

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Idiots guide to Service Orientated Architecture (SOA)

Lost in the hype around Service Orientated Architecture (SOA) is the fact that the idea is really really simple. It’s all based on the idea that most applications (and that includes websites) are built either to be used by people , or used by computers. The pictures below (a free preview from the Enterprise Java Briefing) show what I mean.

In a ‘normal’ application, such as a online banking website, we need to remember what the user did last (are they logged in, what account are they looking at, are they in the middle of making a payment). If we didn’t , the user would get annoyed about having to repeat themselves every step of the way. It would also make for pretty complicated screens, to allow the user to enter all the information in one go. Instead , we allow the user to enter information in several steps, and remember where there are each time.

Soa Client

In an application designed to be used by computers, we don’t have to worry about this. We can force the computer to give us all the information required all in one go – username , password, bank account to take money from , bank account to give money to, date to execute transaction. For a computer , this is actually easier ; we make one call to our banking service and we are told it has succeeded or failed. It’s also easier for us to build our service:

  • Each service (transfer money, book flight , execute share trade) only does one thing.
  • Because each service ‘forgets’ after each call, we don’t need to worry about trying to remember what we were doing before.
  • Because we have no memory, services are very scalable; we can make several copies of the same service and put them in a pool. Any client can talk to any service – no waiting for a particular server to become available.

Soa Service

So that’s Service Orientated Architecture (SOA) : programs that do one thing (a bit like a function call to a method) exposed that other computers can call. So what’s the big deal? Like all good ideas , a simple concept goes a long way.

Take a look at the picture below. It’s like a Visio diagram, but in fact it’s drawn by the Eclipse Based JBoss IDE. It shows a workflow for an online commerce store – pretty easy to understand. This example uses JBoss Java Business Process Managment (jBPM), but companies such  Tibco, Cape clear and Oracle BPEL have similar products.

soa workflow

Here’s the clever bit; each of these steps is executed by one of the services that we talked about earlier. This means that if the business process changes (and it will), then all you have to do is re-arrange the diagram ; little or no coding changes should be required.

This abilility to mix , match, combine and remix services leads us to a lot of other good things (and we’re only scratching the surface here).

  • Because our services don’t have to run on the same machine, we can use SOA to create a distributed application. This is the concept behind the BPEL (Business PRocess Engineering Language)
  • Services tie well to Ajax and Web 2: Our Ajax web page or portlet can call as many services as it requires to get the job done (it’s one of the reasons Tibcom is sponsoring the open source DWR project)
  • We can call many services at once. If these this service calls are xml based ,or we send these calls as a message then we can filter, duplicate, pass and other distribute these calls as we set. These are the ideas behind Apache Synapse, Apache Servicemix and the  Enterprise Service bus (ESB) in general.

What do you think? Is SOA useful , or over hyped?

related posts

Enterprise Java Developer Wanted

A good friend of mine needs an Enterprise Java Developer, to be based in Dublin Ireland (sorry , no Teleworking). It’s a contract position and the project is high profile and sounds quite interesting. The main reason I’m passing on it as the exact location is the only place where I cannot get to easily from Drogheda! One man’s poison is another man’s meat (or something like that).

With that information (i.e. next to none at all) I’m going to ask you if you’re interested. Yes , I could put all the buzzwords (the usual Spring , Ajax, JSF, EJB , Hibernate), but to be honest I don’t know where the technology road will take this project.

One small catch. We need to weed out all the muppets that are out there. So, you need to have been blogging about Java for the last couple of months. If you’re interested , leave a comment and I’ll pass on your details.

Java and those pesky Google APIs

Recently one or two people disagreed with what I had to say about the impact that the Google, Amazon (and other) API’s will have on Java. Considering the ratio of positive to negative comments (about 3 for and 30 violently against), I obviously need to express myself in a clearer way. The link to the original post is at the end of this article, read on before you consider flaming me.

Amazon Web Services Logo

So , deep breath , here goes.

Compare the the way you develop now , with the way you built software 10 years ago. Do you remember having to manage your own memory? Or the pain of trying to deploy your software on different machines without a JVM? Or the hassle of trying to write distributed software using Corba? Or using a text editor instead of the fine IDE’s (Eclipse, Netbeans or JDeveloper – take your choice) that we have today? Would you consider building your software without a tool like Ant or Maven?

(Shudder). Things have moved on ,and I am very glad they have. Likewise, the way we develop 10 years into the future will be very different. I don’t know what the future will look like, but here’s a simple guess.

The biggest trend today is the move from software running on your computer , to software being delivered over the web. I’m not talking about the buzzwords being thrown about regarding ‘Service Orientated Architecture’ or ‘Enterprise Service Bus’. I’m talking about simple API’s that are available for use over the web today. Like the API’s and products from Google – including their Documents and Spreadsheets, and their Authentication service.

‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler’ – Albert Einstein

‘You Ain’t Gonna Need it’ – Anon, XP Mantra

As a good Agile Developer you’d probably agree with these quotes. But what if the most simple way of doing things was not to develop in Java at all? Most people don’t build their own operating system – they use Linux, Windows or OS X instead. Most people don’t write their own Java Server – they use Tomcat, JBoss or your server of choice. The pattern is the same. A small, dedicated core of developers builds the product, and the rest of us say ‘thank you very much’ and use it to get things done.

This range of ‘off the shelf’ solutions is increasing all the time , even before the online services arrived on the scene. As a Java developer , you’ve said ‘thank you’ , downloaded the latest version and integrated it into your solution. The time you save means you deliver other cool features instead. Java is very good at this ‘download and integrate’ process – not only is it a key benefit of Object Orientated Software, but Java has the widest range of solutions available (if you don’t believe me , just check out Sourceforge).

Java can also let us build our solutions (either partly or fully) around the online API’s. Java has great networking and XML handling ability already. In time this will become as normal as the idea of using a JVM. Great – we use these API’s pretty much like we do libraries today, and we can continue developing pretty much as before, right?

Wrong.

Remember, what is the most simple way of doing things? What if the most simple way of doing things was not to use Java but to use a more simple language (like Ruby or PHP) instead? Until now there were a couple of advantages that Java had over these ‘simple’ (and that’s a compliment) languages. When using online API’s these advantages disappear, or worse, become a liability.

  • Scalability and Robustness. Enterprise Java is massively scalable (it’s one of the reasons for it’s complexity). But can even you outscale Google?
  • Security. Enterprises haven’t (yet) learned to trust the security of online applications. This trust will be hard earned over time. But already you can make the argument that you data is safer with Google / Amazon / other service provider than on your average virus-ridden home PC.
  • Language Ties. To use the Java libraries you needed a JVM somewhere in your solution. Once you had a JVM , you might as well write your own solution in Java. But when the product you are extending is hosted elsewhere, you are free to code in the (most simple) language of your choice.
  • Always on. As long as you have a connection to the web, your programs can use the API’s. Scripting languages like Ruby and Python can claim to be even more portable. Not only can they run natively in most environments, they can also be deployed via a JVM if that is your choice (under the guise of JRuby and Jython)
  • Features. Need a feature that you don’t have in your scripting language? Just borrow it from Java by running in the JVM. How can Java win a ‘features arms race’ against that?

So do we face a form of developer apartheid, where a ‘hard core’ of Java Experts develop web API’s that the rest of us use via scripts? Let me know what you think. Like the original blogpost said, it may not be the end of Java, but perhaps the end of Java as we know it.

Java 6 New Features

Yagiz Erkan has a good overview of the new Java 6 features over at the De Care Systems Ireland blog.

A lot of this features have been available as separate downloads for a while , but it’s good to see them becoming part of the Java mainstream. Of particular interest are:

  • Java now has a lightweight web server bundled with it – most sites will continue to use a variation of Apache Tomcat, but this will be useful for administration purpose.
  • The profiler (JHAT) for performance tuning is now considered mainstream.
  • Web services have become (much) easier to generate with the use of web services.

Yagiz  also gives a good example of using Java Web  Services with .Net

Free Struts 2 Training (Outline)

Every company now has a web site. Struts is the most widely used Java framework for building these websites. Struts 2 is a radical overhaul, making it easier to use, yet more powerful at the same time.

In January, I will start delivering a course on Struts 2 for IACT – the Irish Academy of Computer Training.

Struts 2 Logo

This course is an overview to programming for the Web using Struts 2 and Java (free course outline here), including an introduction to the language for people already programming in other languages like Visual Basic. It covers what is different about developing web applications, the problems the Struts 2 framework solves, and how to develop applications within it using the Eclipse IDE. Optional components include JUnit, Ant, Log4J and building Web-Database applications.

If you’re a Struts 1 Developer looking for more than the free outline then I do plan to blog about upgrading your skills over the coming weeks. If that isn’t quick enough, you can always hire me for a 1-2-1 mentoring session 🙂

Update: The Course notes are now also available on the wiki / knowledgebase.

Next Version of NoUnit (a JUnit Extension)

NoUnit is an open-source code coverage tool that shows you the effectiveness of your JUnit tests.

After a suitable pause , I’m now thinking of starting work on the next version of NoUnit. Some of the features I’m thinking of including are:

  • Eclipse Plugin , so that you can run NoUnit code coverage reports as easily as you do JUnit tests in Eclipse.
  • Support for JUnit 4 and Java 1.5 Annotations
  • Support for EJB 2.0, EJB 3.0 and Spring – currently NoUnit only shows direct calls between Java classes.
  • Various outstanding bugs and change requests from users.
  • Is there anything else you think should be included? Leave your comments here.