TheServerSide Symposium - Day 3 - May 8, 2004
The third day of the TSS symposium was short the last session ended at 4:45pm. This was definitely a Good Thing; no matter how much of a geek you are, Saturday night in Las Vegas has quite a bit of traction. And, after three nights of little sleep and the second requisite hangover, I must admit that I was happy that the final day had arrived.
The morning started with a "Communities, Network Computing & Java Technology" keynote by Onno Kluyt of the Java Community Process. TSS members seem to be a good target for the JCP, so this talk was basically aimed at convincing us to join and become active. In front of a full room Onno discussed some of the ins and outs of the JCP process, which currently has about as many members as OMG and W3C and more individuals than corporations. One interesting fact was tthat hey are considering using the Creative Commons license for the Groovy scripting language.
Onno wrapped up with an unexpected twist he talked about how programs were becoming a network (witness Amazon, Google, Ebay, etc.) and then discussed how Jini can be useful, stating that Orbitz is using Jini extensively. I'm not sure what this had to do with the JCP, but this was at least the second time Jini came up during the conference. It really seems like one of those great technologies with many applications; it's just that nobody I know uses it.
After the keynote, I went down to Ted Neward's discussion on Attributes in Java (JSR 175). I've read some articles about Java metadata, but I was anxious for some details, especially since I already had a reasonable grasp of how .NET attributes work. The room was small, but full. Ted's a good speaker with a sense of humor. He started implementing attributes in Java back in 2002, and his work made it into a project called Attrib4J , which was taken over by Mark Pollack. Based on Ted's work with Attrib4J (and presumably his knowledge of .NET), we was invited to join the JSR 175 expert group.
I'll write more about this session later, but here are some main points. Annotations are just special classes that look like interfaces, and consequently have no implementation their goal is to provide additional data about your code, and thats it. They don't replace code generators like XDoclet; they're just something that a future version of XDoclet might use instead of JavaDoc comments. You can control the annotation's target (type, field, method, parameter, and so on), whether or not they're documented in JavaDocs, when they're available (source only like JavaDoc comments, class file, or runtime), and whether or not an annotation should be inherited. I asked Ted how Java attributes compared to .NET attributes, and he said they're equal (except for the fact that you can apply Java attributes to local variables).
I've always had a keen entrepreneurial interest, so I withheld my curiosity about Spring to attend the "Opportunities in Infrastructure Software: Venture Capital Perspective on Starting and Building Tomorrow's BEA" by Peter Fenton of Accel Partners. Accel was one of the backers in JBoss' recent round of investment, so it was no surprise that Mark Fleury, JBoss CEO, and his wife, Nathalie Mason-Fleury, their Director of Communications, were in the audience. BEA's Deputy CTO, Benjamin Renaud, was in the audience as well.
Peter's company's goal, like any other venture capital firm, is to create large companies that will eventually IPO and become major brands. Typically, they invest between $500K and 25 million, and their goal is for the startup to generate $100 million in 3-5 years. The purpose of the talk was to underscore Accel's belief that there are still opportunities to do so in the infrastructure software business (and presumably find those opportunities in the audience). They believe that the industry is in the middle of transformation (witness JBoss).
Peter gave words of advice for would-be entrepreneurs: they prefer first-time entrepreneurs (less arrogant), venture capital is not a validation of an idea (it must be validated in the marketplace first, iterating with customers), and success in software is iterative (and not based on intellectual property). They also believe that licensing models are changing in response to hefty licensing fees. As a matter of fact, they aren't backing traditional software companies much these days, preferring application service provides (who charge subscriptions) instead.
I had to ask the obligatory American-software-developer question: what are you seeing in terms of outsourcing? Peter said that the trend is growing; in 2003, 25% of new companies used it, this year, the projection is 60%, and next year it will be 75% -- mostly to India, China, and the Baltics. Use of outsourcing has increased the profits and scale of their companies.
Aftwards, there was no sponsor for lunch. This gave me a chance to talk with some more TSS folks; I spoke with Nitin Bharti once again, and I also met Neven Cvetkovic and Lloyd Benson. As it turns out, Neven did a lot of the planning for the symposium (great job!), and Lloyd handles IT. It was nice to talk to someone about load balancers, monitoring, hosting options, and other fun topics.
Next, I was off to the "Eclipse - Growing from a Tools Platform to an Application Platform" session held by John Wiegand, the Eclipse Platform Lead. The room was pretty sparse, but you could tell the audience was intimately familiar with Eclipse, unlike me (I'm a JBuilder user). From the title, you can guess this talk was about how they are separating out the non-IDE elements of Eclipse into a general purpose application framework. This is part of Eclipse 3.0, which should be out in around 6 weeks.
Eclipse was originally an IDE platform (the default use of which happens to be Java), built around plugins. After some research, they found the Open Services Gateway Initiative (OSGI), which is an open platform for devices like set-top boxes, provided a superset of the Eclipse plugin functionality it's a framework for dynamic install/uninstall/delete of bundles (which are like plugins), with security and a service-based architecture. The runtime of Eclipse 3.0 sits on top of OSGI (but is backwards compatible). This helped them move beyond just IDE support. John showed a demo of an Eclipse application that was a simple calculator no workbench, workspaces, or anything else.
This is a pretty major release of Eclipse -- they expect to have about 8000 fixes and enhancements in 3.0. I guess that's possible when you have 65 dedicated developers (50 inside IBM, 15 outside). Eclipse has already had a major impact on the IDE industry. I'm anxious to see how it affects Java rich client development in general, especially given the constant Sun vs. IBM and Swing vs. SWT battles. (Although I understand why SWT exists, Swing is really getting a lot better).
The final session of the day was Ted Neward's session on .NET. Originally it was supposed to be a debate between Ted (editor of TheServerSide.NET and Dion Almaer (editor of TheServerSide.com, but Dion had some administrative work to do, and they figured since this was a Java-focused audience, they would just be asking questions about .NET anyway. So, Ted took a list of questions from the audience. There were so many interesting tidbits -- .NET basics, some inside history, its goals vs. Java, and some talk about the multitude of .NET languages, as well failure of Visual Basic.NET. I'll be writing up this session later (keep your eyes on FTP Online).
So, that's how the symposium ended with a session on .NET. Well, actually, there were some other sessions at the time as well Inside Apache Geronimo, Agile Database Tactcis for Java Experts, and Production XQuery. This was one problem with the TSS Symposium too many good sessions. Fortunately, MP3s and slides for most of them available for registered guests. You can expect TSS to begin posting videos when they're ready to promote next year's symposium :-).
After the final session, I headed off to meet my wife and our friends for a night out on the town, and to see Cirque du Soleil's O show at the Belagio hotel-casino. I had never seen Cirque before, but all I can say is that if you haven't been, you must go. It was absolutely amazing a perfect ending for a week full of excellent sessions and cool people plus lots of drinks, gambling, and sleep deprivation.