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The Java.net JavaOne 2012 Conversations: Judah Johns

Posted by editor on October 25, 2012 at 7:31 PM PDT

At JavaOne 2012, I had the opportunity to chat with Jelastic's Judah Johns. If you're not familiar with Jelastic, they are a start-up that provides cloud computing services tailored for Java. James Gosling is using Jelastic as the cloud infrastructure for his current development efforts.

With Jelastic having won a 2012 Duke's Choice Award, Judah was quite busy at JavaOne 2012. So, I decided that I should try to ease his schedule pressure, while also capturing for the Java.net community some sense of what's behind Jelastic's success, by centering my interview on a single question. Which was:

What would you say to an individual Java developer who has an idea for a start-up?

Upon hearing that I had only one question, and this was the question, Judah smiled. He related that Jelastic had launched its own beta release just a year ago at JavaOne 2011.

From there on, our conversation was centered on the amazing opportunities that are available for developer/entrepreneurs today, with a focus on Java developers. The fact is, what's possible today really wasn't possible only a few years ago, when it comes to creating a start-up. There are so many products available that enable you to get your new endeavor up and running quickly. Here, our conversation wasn't only about software platforms, but it included new business possibilities like virtual offices. It really is possible today for someone who has an idea, development skill, and motivation, to start a business that could potentially become huge. Jelastic, from what I see, is an ideal cloud platform for this type of Java developer.

Judah noted that, prior to Jelastic, cloud platforms like Amazon and Google were available. But, with Jelastic, 9 Million Java developers are provided with an environment they're familiar with, where they can develop an app that's scalable, then deploy it on Jelastic's cloud, and if on Tuesday they have 500 visitors, but their site suddenly goes viral, and by Saturday they need their app to support 5 Million visitors -- that's covered! The necessary application server instances are automatically brought into action, the necessary hardware is brought into play automatically, and your site performs just as well for the 5 Million visitors as it did for those first 500 daily visitors who discovered that you have something really interesting and unique to offer, and took the time to tell all their friends how cool it is!

Judah pointed out that Jelastic enables Java developers to do the entire development process inexpensively. For $25-30 US per month (much less than my TV and phone bills), you get the full Jelastic service. So you can develop and test exactly what your users/customers will see. You pay for what you use. Then, when you launch, your application automatically scales.

Lots of us consider ourselves knowledgeable about lots of different things (that especially happens when you've been developing software for decades, like me). But, realistically, computer hardware, systems administration, scalable enterprise development, web services, client application development... No one can be an expert in all of this! For Java developers, this is where Jelastic can be of service, Judah says. How so? They eliminate the necessities that are time-wasters if you've got an idea -- things like systems administration. Do you want to spend time developing your app/site, or take time away from that to deal with configuring servers and GlassFish instances? Which choice makes it more likely that your start-up will be one of the few that becomes ultimately viable?

Judah related that James Gosling decided to use Jelastic after realizing that trying to set up his own GlassFish-centric data center was occupying too much time: "James wanted to spend his available time on what really interested him, his actual endeavor, not data center and sysadmin mechanics."

So, say you want to utilize GlassFish for your start-up. If you're developing on the Jelastic platform, implementing a GlassFish instantiation is accomplished via a selection on a drop-down menu, followed by a couple minutes of configuration entries. There's you're GlassFish instantiation, ready to run your application!

As Judah said early in our conversation: "You couldn't do this in the past!"

I asked Judah about Jelastic's concentration on Java. Don't the rumors tell us Java is a dying language? Of course, here I was really playing the devil's advocate role...

Judah responded first by citing the blooming of new languages built around the JVM. If you don't actually want to write pure Java, your options are widening incredibly today. Judah then went on to cite Java's scalability. Yes, Perl, Ruby, Python are great languages for developing applications rapidly. But.. will it scale? Judah cited Twitter's switch from Ruby on Rails to Java as an indicator of the fact that, if your app is going to become huge, Java is one of only a few platforms that can adequately scale to meet the demands of success.

Twitter! 140 character text messages posted on a web page. I mean, what could be simpler? But, when Twitter became what it became, their original Ruby on Rails platform did not suffice. So, they switched to Java (documented at JavaOne 2011), and, at least from my vantage point, Twitter's performance since then has improved immensely.

From there, our conversation generalized, while also wandering back to that initial question about that lone developer who has an idea for a start-up. Judah noted: "Today, every online business is a global business. And, if you're a global business, the need to scale can happen in a weekend."

Anyone disagree with that?

When I launch my new start-up (I have many ideas), it will definitely run in the cloud. Have my own data center? You can't even get new computers into your building fast enough, never mind configure them, deploy your software, if demand suddenly increases. When a start-up's first surge of interest happens, it's fatal if the flood of new potential users (i.e., "customers") sees nothing but HTML error messages...

If you're an entrepreneurial developer and you've got an idea, go to the cloud! And, if you're developing your idea in Java -- well, James Gosling knows a thing or two about Java development (probably)... He looked around, and chose Jelastic's platform. Just sayin' ...


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-- Kevin Farnham (@kevin_farnham)

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